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The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ
Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can compose the administration o ...
: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of wate ...

river
in
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

China
, after the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
, and the sixth-longest river system in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the
Bayan Har Mountains The Bayan Har Mountains, formerly known as the Bayen-káras or Bayan-Kara-Ula, are a mountain range in Qinghai Province. The name is Mongolian language, Mongolian for "Rich and Black". It can be viewed as one of the branches of the Kunlun Mountai ...
in
Qinghai Qinghai (; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Tsinghai, Ch'inghai), also known Kokonor, is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Northwest China, the northwest of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of ...

Qinghai
province of
Western China Western China (, or rarely ) is the west 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet-based ...
, it flows through nine provinces, and it empties into the
Bohai Sea The Bohai Sea or Bo Sea, also known as Bohai Gulf, Bo Gulf or Pohai Bay (), is a marginal sea This is a list of seas of the World Ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of Saline water, salt water that covers app ...

Bohai Sea
near the city of
Dongying Dongying (), a prefecture-level city A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply " Yangxin County from the neighboring Xianning), but still from the Huangshi main urban area. A prefectural-level municipali ...

Dongying
in
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
province. The Yellow River basin has an east–west extent of about and a north–south extent of about . Its total drainage area is about . Its basin was the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization, and it was the most prosperous region in early
Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese h ...
. There are frequent devastating
floods A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry. In the sense of "flowing water", the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide Tides are the rise and fall of sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often ...
and course changes produced by the continual elevation of the
river bed A stream bed or streambed is the channel bottom of a stream or river, the physical confine of the normal water flow. The lateral confines or channel margins are known as the stream Bank (geography), banks or river banks, during all but flood st ...

river bed
, sometimes above the level of its surrounding farm fields.


Etymology

Early Chinese literature including the ''
Yu Gong The ''Yu Gong'' () or ''Tribute of Yu'' is a chapter of the ''Book of Xia'' (夏書/夏书) section of the '' Book of Documents'', one of the Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of Confucianism in Ch ...
'' or ''Tribute of Yu'' dating to the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
(475–221 BC) refers to the Yellow River as simply (
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
: ''*C.gˤaj'',Baxter, Wm. H. & Sagart, Laurent. '' '', p. 41 and 52. 2011. Modern Beijing Mandarin: // or in
pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objecti ...

pinyin
''Hé''), a character that has come to mean "river" in modern usage. The first appearance of the name (
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
: ''*N-kʷˤaŋ C.gˤaj'';
Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country ...
: ''Huang Ha'') is in the
Book of Han The ''Book of Han'' or ''History of the Former Han'' is a history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically ...
written during the
Eastern Han#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...
dynasty about the
Western Han#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...
dynasty. The adjective "yellow" describes the perennial color of the muddy water in the lower course of the river, which arises from soil (
loess Loess (, ; from German ''Löss'' ) is a clastic, predominantly silt-sized sediment Sediment is a naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently sediment transport, transported by ...
) being carried downstream. One of its older
Mongolian Mongolian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Mongolia, a country in Asia * Mongolian people, or Mongols * Mongolia (1911–24), the government of Mongolia, 1911–1919 and 1921–1924 * Mongolian language * Mongolian alphabet * Mongo ...

Mongolian
names was the "Black River", because the river runs clear before it enters the
Loess Plateau The Chinese Loess Plateau, or simply the Loess Plateau, is a plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid ...
, but the current name of the river among
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnati ...

Inner Mongolia
ns is ''Ȟatan Gol'' (, "Queen River").Geonames.de


.
In Mongolia itself, it is simply called the ''Šar Mörön'' (, "Yellow River"). In
Qinghai Qinghai (; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Tsinghai, Ch'inghai), also known Kokonor, is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Northwest China, the northwest of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of ...

Qinghai
, the river's
Tibetan Tibetan may mean: * of, from, or related to Tibet * Tibetan people, an ethnic group * Tibetan language: ** Classical Tibetan, the classical language used also as a contemporary written standard ** Standard Tibetan, the most widely used spoken dialec ...
name is "River of the Peacock" (; )


History


Dynamics

The Yellow River has been critical to the economic development of northern China. Flooding of the river has also caused much destruction, including multiple floods that have resulted in the deaths of over one million people. Among the deadliest were the 1332–33 flood during the
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a successor state Successor is someone who, or something which succeeds or comes after (see success and succession) Film and TV * ''The Succ ...
, the 1887 flood during the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
which killed anywhere from 900,000 to 2 million people, and a Republic of China era 1931 flood (part of a massive number of floods that year) that killed 1–4 million people. The cause of the floods is the large amount of
fine-grained Granularity (also called graininess), the condition of existing in granules or Grain, grains, refers to the extent to which a material or system is composed of distinction (philosophy), distinguishable pieces. It can either refer to the extent ...
loess Loess (, ; from German ''Löss'' ) is a clastic, predominantly silt-sized sediment Sediment is a naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently sediment transport, transported by ...
carried by the river from the
Loess Plateau The Chinese Loess Plateau, or simply the Loess Plateau, is a plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid ...
, which is continuously deposited along the bottom of its channel. The sedimentation causes natural dams to slowly accumulate. These subaqueous dams are unpredictable and generally undetectable. Eventually, the enormous amount of water needs to find a new way to the sea, forcing it to take the
path of least resistance Image:Cartoon_mountain_pass_symbolizing_path_of_least_resistance.png, 250px, Hikers choose the easy way to cross hills. The path of least resistance is the physical or metaphorical pathway that provides the least resistance to forward motion by a ...

path of least resistance
. When this happens, it bursts out across the flat
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
, sometimes taking a new channel and inundating most farmland, cities or towns in its path. The traditional Chinese response of building higher and higher
levee file:River Levee Cross Section Figure.svg, Components of a levee: file:Sacramento River Levee.jpg, The side of a levee in Sacramento, California A levee (), dike (American English), dyke (Commonwealth English), embankment, floodbank, or stop ...

levee
s along the banks sometimes also contributed to the severity of the floods: When flood water did break through the levees, it could no longer drain back into the river bed as it would after a normal flood, as the river bed was sometimes now higher than the surrounding countryside. These changes could cause the river's mouth to shift as much as , sometimes reaching the ocean to the north of
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
Peninsula and sometimes to the south.Gascoigne, Bamber and Gascoigne, Christina (2003) ''The Dynasties of China'', Perseus Books Group, Another historical source of devastating floods is the collapse of upstream ice dams in
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnati ...

