Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For other Yellow Rivers, see Yellow River (disambiguation).
The headwaters of the Huang He lie in the Kunlun Mountains in north-western Qinghai province, where the river originates at an elevation of 4,500 m in the Yekuzonglie Basin located on the northern slope of the Bayankera Mountains in the Qingzang Plateau . From its source, the river flows at first eastwards, forms a bend in south-eastern direction and then flows east again until it reaches the town of Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, where its Great Northern Bend starts. The bend extends northward into Inner Mongolia. The river turns then to flow almost straight to the south, forming the border between the Provinces of Shaanxi and Shanxi. About 130 km northeast of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, the Huang He turns again to flow eastwards once more. It reaches the coastal lowlands of Eastern China near the town of Kaifeng and flows through them towards its mouth in northeastern direction. In total, it drains an area of 944,970 km² (364,417 square miles). Despite this large drainage area, the water flow of the Huang He is comparatively small. It amounts to only one fifteenth of that of the Yangtze and only one-fifth of that of the Pearl River, although the drainage area of the latter is less than half that of the Huang He. This is due to the predominant aridity of the Huang He's drainage area, which contains the Ordos Desert along the river's northern bend. Although the eastern parts of the drainage area in Henan and Shandong are much wetter, they cannot compensate for the effect of the arid portions.
During the long history of China, the Huang He has been considered a blessing as well as a curse and has been nicknamed both "China's Pride" (pinyin: Zhōng Guó de Jiāoào) and "China's Sorrow" (pinyin: Zhōng Guó de Tòng). Records indicate that, from 602 to present, the river's course made at least 5 major large-scale changes in direction and its levees were breached more than 1,500 times. A major course change that took place in AD 1194 took over the Huai River drainage system throughout the next 700 years. The mud in the Huang He literally blocked the mouth of the Huai River and made thousands homeless. The Yellow River adopted its present course in 1897 after the final course change occurred in 1855. Currently, Huang He flows through Jinan, capital of the Shandong province and ends in the Bohai Sea (Bohai Gulf).
The river gets its yellow color from silts which are carried in the flow. Centuries of silt deposition and diking has caused the river to flow above the surrounding farmland, making flooding a critically dangerous problem. Flooding of the Huang He has created some of the highest death tolls in recent history, with the 1887 Huang He flood killing 900,000-2,000,000 and the 1931 Huang He flood killing 1,000,000-3,700,000. In 1938, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Nationalist troops under Chiang Kai-Shek broke the levees holding back the Yellow River in order to stop the advancing Japanese troops. The river at that time flooded a huge area and the floodwaters took some 500,000-900,000 lives.
Sometimes Huang He is literally spoken as the Zhou Liu (濁流), or the Muddy Flow. The Chinese expression "when the Yellow River flows clear" is similar to the English expression "when hell freezes over."
- Sinclair, Kevin. 1987. The Yellow River: A 5000 Year Journey Through China. (Based on the television documentary). Child & Associates Publishing, Chatswood, Sydney, Australia. ISBN 0-86777-347-2
- Grand Canal of China
- Geography of China
- North China Plain
- Loess Plateau
- List of rivers of Asia
- List of rivers in China
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