The Yangtze River is the third longest river in the world, and enjoys great fame because of the numerous historic relics found along its banks and the beautiful legends about this vital waterway.
The source of the Yangtze River lies to the west of Geladandong Mountain, the principal peak of the Tanggula Mountain chain in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, southwest of China.
The river flows 6,300 kilometers from west to east through provinces of Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui and Jiangsu as well as the city of Shanghai, finally emptying into the East China Sea. With plenty of rainfall all year round, the Yangtze River is named the golden watercourse.
The river is one of the world's busiest waterways, and is navigable by ocean-going vessels up a thousand miles from its mouth. Traffic includes commercial traffic transporting bulk goods such as coal as well as manufactured goods and passengers.
A Yangtze River cruise is a "must do" for any tourists because of its most spectacular scenery imaginable. River cruises are typically several days long, especially those through the beautiful and scenic Three Gorges area.
The most impressive section of the river is the three Yangtze River gorges: Qutang Gorge, Wuxia Gorge and Xiling Gorge, collectively known as the Three Gorges. Qutang Gorge is the shortest among the Three Gorges and the most spectacular. As soon as the roaring Yangtze River rushes into the gorge, it meets head-on with the imposing Kuimen Gate. Rocky mountains rise vertically like walls on both sides of the river squeezing the broad river into a narrow ribbon threading its way in the gorge. When the river flows out of Qutang Gorge it passes the broad valley of the Daning River before it enters the scenic Wuxia Gorge full of zigzag, weird peaks, rising mists and beautiful sights.
The Yangtze River is the most important river in the history, culture and economy of China. The thriving river delta generates as much as 20% of China's GDP.
The river is also an important physical and cultural dividing line between North and South China. The Yangtze River flows through a wide array of ecosystems and is itself habitat to several endemic and endangered species including the Chinese alligator and the Yangtze sturgeon. For thousands of years, man has used the river for water, irrigation, sanitation, transportation, industry, boundary-marking and war.
The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. The construction began in 1995 and it measures about 200 meters (600 feet) high and 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) wide. It is also the largest comprehensive irrigation project in the world and has a significant impact on China's agriculture.