Inner Mongolia
with an accompanying sudden release of vast quantities of impounded water. There have been 11 such major floods in the past century, each causing tremendous loss of life and property. Nowadays, explosives dropped from aircraft are used to break the ice dams before they become dangerous. Before modern
dam A dam is a barrier that stops or restricts the flow of surface water An example of surface water is Lake Kinney. Surface water is water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tas ...

dam
s appeared in China, the Yellow River used to be extremely prone to flooding. In the 2,540 years from 595 BC to 1946 AD, the Yellow River has been reckoned to have flooded 1,593 times, shifting its course 26 times noticeably and nine times severely.Tregear, T. R. (1965) ''A Geography of China'', pp. 218–219. These floods include some of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded. Before modern disaster management, when floods occurred, some of the population might initially die from drowning and many more would suffer later from the ensuing famine and spread of diseases.


Ancient times

In
Chinese mythology Chinese mythology () is mythology Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. This includes oral ...
, the giant
Kua Fu Kuafu (; lit. "Boastful Father, Braggart Man") is a in who wished to capture the Sun. He was a grandson of . Story One day, Kuafu decided to chase and catch the Sun. He followed the Sun from the East to the West, draining the and the (all r ...
drained the Yellow River and the
Wei River The Wei River () is a major river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course ...
to quench his burning thirst as he pursued the Sun. Historical documents from the
Spring and Autumn period #REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dyna ...
Gernet, Jacques. ''Le monde chinois'', p. 59. Map "4. Major states of the Chunqiu period (Spring and Autumn)".
English version:
and
Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of ever ...

Qin dynasty
indicate that the Yellow River at that time flowed considerably north of its present course. These accounts show that after the river passed
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
, it flowed along the border between
Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of the province is ...

Shanxi
and
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China The provincial level administrative divisions () are the highest-level administrative divisions of China. There are 34 such divisions claimed by the People's Republic of ...

Henan
Provinces, then continued along the border between
Hebei Hebei (; alternately Hopeh) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, f ...
and Shandong before emptying into
Bohai Bay Bohai Bay () is one of the three major bays of the Bohai Sea The Bohai Sea or Bo Sea, also known as Bohai Gulf, Bo Gulf or Pohai Bay (), is a marginal sea approximately in area on the east coast of mainland China Mainland China, also ...
near present-day
Tianjin Tianjin (; ; Mandarin: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Tientsin, is a Direct-administered municipalities of China, municipality and a coastal metropolis in North China, Northern China on the shore of the Bohai Sea. It is ...

Tianjin
. Another outlet followed essentially the present course. The river left these paths in 602 BC and shifted several hundred kilometers to the east. Sabotage of dikes, canals, and reservoirs and deliberate flooding of rival states became a standard military tactic during the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
.Allaby, Michael & Garrat, Richard. ''Facts on File Dangerous Weather Series
Floods
', p. 142. Infobase Pub., 2003. . Accessed 15 October 2011.
As the Yellow River valley was the major entryway to the
Guanzhong Guanzhong (, formerly romanised as Kwanchung) region, also known as the Guanzhong Basin, Wei River Basin, or uncommonly as the Shaanzhong region, is a historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographic areas which at some ...
area and the
state of Qin Qin () was an during the . Traditionally dated to 897 BC, it took its origin in a reconquest of western lands previously lost to the ; its position at the western edge of permitted expansion and development that was unavailable to its rivals in ...
from the
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
, Qin heavily fortified the
Hangu Pass Hangu Pass or Hanguguan is a pass separating the upper Yellow River and Wei valleys—the cradle of Chinese civilization and seat of its longtime capital Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; Chinese: ), also known as Sian, is the list of capitals in Ch ...

Hangu Pass
; it saw numerous battles and was also an important chokepoint protecting the
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...

Han
capitals of
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) is the traditional name of Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between ...
and
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
. Major flooding in AD 11 is credited with the downfall of the short-lived
Xin dynasty The Xin dynasty (; ) was a short-lived Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From the inauguration of dynastic rule by Yu t ...
, and another flood in AD 70 returned the river north of Shandong on essentially its present course.


Medieval times

From around the beginning of the 3rd century, the importance of the
Hangu Pass Hangu Pass or Hanguguan is a pass separating the upper Yellow River and Wei valleys—the cradle of Chinese civilization and seat of its longtime capital Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; Chinese: ), also known as Sian, is the list of capitals in Ch ...

Hangu Pass
was reduced, with the major fortifications and military bases moved upriver to Tongguan. In AD 923, the desperate
Later LiangLater Liang may refer to the following states in Chinese history: * Later Liang (Sixteen Kingdoms) (後涼; 386–403), one of the Sixteen Kingdoms * Western Liang (555–587) The Liang (555–587), known in historiography as the Western Liang () ...
general
Duan Ning Duan Ning () (died November 8, 928?''Zizhi Tongjian The ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ...
again broke the dikes, flooding in a failed attempt to protect his realm's capital from the
Later Tang Tang, known in historiography as the Later Tang, was a short-lived imperial dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford Unive ...

Later Tang
. A similar proposal from the
Song A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called s ...

