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, Mandarin Chang Jiang, longest river of China and of Asia, c.3,880 mi (6,245 km) long, rising in the Tibetan highlands, SW Qinghai prov., W China, and flowing generally E through central China into the East China Sea at Shanghai.
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(also Ch’ang Chiang or Blue River), the largest river in China and Eurasia. The Yangtze is 5,800 km long and drains an area of 1,808,500 sq km (according to some data, 5,980 km or 1,827,000 sq km).
The river rises from the glaciers of the Tanglha and Kukushihli ranges in the central part of the Tibetan Highlands. The upper course, called the Ulan Muren, flows in a broad, marshy valley.
As it descends from the Tibetan Highlands and crosses the Sino-Tibetan Mountains, the Yangtze, called Kinsha Kiang (Chinsha Chiang) here, flows through narrow, deep gorges, forming numerous rapids. After emerging from the Sino-Tibetan Mountains, the middle Yangtze flows along the southern edge of the Szechwan Basin, where it has a slow current and reaches a width of 300–500 m. While crossing the basin’s mountainous eastern edge, the river forms three gorges, with a total length of about 100 km, in which it narrows to 120–200 m, with depths sometimes reaching 100 m. This segment of the river is called Sanhsia. The lower course, called Ch’ang Chiang, the most widely used name in China, flows primarily across plains (Chianghan and the southern part of the North China Plain) in a well-worked valley, forming many branches and channels. The main channel is 1–2 km wide, with depths of 20–30 m. The river empties into the East China Sea primarily through two channels, forming a delta with an area of about 80,000 sq km.
There are many lakes in the valley of the Yangtze, and they play a significant part in regulating the flow of the lower course. The largest lakes are Tungt’ing Hu and P’oyang Hu. The principal tributaries, the Yalung, Min, Kialing, and Han (Izuiho), enter the Yangtze from the left.
The river is fed primarily by the summer monsoon rains; the upper course is also fed by melting mountain snows and glaciers. During the summer high stage, the rise in the river’s water level in the Szechwan Basin exceeds 20 m, while in the lower course it is 10–15 m. In the gorges, signs of floods have been observed 40 m above the lowest level, which occurs in the winter. The mean flow rate near the mouth is 34,000 cu m per sec (according to some data, about 22,000), and the annual runoff is estimated at 1,070 cu km, making the Yangtze the world’s fourth largest river. The lower Yangtze is influenced by ocean tides, which penetrate a distance of 750 km upstream, to the city of Chiuchiang. The Yangtze carries 280–300 million tons of sediment a year to its mouth, which contributes to the rapid growth of the delta (an average of 1 km every 35—40 years). Throughout most of its course, the river is brownish yellow, and consequently the name “Blue River,” given by Europeans, is inaccurate. On the plains of the lower Yangtze a significant amount of sediment is deposited in the channel, causing silt to accumulate, as a result of which the channel is higher than the adjacent land. To prevent the flooding of the adjacent plains, a series of dikes, measuring about 2,700 km in length and up to 10–12 m in height, have been built on the banks of the Yangtze and a number of its tributaries. In the lower Yangtze, the dikes and water distribution structures have reduced but not eliminated the threat of flooding; major floods occurred in 1870, 1896, 1931, 1949, and 1954. Most of the Yangtze does not freeze in the winter; ice forms only in the headwaters and in sections where the current is slow.
The waters of the Yangtze and its tributaries are used extensively for irrigation, primarily in the Szechwan Basin and in areas along the lower course. The river is navigable for a length of 2,850 km, to the foot of the Sino-Tibetan Mountains. Seagoing vessels with displacements of up to 10,000 tons can travel as far as Wuhan. The Grand Canal crosses the lower Yangtze. Fishing has developed extensively in the basins of Lakes Tungt’ing, P’oyang, and Tai (common carp, silver carp, grasscarp, black carp). The rivers of the Yangtze River basin have enormous hydroelectric power potential, estimated at 217 million kilowatts. A large hydroengineering complex is under construction (1981) in the gorges of Sanhsia. Major cities on the river are Ipin, Chungking, Wuhan, and Nanking; the seaport of Shanghai is near the mouth of the river.
REFERENCEMuranov, A. P. Reka Yantszy. Leningrad, 1959.
A. P. MURANOV