Yellow River Raft
The Yellow River originates on Tibet-Qinghai plateau and flows for 5,464 kilometers (about 3,400 miles) through seven present-day provinces and two autonomous regions — (from west to east): Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, the border of Shaanxi and Shanxi, Henan and Shandong — before it empties into Bo Hai Gulf in the Yellow Sea. Initially flowing northeast from its source, the Yellow River follows a a somewhat winding path toward the sea with a large chunk of it running through the Loess Plateau, one of the historic center of Chinese civilizations, where its pick up a lot of silt that gives its yellowish-brown color.

Where the Yellow River begins, source tributaries drain into Gyaring Lake and Ngoring Lake in the Bayan Har Mountains of Qinghai. In the Zoige Basin along the border of Qinghai and Gansu border, the Yellow River loops northwest and then northeast before turning south, creating the "Ordos Loop", and then flows generally eastward across the North China Plain to the Gulf of Bohai. Major cities along river include (from west to east) Lanzhou, Yinchuan, Wuhai, Baotou, Luoyang, Zhengzhou, Kaifeng, and Jinan. The mouth of the Yellow River is located at Kenli County, Shandong. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Yellow River is commonly divided into three stages: 1) the Upper Section. roughly northeast of the Tibetan Plateau; 2) the Middle Section at the Ordos Loop; and 3) the Lower Section in the North China Plain. Tributaries of the Yellow River listed from its source to its mouth include: White River, Black River, Huang Shui, Datong River, Daxia River, Tao River, Zuli River, Qingshui River, Dahei River, Kuye River, Wuding River, Fen River, Wei River (the Wei River is the largest of these tributaries), Luo River, Qin River, Dawen River, Kuo River,

From time to time parts of the Yellow River change their routes and courses, sometimes with profound impacts. For example, the river Huai He, a major river in central China and the traditional border between North China and South China, traditionally cut through north Jiangsu to reach the Yellow Sea. However, from 1194 the Yellow River further to the north changed its course several times, running into the Huai He in north Jiangsu each time instead of its other usual path northwards into Bohai Bay. The silting caused by the Yellow River was so heavy that after its last episode of "hijacking" the Huai He ended in 1855: the Huai He was no longer able to go through its usual path into the sea. Instead it flooded, pooled up (thereby forming and enlarging Lake Hongze and Lake Gaoyou), and flowed southwards through the Grand Canal into the Yangtze. The old path of the Huai He is now marked by a series of irrigation channels, the most significant of which is the North Jiangsu Irrigation Main Channel, which channels a small amount of the water of the Huai He alongside south of its old path into the sea.

Source of the Yellow River

According to the China Exploration and Research Society, the source of the Yellow River is at 34° 29' 31.1" N, 96° 20' 24.6" E — about 150 kilometers north of Yushu in southwestern Qinghai Province — in the Bayan Har Mountains near the eastern edge of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Regarded as a branch of the Kunlun Mountains, the Bayan Har Mountains ( formerly known as the Bayen-káras or Bayan-Kara-Ula) are a mountain range in Qinghai Province who name is Mongolian for "Rich and Black". These mountains separates the drainage areas of both the Yellow and the Yangtze rivers.

The source of the Yellow River is in the basin of Yueguzonglie, which is located in the northern part of the Bayan Har Mountains at an elevation of 4,800 meters (15,700 feet). Source tributaries drain into Gyaring Lake and Ngoring Lake on the western edge of Golog Prefecture high in the Bayan Har Mountains of Qinghai. From here the river heads towards Zoige Basin along the boundary with Gansu. The water of huge Qinghai Lake used to flow into the Yellow River water system but 210,000 years ago, Qinghai Lake became endorheic (retaining it water with no outflows) due to the uplift of the Tibetan-Qinghaian Plateau.

The source section flows mainly through pastures, swamps, and knolls between the Bayan Har Mountains, and the Anemaqen (Amne Machin) Mountains in Qinghai. The river water is clear and flows steadily. Crystal clear lakes abound in this area. Lake Gyaring (Zhaling) and Lake Ngoring (Eling) are situated at elevations over 4,290 meters (14,070 feet) and are the two largest plateau freshwater lakes in China. Sanjiangyuan ("'Three Rivers' Sources") National Nature Reserve in Qinghai contains the headwaters of the Yellow River, Yangtze River, and Mekong River. The reserve was established to protect these headwaters and consists of 18 subareas, each containing three zones which are managed with differing degrees of strictness.