Song
engineer Li Chun concerning flooding the lower reaches of the river to protect the central plains from the
Khitai The Khitan people (Khitan small script: ; ) were a historical para-Mongolic Eurasian nomads, nomadic people from Northeast Asia who, from the 4th century, inhabited an area corresponding to parts of modern Mongolia, Northeast China and the Russi ...
was overruled in 1020: the
Chanyuan Treaty The Chanyuan Treaty () in 1005 was the pivotal point in the relations between the Northern Song (960-1127) and the Liao Dynasties (916-1125). The ruling class of the Liao were a people of nomadic origin known as the Khitan (Qidan in Chinese) who ...
between the two states had expressly forbidden the Song from establishing new moats or changing river courses.Elvin, Mark & Liu Cuirong (eds.) ''Studies in Environment and History:''
Sediments of Time: Environment and Society in Chinese History
', pp. 554 ff. Cambridge Uni. Press, 1998. .
Breaches occurred regardless: one at Henglong in 1034 divided the course in three and repeatedly flooded the northern regions of
Dezhou Dezhou () is a prefecture-level city A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply " Yangxin County from the neighboring Xianning), but still from the Huangshi main urban area. A prefectural-level municip ...

Dezhou
and
Bozhou Bozhou () is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of Chi ...
. The Song worked for five years futilely attempting to restore the previous courseusing over 35,000 employees, 100,000 conscripts, and 220,000 tons of wood and bamboo in a single yearbefore abandoning the project in 1041. The more sluggish river then occasioned a breach at Shanghu that sent the main outlet north towards
Tianjin Tianjin (; ; Mandarin: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Tientsin, is a Direct-administered municipalities of China, municipality and a coastal metropolis in North China, Northern China on the shore of the Bohai Sea. It is ...

Tianjin
in 1048 In 1128, the Song troops breached the southern dikes of the Yellow River in an effort to stop the advancing Jin army. The resulting major river avulsion allowed the Yellow to
capture Capture may refer to: *Asteroid capture, a phenomenon in which an asteroid enters a stable orbit around another body *"Capture" a song by Simon Townshend *Capture (band), an Australian electronicore band previously known as Capture the Crown *Captur ...

capture
tributaries of the
Huai River The Huai River (), formerly romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken ...
. For the first time in recorded history, the Yellow River shifted completely south of
Shandong Peninsula The Shandong Peninsula or Jiaodong Peninsula is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from which it extends. The su ...
and flowed into the
Yellow Sea The Yellow Sea is a marginal sea This is a list of seas of the World Ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of Saline water, salt water that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of Earth and contains 97% o ...

Yellow Sea
. By 1194, the mouth of the Huai had been blocked.Grousset, Rene. ''The Rise and Splendour of the Chinese Empire'', p. 303. University of California Press, 1959. The buildup of silt deposits was such that even after the Yellow River later shifted its course, the Huai could no longer flow along its historic course, but instead, its water pools into
Hongze Lake Hongze Lake or Lake Hungtse () is the fourth largest freshwater lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land is the solid surface of the Earth that is not permanently covered by water. The ...
and then runs southward toward the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
. A flood in
1344 Year 1344 (Roman numerals, MCCCXLIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. Events January–December * March 26 – ''Reconquista'': The Siege of Algeciras (1342–44), o ...
returned the Yellow River south of Shandong. The
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a successor state Successor is someone who, or something which succeeds or comes after (see success and succession) Film and TV * ''The Succ ...
was waning, and the emperor forced enormous teams to build new embankments for the river. The terrible conditions helped to fuel rebellions that led to the founding of the
Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the Dynasties in Chinese history, ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynas ...

Ming dynasty
. The course changed again in
1391 Year 1391 ( MCCCXCI) was a common year starting on Sunday A common year starting on Sunday is any non-leap year A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or wikt:bissextile, bissextile year) is a calendar year that contains an additiona ...
when the river flooded from Kaifeng to Fengyang in Anhui. It was finally stabilized by the eunuch Li Xing during the public works projects following the 1494 flood. The river flooded many times in the 16th century, including in 1526, 1534, 1558, and 1587. Each flood affected the river's lower course.Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry. ''SUNY Series in Chinese Local Studies'':
The Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty
'. SUNY Press, 1996. , 9780791426876.
The 1642 flood was man-made, caused by the attempt of the Ming governor of
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital seven times in history, and is best known for being the Chinese ...

Kaifeng
to use the river to destroy the peasant rebels under
Li Zicheng Li Zicheng (22 September 1606 – 1645), born Li Hongji, also known by the nickname, Dashing King, was a Chinese peasant rebel leader who overthrew the Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty ...
who had been besieging the city for the past six months. He directed his men to break the dikes in an attempt to flood the rebels, but destroyed his own city instead: the flood and the ensuing famine and plague are estimated to have killed 300,000 of the city's previous population of 378,000. The once-prosperous city was nearly abandoned until its rebuilding under the
Kangxi Emperor The Kangxi Emperor (Xuanye; 4 May 1654– 20 December 1722) was the third Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper China proper, Inner China or the Eighteen Provinces was a term used by Wester ...

Kangxi Emperor
in the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
.


Recent times

Between 1851 and 1855,Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry. ''SUNY Series in Chinese Local Studies'':
The Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty
'. SUNY Press, 1996. , 9780791426876.
the Yellow River returned to the north amid the floods that provoked the Nien and
Taiping Rebellion The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of a ...
s. The 1887 flood has been estimated to have killed between 900,000 and 2 million people,International Rivers Report.
Before the Deluge
. 2007.
and is the second-worst natural disaster in history (excluding famines and epidemics). The Yellow River more or less adopted its present course during the 1897 flood. The 1931 flood killed an estimated 1,000,000 to 4,000,000, and is the worst natural disaster recorded (excluding famines and epidemics). On 9 June 1938, during the
Second Sino-Japanese War The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) was a military conflict that was primarily waged between the Republic of China (1912–1949), Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. The war made up the Chinese theater of the wider Pacific War, Pac ...
,
Nationalist Nationalism is an idea and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of people),Anthony D. Smith, Smith, Anthony. ''Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History''. Polity (publisher), Polity, ...
troops under
Chiang Kai-shek Chiang Kai-shek (31 October 1887 – 5 April 1975), also known as Chiang Chung-cheng and romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured syst ...

