pronounced yahng dzuh, also called Yangtze Kiang, is the world's third longest river. Only
the Nile and Amazon rivers are longer. It is China's longest and most important river. To
many Chinese, the Yangtze is known as the Chang Jiang, or long river.
The Yangtze River rises in the Tanggula Mountains of Qinghai Province, about 16,000 feet
(4,880 meters) above sea level, and follows an irregular 3,915-mile (6,300-kilometer)
course to the East China Sea. The waterway flows east, southeast, and then south into the
province of Yunnan. From there, it turns northeast across Sichuan Province. It then flows
east through central China and enters the East China Sea. The Yangtze and its branches
drain about 700,000 square miles (1,800,000 square kilometers).
The high mountains at the Yangtze's source cause it to flow rapidly for most of its
length. In places, mountains more than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) high form the river's
banks. The great gorges in the river's upper reaches above Yichang make it one of the most
beautiful waterways in the world.
About half of China's ocean trade is carried over the Yangtze and its branches. Ocean
steamers can travel upstream to Wuhan, 680 miles (1,090 kilometers) by river from the
coast. Smaller boats can go 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) farther inland.
Thousands of Chinese live on the Yangtze on sailing craft called junks. Among the great
cities along the Yangtze River are Shanghai, Nanjing, Anqing, and Chongqing. Occasional
summer floods temporarily force many people from their homes.
In 1994, construction began in the area above Yichang on the Three Gorges Dam. When
completed, the dam is expected to control flooding along the Yangtze and generate large
amounts of hydroelectric power. Plans include the creation of Three Gorges Lake, a
reservoir that will extend from the dam site hundreds of miles west to Chongqing.