Yangtze River

Yangtze River

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The Yangtze

     China, the worlds biggest country, is so large it is the home to the fourth longest river in the world. China alone has over 100,000 miles of inland waterways that are open to navigation. The country's most important inland waterway is the Amur River, but that is nothing compared to the Yangtze River.
     The Yangtze is one of the most economically important water way of not just China, but of the world! Unlike the Amur River the Yangtze River is not icebound in the winter and because of that it accounts for over 40% of the nation's waterways. At 3,716 square miles long it places as the fourth longest river in the world, and the longest river in China and in Asia.
     Though this river is a great source for transportation, it wasn't until 1961 that it became officially one of the 15 principle waterways. With 243.7 cubic meters of annual runoff and mild winters around the river it's not a real stretch to believe that the river contributes to almost half of the crops and irrigates a little under 70% of the country's gross volume of rice. It also contributes to much of China's cotton, wheat, barley, corn, and hemp. There are also many large cities next to the Yangtze, many of which have a population of over 1,000,000 people. These cities would consist of Nanking, Wu-han, Chung-king, and Ch'eng-tu.
     The river's course begins in the Tibetan Highlands. In these highlands the people there are mostly in Agriculture and Cattle Farmers. The summers are warm and the Winters cold. The growing season lasts for 4 or 5 months in the summer. The people are predominately Chinese with many minorities. They Minorities consist of the Dungans, Nepalese, and Indians.
     Here in in the high mountains of the Tibetan Highlands is the sources for this mighty river. The T'ang-ku-la Sun-mo, in the T'ang-ku-la mountains, is 18,000 feet above sea level. The second source is the Ulan Muren. The Ulan Muren is actually a Tibetan which it is more commonly called by, but the Chinese name is Wu-lan-mu-lun. This source is the southern source, but it is also the main source.
     The upper course of the Yangtze begins in the Tibetan Highlands and flows through a spacious scenic valley spotted with lakes and resivours. At the end of the Highlands the river character changes. It descends from the great altitudes and winds it's way South of Pe-yen-ka'a-la Shan.

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The river flows through a valley 1 to 2 miles deep. Some of the individual peaks around the valley are over 16,000 feet above sea level and are crowned perpetually with snow and ice. These peaks have rocky slopes with deep gorges and valleys.
     For several hundred miles the Yangtze flows peacefully in the Southeast direction before turning south and becoming a violent white water rapid. It flows through passes so steep that there is no room for even a narrow path. Here villages are rarely found and if they managed to find a place to reside they're very high above the river.
     In this region the Yangtze flows parallel with the Mekong and the Salween rivers. These three rivers are within 15-30 miles from one another. They will flow in a mutual proximity for over 250 miles.
     North of Latitude 26º North the rivers diverge and the Yangtze heads East. It flows through the mountains to the city of I-pin passing through winding valleys with steep slopes. Here it's largest tributary, the Ya-Lung Changi, dumps it's water merging into the large river. The river widens to between 1,000 and 1,300 feet wide and can reach depths of over 30 feet. In the narrow gorges the water flow becomes twice as fast, twice as deep, and half it's width. Near the end of this upstream course it descends to 1,000 feet above sea level.
     This brings us to the next stage, the middle course. In the middle course there are hot summers and cool winters. The precipitation is 40 to 60 inches a year, most of which is during the summer months. The growing season lasts for over half the year. Agriculture dominates this area. The people here are mainly Chinese with very few minorities.
     The area known as the middle course of the river stretches from I-pin to I-Ch'ang, a total of 630 miles. The river crosses the hilly Szachwan Province. At this point in the trip the river is 1,000 to 1,600 feet wide and the depth is known to extend beyond 30 feet deep. The current is fast and the banks are steep and high. The people of Szachwan call this the 'Land of Plenty,' because the soil is fertile and the wether is mild. The high mountains protect this area from the cold, North and West winds. The mild climate favors agriculture and sericulture, the production of silk by raising silk worms. Many minerals are found here such as Coral, copper, phosphorus, gold, oil, and gas. The population is dense and mainly Chinese with extremely few minorities. Here there is an important large city of Chunking which is both an industrial city and a river port.
     Leaving the Szachwan Province behind it flows 125 miles through a mountainous region, where the three gorges are located. The three gorges have been surrounded by great amounts of debate, but the Chinese government seems set in their path. The government has decided to build a dam in order to 'help control the amount of flooding' and to provide the much needed hydroelectricity. For thousands of years this part of the Yangtze has flooded, the government has decided to take this into their control and build a man made structure that will fill up the gorges and in the process wash away homes and ancient temples. Many environmentalists speak against damning, and the people wish to. They deep down hate the idea of being moved out of their houses which their families have owned for hundreds of years, into a concrete government housing higher up in a more barren part of the mountains. Their lifestyles have been based on the fertile soils near the riverbank to grow their food and produce a source of income. Now that they have been relocated they no longer can do that.
     In times like these, the Chinese that have been relocated have been turning to God for help. The missionaries are needed more than ever. Even now, the Chinese Government isn't allowing any missionaries in, but they are looking for american teachers. Even than, if one of the converts are caught, they can be put to death. So the spiritual status of the people are open and welcome to Jesus Christ, but the Government isn't. Christ's word is still ebbing spread, and the number of Chinese Christians outnumbers the number here in the U.S.
     I asked someone who had been there, speaks Chinese as her first language, and is related to many there along the Yangtze. I asked her what the Chinese people think about the dam and her response was, "They don't think, they're not allowed to. It's a Communist country." She then took on a more serious tone and said, "but they do feel that it is time for a change." She suggested that tensions among the people are growing tense and the ruin of the great Chinese history might be the last straw.
     Below the dam, is considered the Lower run of the Yangtze River. Here they have hot summers and relatively cool winters. In the summer they get the monsoons when it is known for flooding the most, and in the fall Typhoons. Dispute the seasonal weather temper tantrum, agriculture dominates here too. The growing period is best here for 8 to 10 months. The river here is 500 to 600 feet deep, making it the deepest river in the world! This part of the river is the most industrially advanced part of the river. There too is a high population density here, and almost all are chinese.
     As it flows on a bit more it moves into an area that the river has created many lakes and flows into them. These series of lakes are known as the Yumen Lakes. The river has created more than 6,600 square miles of total lakes!
     Here is where we leave off our river. The Yangtze ends with 2,600 to 6,000 feet wide and a depth of over 100 feet. And when the monsoons hit in March and April the depth can increase up to 65 more feet deep.







Tracy Howell, November 17, 2004.
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