Chiang Kai-shek
broke the levees holding back the river near the village of Huayuankou in Henan, causing what has been called by Canadian historian, Diana Lary, a "war-induced natural disaster". The goal of the operation was to stop the advancing Japanese troops by following a strategy of "using water as a substitute for soldiers" (''yishui daibing''). The 1938 flood of an area covering took some 500,000 to 900,000 Chinese lives, along with an unknown number of Japanese soldiers. The flood prevented the Japanese Army from taking
Zhengzhou Zhengzhou (; ), also spelt Zheng Zhou and Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Chengchow, is the Capital (political), capital and largest city of Henan, Henan Province in the Central China, central part of the China, People's ...

Zhengzhou
, on the southern bank of the Yellow River, but did not stop them from reaching their goal of capturing
Wuhan Wuhan (, ; ; ) is the capital of Hubei Province Hubei (; ; Postal romanization, alternately Hupeh) is a landlocked provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, and is part of the Central China region. The name ...

Wuhan
, which was the temporary seat of the Chinese government and straddles the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
.


Geography

According to the China Exploration and Research Society, the source of the Yellow River is at in the
Bayan Har Mountains The Bayan Har Mountains, formerly known as the Bayen-káras or Bayan-Kara-Ula, are a mountain range in Qinghai Province. The name is Mongolian language, Mongolian for "Rich and Black". It can be viewed as one of the branches of the Kunlun Mountai ...
near the eastern edge of the
Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (, , retranscribed into Tibetan as ), also transliterated as Yüxü or Yulshul, is an autonomous prefecture of Southwestern Qinghai, Qinghai Province, China. Largely inhabited by Tibetan people, Tibetans, the pr ...
. The source tributaries drain into
Gyaring Lake Gyaring Lake () or Zhaling Lake () is a large freshwater lake in the Yellow River catchment in China, it is in the southeast of Qinghai Province, on the border between Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The ...
and
Ngoring Lake Ngoring Lake () or Ngoreng Lake () or Eling Lake () is a large freshwater lake in the Yellow River catchment, it is in the southeast of Qinghai Province.The name of lake means "Long Blue Lake" in Tibetan language. Ngoring Lake is , with a drainage ...
on the western edge of Golog Prefecture high in the Bayan Har Mountains of
Qinghai Qinghai (; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Tsinghai, Ch'inghai), also known Kokonor, is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Northwest China, the northwest of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of ...

Qinghai
. In the Zoige Basin along the boundary with
Gansu Gansu (, ; alternately romanized as Kansu) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnatio ...

Gansu
, the Yellow River loops northwest and then northeast before turning south, creating the "
Ordos Loop The Ordos Plateau, also known as the Ordos Basin or simply the Ordos, is a highland Highlands or uplands are any mountainous region or elevated mountainous plateau. Generally speaking, upland (or uplands) refers to ranges of hills, typically u ...
", and then flows generally eastward across the
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
to the
Gulf of Bohai The Bohai Sea or Bo Sea, also known as Bohai Gulf, Bo Gulf or Pohai Bay (), is a marginal sea This is a list of seas of the World Ocean, including marginal seas, areas of water, various gulfs, bights, bays, and straits. Terminology * Ocea ...

Gulf of Bohai
, draining a of which nourishes 140 million people with drinking water and irrigation. The Yellow River passes through seven present-day
provinces A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are g ...
and two
autonomous regions An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnational administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country sub ...
, namely (from west to east)
Qinghai Qinghai (; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Tsinghai, Ch'inghai), also known Kokonor, is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Northwest China, the northwest of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of ...

Qinghai
,
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...

Sichuan
,
Gansu Gansu (, ; alternately romanized as Kansu) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnatio ...

Gansu
,
Ningxia Ningxia (, ; alternately romanized as Ninghsia), officially the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (NHAR), is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, ...

Ningxia
,
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnati ...

Inner Mongolia
,
Shaanxi Shaanxi (; , ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, ...

Shaanxi
,
Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of the province is ...

Shanxi
,
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China The provincial level administrative divisions () are the highest-level administrative divisions of China. There are 34 such divisions claimed by the People's Republic of ...

Henan
, and
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
. Major cities along the present course of the Yellow River include (from west to east)
Lanzhou Lanzhou (, ; ; Postal romanisation Postal romanization was a system of transliterating Chinese place names developed by postal authorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many cities, the postal romanization was the most comm ...

Lanzhou
, Yinchuan, Wuhai, Baotou,
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
,
Zhengzhou Zhengzhou (; ), also spelt Zheng Zhou and Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Chengchow, is the Capital (political), capital and largest city of Henan, Henan Province in the Central China, central part of the China, People's ...

Zhengzhou
,
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital seven times in history, and is best known for being the Chinese ...

Kaifeng
, and Jinan. The current mouth of the Yellow River is located at Kenli County, Shandong. The river is commonly divided into three stages. These are roughly the northeast of the mountainous Tibetan Plateau, the
Ordos Loop The Ordos Plateau, also known as the Ordos Basin or simply the Ordos, is a highland Highlands or uplands are any mountainous region or elevated mountainous plateau. Generally speaking, upland (or uplands) refers to ranges of hills, typically u ...
and
Loess Plateau The Chinese Loess Plateau, or simply the Loess Plateau, is a plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid ...
, and the
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
. However, different scholars have different opinions on how the three stages are divided. This article mainly adopts the division used by the Yellow River Conservancy Commission. The Yellow River derived sediments have been transported out of the Bohai Sea, all way to the North Yellow Sea and South Yellow Sea, and formed a Distal Depocenter around the Shandong Peninsula.


Upper reaches

The upper reaches of the Yellow River constitute a segment starting from its source in the Bayan Har Mountains and ending at Hekou Town (Togtoh County),
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnati ...

