Top 10 Longest Rivers In The World

Last updated on April 12th, 2022

3. The Yangtze – the world’s third longest river

The Yangtze River is China’s most famous and revered river. It is also the principal waterway that plays an important role in the country’s economy, contributing about 20% to the country’s GDP. It is Asia’s longest river and the world’s third longest, beaten only by the Amazon and Nile rivers. Here are 20 interesting facts about the Yangtez river.

1. The Yangtze (sometimes Yangzi) River is also called Chang Jiang. It flows in its entirety within China alone. It begins in the Tibetan Plateau and crosses China in an easterly direction for about 3,900 miles.

2. Aside from being the longest river in Asia, the Yangtze is also the busiest waterway in the world. It is used by barges, ferries, and cruise ships that transport people, animals, and products around China. Many of these products are further shipped to other countries.

3. The name Chang Jiang means “Long River”. It is also called Da Jiang, meaning “Great River”. In many cases, the Yangtze is simply called Jiang, which means “River” or “The River”. The river’s most famous name – Yangtze – is sourced from the eponymous fiefdom in ancient China. This is the name by which the river is mostly known in the western world.

4. The Yangtze is sometimes referred to as the Yellow River. However, this term actually refers to the Huang He River which is found in the north. The moniker is due to the presence of silt in its waters. The silt has a yellowish-brown color. Each time the waters overflow, the yellow residue is left behind.

The Yangtze River - the third longest river in the world
The Yangtze – the third longest river in the world. Image credit – Bernd Thaller

5. The Yangtze has an impressive elevation fall that makes it ideal to tap for hydroelectric power. The largest elevation drop is found in the Jinsha River section, measured at around 3,280 meters. This section is where most of the hydropower stations in the Yangtze are found.

6. The Yangtze River Basin has a tendency to flood, particularly from June to August. This period is the summer season and the climate of the area is subtropical monsoon. The Yangtze also floods easily because its waters are slow-flowing, especially in the middle and lower sections. When additional waters are added to the flow from fast-flowing tributaries and rainwater, the river rises and causes flooding.

The Yangtze on map

7. The flooding that Yangtze causes leads to considerable damage to the affected areas. Major floods have occurred in the last 100 years, with the 2010 flood the most recent issue.

8. The most destructive of Yangtze’s floods occurred in August 1931. The waters covered 34,000 sq. miles, destroying homes and livelihood. It left about 80 million people without homes and killed around 850,000 (a high estimate is placed at around 4,000,000).

9. The Yangtze has over 700 tributaries, although eight of these are considered the major ones, discharging more than 50 cubic kilometers every year.

10. The river has over 4,300 kinds of organisms. About 400 species out of this figure are fish.

11. In 2021, the state implemented a law that prohibits fishing in the Yangtze. This is to protect the aquatic organisms in the river that have begun to decline significantly due to over fishing. In fact, some species are believed to have already become extinct.

On the Yangtze River near Ychang
On the Yangtze River near Ychang. Image credit – Bernd Thaller

12. The sediment that builds up during floods are quite powerful. None of the early efforts made to control the waters of the Yangtze worked. The Soviet Union once attempted to construct a dam but the project failed.

13. The waters of the Yangtze flow through 10 administrative regions at the provincial level. These include some of the most progressive areas such as Shanghai, Hunan, Chongqing, Hubei, Sichuan, and Yunnan.

14. Over 30 of the country’s 55 ethnic groups reside in the Yangtze River basin. The densest area is in the Southwest region.

15. The river forms a natural division between North and South China. It does not actually divide the areas geographically speaking but is merely considered as a natural boundary.

16. The Yangtze has a section called the Kongling Shoal which is found in the Xiling Gorge. When the waters are low, an ominous-looking rock appears. The locals call it “Come to Me” because contrary to what inexperienced boatmen think, the boat must be aimed towards the rock to navigate the section safely. Because the current flows so rapidly, the water will move the vessel in the right direction so that it will eventually avoid the rock and pass through safely.

Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric power station in the world, completed on October 30, 2008, The total electric generating capacity of the dam will reach 22,500 MW.The dam controls flooding, enhances navigation, and provides a vast amount of clean electricity. It has displaced some 1.24 million people since the water level has risen permanently 175 meters. Image credit – Pedro Vásquez Colmenares

17. The Three Gorges Dam was built beginning in 1994. By far the largest of all engineering projects in China, the dam also houses the largest hydroelectric plant in the world.

18. Using the power of the waters of the Yangtze, the Three Gorges Dam generates over 84 billion kiloWatt hours every year.

19. The construction of the Three Gorges Dam has somewhat changed the appearance of the Yangtze. The dam has raised the level of the water in the river, making the river itself wider, straight, and deeper. As a result, the distance that ships have to travel has become shorter, especially during the rainy season.

20. The Yangtze River is estimated to be about 45 million years old. Human activity is believed to have begun along its waters about 27,000 years ago. As a result, the Yangtze has played a significant role in the development of China’s culture, society, economy, and history.

This is the pavilion, here you can watch the Yangtze River
This is the pavilion, here you can watch the Yangtze River. Photo © Superj79 |

The Yangtze – quick facts and statistics

NameThe Yangtze River
SourceDam Qu (location: Tanggula Mountains, Qinghai, China)
Source elevation5,820 m (19,095 ft)
MouthEast China Sea (location: Shanghai and Jiangsu)
Length6,300 km (3,917 miles)
Widthup to 2600 feet
Depthup to 100 feet
Basin size1,808,500 km2 (698,300 sq mi)
Direction of flowwest to east
Major citiesLuzhou, Chongqing, Yichang, Jingzhou, Yueyang, Wuhan, Jiujiang, Anqing, Tongling, Wuhu, Nanjing, Zhenjiang, Yangzhou, Nantong, Shanghai
Did you know?1. The Yangtze river is about 45 million years ago.

2. There are over 50 bridges across the Yangtze river.

3. The drainage basin of Yangtze River takes 1/5 of China’s land area.

4. It is home to the world's oldest existing dam-free irrigation system. It is called the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project.
Table last updatedDecember 6, 2021

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