Yangtze River

Yangtze River
The Yangtze River, largest in China, bends sharply in its upland reaches, choosing to run through China and not into Southeast Asia. It’s a turn the Chinese people celebrate and it has made the river into China’s water transport backbone. Yangtze, originally the name of a ferry crossing, was misapplied by early English visitors to the whole river. The Chinese name for the river, Chang Jiang, means simply “long river.”

The Yangtze begins high o­n Tibet’s eastern plateau and flows toward the East China Sea, running through the spectacular Three Gorges area. A massive dam and agriculture control project completed in 2008 has changed some of the character of the Three Gorges area, but provides for the world’s largest hydroelectric generation plant. A lock system continues to allow ocean-going vessels access to and from inland cities.

Controversy has swirled about the massive dam. Millions of Chinese were relocated as a result of the dam. A museum was established by the government in Chongqing to house many of the treasures from now-submerged villages. The government has noted that the dam’s 700 megawatt power generation capability replaces many coal-fired power plants. The dam was designed to eliminate major downstream flood disasters, saving tens of thousands of lives.

Chongqing, a city of 5 million, is an embarkation point for cruises through the Three Gorges area to the dam. As provisional capital for the Republic of China during its war with Japan (1937-45), Chongqing was heavily bombed. Today it is an industrial center with many high-rise buildings and modern facilities.

Yangtze River
Downstream travel through the Three Gorges emphasizes that the river is o­ne of the busiest waterways in the world, with coal and manufactured goods among the cargo. Below the dam the river passes through agricultural and industrial areas to reach the South China Sea.