Inner Mongolia
just before it turns sharply to the south. This segment has a total length of and total basin area of , 51.4% of the total basin area. Along this length, the elevation of the Yellow River drops , with an average Grade (slope), grade of 0.10%. The source section flows mainly through pastures, swamps, and knolls between the
Bayan Har Mountains The Bayan Har Mountains, formerly known as the Bayen-káras or Bayan-Kara-Ula, are a mountain range in Qinghai Province. The name is Mongolian language, Mongolian for "Rich and Black". It can be viewed as one of the branches of the Kunlun Mountai ...
, and the Anemaqen (Amne Machin) Mountains in
Qinghai Qinghai (; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Tsinghai, Ch'inghai), also known Kokonor, is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Northwest China, the northwest of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of ...

Qinghai
. The river water is clear and flows steadily. Crystal clear lakes are characteristic of this section. The two main lakes along this section are Lake Gyaring (Zhaling) and Lake Ngoring (Eling), with capacities of 4.7 billion and 10.8 billion m3 (166 and 381 billion ft3), respectively. At elevations over ) above sea level they are the two largest plateau freshwater lakes nationwide. A significant amount of land in the Yellow River's source area has been designated as the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve, Sanjiangyuan ("'Three Rivers' Sources") National Nature Reserve, to protect the source region of the Yellow River, the Yangtze, and the Mekong. Flowing east at the eastern edge of the Amne Machin Mountains, the Yellow River enters Maqu County in
Gansu Gansu (, ; alternately romanized as Kansu) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnatio ...

Gansu
. Here, the river skirts through the high-altitude peat bog known as the Zoigê Marsh, Zoigê Wetlands and makes a sharp turn towards the northwest forming the border between Maqu and Zoigê County in
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...

Sichuan
. Flowing now along the northern edge of Amne Machin, the river reenters Qinghai and gradually curves north towards the Longyang Gorge at Xinghai County, Xinghai. The valley section stretches from Longyang Gorge in Qinghai to Qingtong Gorge in Gansu. Steep cliffs line both sides of the river. The water bed is narrow and the average drop is large, so the flow in this section is extremely turbulent and fast. There are 20 gorges in this section, the most famous of these being the Longyang, Jishi, Liujiaxia Dam, Liujia, Bapan, and Qingtong gorges. The flow conditions in this section makes it the best location for hydroelectricity, hydroelectric plants. The Yellow River exits Qinghai for the second and final time in these gorges and enters Gansu for the second time just before Liujia Gorge. Downstream from the Yanguo Gorge, the provincial capital of
Lanzhou Lanzhou (, ; ; Postal romanisation Postal romanization was a system of transliterating Chinese place names developed by postal authorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many cities, the postal romanization was the most comm ...

Lanzhou
is built upon the Yellow River's banks. The Yellow River flows northeasterly out of Gansu and into
Ningxia Ningxia (, ; alternately romanized as Ninghsia), officially the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (NHAR), is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, ...

Ningxia
before the Qingtong Gorge. After emerging from the Qingtong Gorge, the river comes into a section of vast alluvial plains, the Yinchuan Plain and Hetao Plain. In this section, the regions along the river are mostly deserts and grasslands, with very few tributaries. The flow is slow. The Hetao Plain has a length of and width of . It is historically the most important irrigation plain along the Yellow River.


Middle reaches

The
Ordos Loop The Ordos Plateau, also known as the Ordos Basin or simply the Ordos, is a highland Highlands or uplands are any mountainous region or elevated mountainous plateau. Generally speaking, upland (or uplands) refers to ranges of hills, typically u ...
formed by an enormous twist of the Yellow River, beginning at Zhongning County in
Ningxia Ningxia (, ; alternately romanized as Ninghsia), officially the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (NHAR), is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, ...

Ningxia
and ending with a drastic eastward turn at its confluence with the Wei River, Wei at Tongguan in
Shaanxi Shaanxi (; , ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, ...

Shaanxi
. However, the official division for the middle reaches of the river run from Hekou, Togtoh County, Hekou in Togtoh County,
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnati ...

Inner Mongolia
, to
Zhengzhou Zhengzhou (; ), also spelt Zheng Zhou and Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Chengchow, is the Capital (political), capital and largest city of Henan, Henan Province in the Central China, central part of the China, People's ...

Zhengzhou
,
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China The provincial level administrative divisions () are the highest-level administrative divisions of China. There are 34 such divisions claimed by the People's Republic of ...

Henan
. The middle reaches are long, with a basin area of , 45.7% of the total, with a total elevation drop of , an average drop of 0.074%. There are 30 large tributaries along the middle reaches, and the water flow is increased by 43.5% on this stage. The middle reaches contribute 92% of the river's silts. The middle stream of the Yellow River passes through the
Loess Plateau The Chinese Loess Plateau, or simply the Loess Plateau, is a plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid ...
, where substantial erosion takes place. The large amount of mud and sand discharged into the river makes the Yellow River the most sediment-laden river in the world. The highest recorded annual level of silts discharged into the Yellow River is 3.91 billion tons in 1933. The highest silt concentration level was recorded in 1977 at 920 kg/m3 (57.4 lb/ft3). These sediments later deposit in the slower lower reaches of the river, elevating the
river bed A stream bed or streambed is the channel bottom of a stream or river, the physical confine of the normal water flow. The lateral confines or channel margins are known as the stream Bank (geography), banks or river banks, during all but flood st ...

river bed
and creating the famous "river above ground". From Hekou to Yumenkou, the river passes through the longest series of continuous valleys on its main course, collectively called the Jinshan Valley. The abundant hydrodynamic resources stored in this section make it the second most suitable area to build hydroelectric power plants. The famous Hukou Waterfall is in the lower part of this valley on the border of
Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of the province is ...

Shanxi
and
Shaanxi Shaanxi (; , ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, ...

Shaanxi
.


Lower reaches

In the lower reaches, from
Zhengzhou Zhengzhou (; ), also spelt Zheng Zhou and Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Chengchow, is the Capital (political), capital and largest city of Henan, Henan Province in the Central China, central part of the China, People's ...

Zhengzhou
,
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China The provincial level administrative divisions () are the highest-level administrative divisions of China. There are 34 such divisions claimed by the People's Republic of ...

Henan
to its mouth, a distance of , the river is confined to a
levee file:River Levee Cross Section Figure.svg, Components of a levee: file:Sacramento River Levee.jpg, The side of a levee in Sacramento, California A levee (), dike (American English), dyke (Commonwealth English), embankment, floodbank, or stop ...

levee
-lined course as it flows to the northeast across the
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
before emptying into the Gulf of Bohai, Bohai Sea. The basin area in this stage is only , a mere 3% of the total, because few tributaries add to the flow in this stage; nearly all rivers to the south drain into the
Huai River The Huai River (), formerly romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken ...
, whereas those to the north drain into the Hai River. The Huai River Basin, for example, is separated from the Yellow River Basin by the south dike of the Yellow River. The total drop in elevation of the lower reaches is , with an average grade of 0.012%. The silts received from the middle reaches form sediments here, elevating the river bed. Excessive sediment deposits have raised the riverbed several meters above the surrounding ground. At
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital seven times in history, and is best known for being the Chinese ...

Kaifeng
, Henan, the Yellow River is above the ground level.


Tributaries

Tributaries of the Yellow River listed from its source to its mouth include: *White River (China), White River *Ejin River, Black River *Daxia River *Tao River *Huangshui River, Huang Shui **Datong River *Zhuanglang River *Zuli River *Qingshuihe River, Qingshui River *Dahei River *Kuye River *Wuding River *Fen River *
Wei River The Wei River () is a major river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course ...
(the Wei River is the largest of these tributaries) *Luo River (Henan), Luo River *Qin River (Shanxi), Qin River *Dawen River


Characteristics

The Yellow River is notable for the large amount of silt it carries—1.6 billion tons annually at the point where it descends from the
Loess Plateau The Chinese Loess Plateau, or simply the Loess Plateau, is a plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid ...
. If it is running to the sea with sufficient volume, 1.4 billion tons are carried to the sea per year. One estimate gives 34 kilograms of silt per cubic meter as opposed to 10 for the Colorado River, Colorado and 1 for the Nile. Its average discharge is said to be 2,110 cubic meters per second (32,000 for the Yangtze), with a maximum of 25,000 and minimum of 245. However, since 1972, it often runs dry before it reaches the sea. The low volume is due to increased agricultural irrigation, increased by a factor of five since 1950. Water diverted from the river as of 1999 served 140 million people and irrigated 74,000 km2 (48,572 mi2) of land.China's Yellow River, Part 1
''The New York Times'' (2007-05-30)
The Yellow River delta totals 8,000 square kilometers (3,090 mi2). However, with the decrease in silt reaching the sea, it has been reported to be shrinking slightly each year since 1996 through erosion. The highest volume occurs during the rainy season from July to October, when 60% of the annual volume of the river flows. Maximum demand for irrigation is needed between March and June. In order to capture excess water for use when needed and for flood control and electricity generation, several dams have been built, but their expected life is limited due to the high silt load. A proposed South–North Water Transfer Project involves several schemes to divert water from the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
: one in the western headwaters of the rivers where they are closest to one another, another from the upper reaches of the Han River (Hanshui), Han River, and a third using the route of the old Grand Canal of China, Grand Canal. Due to its heavy load of silt the Yellow River is a Deposition (geology), depositing streamthat is, it deposits part of its carried burden of soil in its bed in stretches where it is flowing slowly. These deposits elevate the riverbed which flows between levee, natural levees in its lower reaches. Should a flood occur, the river may break out of the levees into the surrounding lower flood plain and take a new channel. Historically this has occurred about once every hundred years. In modern times, considerable effort has been made to strengthen levees and control floods.


Hydroelectric power dams

Below is the list of hydroelectric power stations built on the Yellow River, arranged according to the first year of operation (in brackets): *Sanmenxia Dam (1960; Sanmenxia, Henan) *Sanshenggong Dam (1966) *Qingtong Gorge hydroelectric power station (1968; Qingtongxia, Ningxia) *Liujiaxia Dam (Liujia Gorge) (1974; Yongjing County, Gansu) *Lijiaxia Dam (1997) (Jainca County, Qinghai) *Yanguoxia Dam (Yanguo Gorge) hydroelectric power station (1975; Yongjing County, Gansu) *Tianqiao Dam (1977) *Bapanxia Dam (Bapan Gorge) (1980; Xigu District,
Lanzhou Lanzhou (, ; ; Postal romanisation Postal romanization was a system of transliterating Chinese place names developed by postal authorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many cities, the postal romanization was the most comm ...

Lanzhou
, Gansu) *Longyangxia Dam (1992; Gonghe County, Qinghai) *Da Gorge hydroelectric power station (1998) *Li Gorge hydroelectric power station (1999) *Wanjiazhai Dam (1999; Pianguan County, Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia) *Xiaolangdi Dam (2001) (Jiyuan, Henan) *Laxiwa Dam (2010) (Guide County, Qinghai) *Yangqu Dam (2016) (Xinghai County, Qinghai) *Maerdang Dam (2018) (Maqên County, Qinghai) As reported in 2000, the 7 largest hydro power plants (Longyangxia, Lijiaxia, Liujiaxia, Yanguoxia, Bapanxia, Daxia and Qinglongxia) had the total installed capacity of 5,618 MW.


Crossings

The main bridges and ferries by the province names in the order of downstream to upstream are:
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
* Dongying Yellow River Bridge * Shengli Yellow River Bridge (
Dongying Dongying (), a prefecture-level city A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply " Yangxin County from the neighboring Xianning), but still from the Huangshi main urban area. A prefectural-level municipali ...

Dongying
) * Lijin Yellow River Bridge (Dongying) * Binzhou Yellow River Road-Railway Bridge * Binzhou Yellow River Highway Bridge * Binzhou–Laiwu Expressway Binzhou Yellow River Bridge (Binzhou–Zibo) * Huiqing Yellow River Bridge (Binzhou–Zibo) * Jiyang Yellow River Bridge (Jinan) * G20 Qingdao–Yinchuan Expressway Jinan Yellow River Bridge (Jinan) * Jinan Yellow River Bridge * Luokou Yellow River Railway Bridge (Jinan) * Jinan Jianbang Yellow River Bridge * Beijing–Shanghai High-speed Railway Jinan Yellow River Bridge (Jinan–
Dezhou Dezhou () is a prefecture-level city A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply " Yangxin County from the neighboring Xianning), but still from the Huangshi main urban area. A prefectural-level municip ...

Dezhou
) * Beijing–Taipei Expressway Jinan Yellow River Bridge (Jinan–Dezhou) * Beijing–Shanghai Railway Jinan Yellow River New Bridge (Jinan–Dezhou) * Pingyin Yellow River Bridge (Jinan-Liaocheng) Shandong–
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China The provincial level administrative divisions () are the highest-level administrative divisions of China. There are 34 such divisions claimed by the People's Republic of ...

Henan
* Beijing–Kowloon Railway Sunkou Yellow River Bridge (Jining–Puyang) * Juancheng Yellow River Highway Bridge (Heze–Puyang) * Dongming Yellow River Highway Bridge (Heze–Puyang) Henan * Kaifeng Yellow River Bridge (
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital seven times in history, and is best known for being the Chinese ...

Kaifeng
) * Zhengzhou Yellow River Bridge (
Zhengzhou Zhengzhou (; ), also spelt Zheng Zhou and Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Chengchow, is the Capital (political), capital and largest city of Henan, Henan Province in the Central China, central part of the China, People's ...

Zhengzhou
)
Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of the province is ...

Shanxi
–Henan * Sanmen Yellow River Bridge (Sanmenxia)
Shaanxi Shaanxi (; , ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, ...

Shaanxi
–Henan * Hancheng Yumenkou Yellow River Bridge
Ningxia Ningxia (, ; alternately romanized as Ninghsia), officially the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (NHAR), is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, ...

Ningxia
* Yinchuan Yellow River Bridge (Yinchuan)
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnati ...

Inner Mongolia
* Baotou Yellow River Bridge (Baotou)
Gansu Gansu (, ; alternately romanized as Kansu) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnatio ...

Gansu
* Lanzhou Yellow River Bridge * Zhongshan Bridge (
Lanzhou Lanzhou (, ; ; Postal romanisation Postal romanization was a system of transliterating Chinese place names developed by postal authorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many cities, the postal romanization was the most comm ...

Lanzhou
)
Qinghai Qinghai (; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Tsinghai, Ch'inghai), also known Kokonor, is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Northwest China, the northwest of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of ...

Qinghai
* Dari Yellow River Bridge


Fauna


Fish

The Yellow River basin is rich in fish, being the home of more than 160 native species in 92 genera and 28 Family (biology), families, including 19 species found nowhere else in the world (Endemism, endemic). However, due to habitat loss, pollution, introduced species and overfishing many of the natives have declined or disappeared entirely; several are recognized as Threatened species, threatened on China's Red List. Dams and their reservoirs have increased the habitat for species of slow-moving and static waters, while it excluded species of flowing waters and prevented the up- and down-stream breeding Fish migration, migration of others. In the 2000s, only 80 native fish in 63 genera and 18 families were recorded in the Yellow River basin. In contrast, introduced fish have risen in both abundance and number of species; only one introduced fish species was recorded in the 1960s when ichthyologist Li Sizhong (ichthyologist), Li Sizhong published his original survey of fish fauna of the region, but by the 2000s there were 26. As typical of Asian rivers, Cyprinidae is by far the most diverse family in the Yellow River basin. More than 85 cyprinids have been recorded in this basin, including species that still are present and species that no longer are present. Other highly diverse families are the Nemacheilidae, stone loaches (more than 20 species), Gobiidae, gobies ( 15 species), true loaches ( 10 species) and bagrid catfish ( 10 species). Although there are species found throughout much of the river, several have a more restricted range. For example, the uppermost, highest parts on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau has relatively few native species, notably snowtrout and allies (''Gymnocypris'', ''Gymnodiptychus'', ''Platypharodon'' and ''Schizopygopsis''), and ''Triplophysa'' loaches. Of the 18 endemics in the Yellow River basin, 12 are (or were) found in the upper part. These in particular have become threatened and the fish fauna in many headwaters are now dominated by introduced salmonids. In contrast, the lowermost part of the river and its delta are home to many brackish water or euryhaline species, like gobies (although there are also true freshwater gobies in the Yellow River), Lateolabrax, Asian seabasses, flatfish and ''Takifugu'' pufferfish. Fishing remains an important activity, but catches have declined. In 2007, it was noted that 40% fewer fish were caught in the Yellow River compared to earlier catches. Large cyprinids (Asian carp, predatory carp, Wuchang bream and Mongolian redfin) and large catfish (Amur catfish, Amur and Silurus lanzhouensis, Lanzhou catfish) are still present, but the largest species, the Chinese paddlefish, kaluga sturgeon and Yangtze sturgeon, have not been reported from the Yellow River basin in about 50 years. Other species that support important fisheries include white Amur bream, ayu, Siniperca chuatsi, mandarin fish, ''Protosalanx'' icefish, northern snakehead, Asian swamp eel and others. Annual fishing ban has been implemented since 2018, covering the entire Yellow River basin from April 1 to June 30 each year. A total ban of fishing of natural fishes for five years is being implemented within the
Qinghai Qinghai (; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Tsinghai, Ch'inghai), also known Kokonor, is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Northwest China, the northwest of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of ...

Qinghai
section in the upper reaches of the Yellow River starting August 1, 2021.


Aquaculture

The Yellow River is generally less suitable for Aquaculture in China, aquaculture than the rivers of Central China, central and South China, southern China, such as the Yangtze or the Pearl River (China), Pearl River, but aquaculture is also practiced in some areas along the Yellow River. An important aquaculture area is the riverside plain in Xingyang City, upstream from
Zhengzhou Zhengzhou (; ), also spelt Zheng Zhou and Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Chengchow, is the Capital (political), capital and largest city of Henan, Henan Province in the Central China, central part of the China, People's ...

Zhengzhou
. Since the development of fish ponds started in Xingyang's riverside Wangcun, Xingyang, Wangcun Town in 1986, the pond systems in Wangcun have grown to the total size of 15,000 ''mu (unit), mu'' (10 km2), making the town the largest aquaculture center in North China. Two turtle species are native to the Yellow River basin: the Chinese pond turtle and Chinese softshell turtle. Both species—but especially the softshell—are widely farmed for food. A variety of the Chinese softshell turtle popular in Chinese gourmets is called the Yellow River turtle (). Nowadays most of the Yellow River turtles eaten in China's restaurants comes from turtle farms, which may or may not be near the Yellow River. In 2007, construction started in Wangcun, Xingyang, Wangcun,
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China The provincial level administrative divisions () are the highest-level administrative divisions of China. There are 34 such divisions claimed by the People's Republic of ...

Henan
on a large farm for raising this turtle variety. With the capacity for raising 5 million turtles a year, the facility was expected to become Henan's largest farm of this kind. The huge, entirely aquatic Chinese giant salamander, a species that has declined drastically due primarily to persecution for food and Traditional Chinese medicine, traditional medicine, is native to the Yellow River and other Chinese rivers. It is farmed in large numbers in several parts of China and genetic studies have revealed that the captive stock mostly is of Yellow River origin. As these often are released back into the wild, the Yellow River type of the Chinese giant salamander has spread to other parts of China, which represents a problem to the other types.


Pollution

On 25 November 2008, Tania Branigan of ''The Guardian'' filed a report "China's Mother River: the Yellow River", claiming that Water pollution in China, severe pollution has made one-third of China's Yellow River unusable even for agricultural or industrial use, due to factory discharges and sewage from fast-expanding cities. The Yellow River Conservancy Commission had surveyed more than of the river in 2007 and said 33.8% of the river system registered worse than "level five" according to the criteria used by the UN Environment Program. Level five is unfit for drinking, aquaculture, industrial use, or even agriculture. The report said waste and sewage discharged into the system last year totaled 4.29b tons. Industry and manufacturing made up 70% of the discharge into the river with households accounting for 23% and just over 6% coming from other sources.


In culture

In ancient times, it was Chinese mythology, believed that the Yellow River flowed from Tian, Heaven as a continuation of the Milky Way. In a Chinese legend, Zhang Qian is said to have been commissioned to find the source of the Yellow River. After sailing up-river for many days, he saw a girl spinning and a cow herd. Upon asking the girl where he was, she presented him with her Shuttle (weaving), shuttle with instructions to show it to the astrologer Yen Chün-p'ing. When he returned, the astrologer recognized it as the shuttle of the Weaving Girl (Vega), and, moreover, said that at the time Zhang received the shuttle, he had seen a Classical planet, wandering star interpose itself between the Weaving Girl and the cow herd (Altair). The provinces of
Hebei Hebei (; alternately Hopeh) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, f ...
and
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China The provincial level administrative divisions () are the highest-level administrative divisions of China. There are 34 such divisions claimed by the People's Republic of ...

Henan
derive their names from the Yellow River. Their names mean, respectively, "North of the River" and "South of the River", although the border between them historically has never been stable, and currently the border between Hebei and Henan is not the Yellow River, but the Zhang River instead. ;Mother river, China's Sorrow, and cradle of Chinese civilization. Traditionally, it is believed that the Chinese civilization originated in the Yellow River basin. The Chinese refer to the river as "the Mother River" and "the cradle of the Chinese civilization". During the long history of China, the Yellow River has been considered a blessing as well as a curse and has been nicknamed both "China's Pride" and "China's Sorrow".Cheng, Linsun and Brown, Kerry (2009) ''Berkshire encyclopedia of China'', Berkshire Publishing Group, p. 1125 ;When the Yellow River flows clear. Sometimes the Yellow River is poetically called the "Muddy Flow" (). The Chinese idiom "when the Yellow River flows clear" is used to refer to an event that will never happen and is similar to the English expression "when pigs fly". "The Yellow River running clear" was reported as a good omen during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, along with the appearance of such auspicious legendary beasts as ''qilin'' (an African giraffe brought to China by a Bengal embassy aboard Zheng He's ships in 1414) and ''zouyu'' (not positively identified) and other strange natural phenomena.


See also

* Central Plain (China) * Geography of China * He Bo * List of rivers in China *
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
* North China University of Water Conservancy and Electric Power * Water resources of China * Yellow River Cantata * Yellow River Map * Yellow River Piano Concerto *
Yellow Sea The Yellow Sea is a marginal sea This is a list of seas of the World Ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of Saline water, salt water that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of Earth and contains 97% o ...

Yellow Sea
* Red River (disambiguation)


References


External links


The DELIGHT Project, Delta Information System for Geoenvironmental and Human Habitat Transition

Listen to the ''Yellow River Ballade''
from the Yellow River Cantata
First raft descent
of the Yellow River from its source in Qinghai to its mouth (1987)

; Works from the National Central Library about the Yellow River *
Illustrated Work on the Storage and Drainage Activities at the Lakes and Rivers of the Yellow River and the Grand Canal

General Atlas Depicting the Conditions of the Yellow River Dykes in Henan Province
{{Authority control Yellow River, Drainage basins of the Pacific Ocean North China Plain Rivers of Gansu Rivers of Henan Rivers of Inner Mongolia Rivers of Ningxia Rivers of Qinghai Rivers of Shaanxi Rivers of Shandong Rivers of Shanxi Rivers of Sichuan