Maduo (in Qinghai Province about 500 kilometers southwest of Xining) , means "the source of the Yellow River" in Tibetan. Although it has a small population and has a severe climate, many people come to Maduo because of its name and claim as the Yellow River source. Maduo (amso spelled Madoi) County has more than 4,000 lakes. Zhaling Lake and Eling Lake are the most famous. Between the two lakes, an Ox Head tablet marks the origin of the Yellow River. The crystal-clear lakes attract thousands of migrating birds in winter and spring. Madoi County is in Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, to the east of the source recognized by the China Exploration and Research Society.

Upper Reaches of the Yellow River in Qinghai and Gansu

Yellow River at Hukou Falls in Shaanxi
The upper reaches of the Yellow River extends from its source in the Bayan Har Mountains to at Hekou Town (Togtoh County) in Inner Mongolia just before it turns sharply to the south. This segment has a total length of 3,472 kilometers (2,157 miles) and total basin area of 386,000 square kilometers (149,000 square mile), 51.4 percent of the total Yellow River area. Along this section, the Yellow River drops 3,496 meters (11,470 feet). [Source: Wikipedia]

Flowing east at the eastern edge of the Amne Machin Mountains, the Yellow River enters Maqu County in Gansu. Here, the river passes through the edge of the Zoigê Wetlands — a high-altitude peat bog — as and makes a sharp turn towards the northwest forming the border between Maqu and Zoigê County in Sichuan. Flowing now along the northern edge of Amne Machin, the river reenters Qinghai and gradually curves north towards the Longyang Gorge at 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, Liujia, Bapan, and Qingtong gorges. The flow conditions in this section makes it the best location for 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 is built upon the Yellow River's banks. The Yellow River flows northeasterly out of Gansu and into 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 900 kilometers (560 miles) and width of 30 to 50 kilometers (19 to 31 miles). It is historically the most important irrigation plain along the Yellow River.

Guide: in the Upper Reaches of the Yellow River

Gui'de County in Qinghai Province is in Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Known in Tibetan as Trika, the county is divided into north and south by the Yellow River. The town of Guide became part of Ming Dynasty China in 1370. Its earthen walls and buildings were built between 1375 and 1380 and were expanded in 1590. After the founding of the People's Republic, the moats were filled in and the North and South gates were pulled down, as well as the towers. In 2010 work commenced to restore the gates and towers.

On his visit to the area, On traveler wrote for CRI :”One Our bus drove along the gentle slopes of Mt. Laji. Although the mountain is at an altitude of 3,858 meters above sea level, the road was smoother than we could have imagined. From time to time, we'd see several white or blue tents emitting wisps of kitchen smoke scattered on the grassland, where yaks and sheep grazed leisurely. After hours of driving, we suddenly entered a russet world with ranges of fantastic red rock formations all around. Our guide, Wang Xiaofang, told us that this is Danxia, a special type of landscape formed from red-colored sandstones and conglomerates mostly dating from the Cretaceous age. [Source: CIR August 7, 2009]

“Danxia is located in Ashigong Village, which is about 40 kilometers away from the county seat. I met a local girl there who was standing alone by a tractor on the side of the road. She was shy when we asked her if we could take a picture with her. In no time, she was no longer afraid of us. She told me that her name was Lei Zhuoma, and she was a 12-year-old student in the fourth grade at the local primary school. She often helps her parents do farm work on her summer holiday, and now she was taking care of the grass that feeds the family's sheep.

“After saying goodbye to this lovely girl, we moved on to lunch at a Muslim restaurant with several century-old pear trees in its yard. The trees were laden with little green pears. They were obviously not ripe; however, the restaurant owner invited us to try them. He told us that we didn't have to wash them because they are completely organic food. For me, this was really the first time I had ever eaten unwashed fruit, and it was really great. The pears were not sour at all and tasted slightly sweet.

After an authentic meal in this Muslin restaurant, we returned by the way we came and stopped at Huangheqing Bridge. Huangheqing in Chinese means "the Yellow River water is clear." Unfortunately, it was raining and what we saw with our own eyes was nothing but muddy river water roaring down below. The guide however told us when it clears up, the water will become clear again.

By Huangheqing Bridge, local vendors were selling fruit and pebbles from the Yellow River. However, I picked up many cute pebble stones on my own without spending one cent when we stood on the bank of the Yellow River. Under the direction of experts, we paid a fact-finding visit to Guide Huangheqing National Wetland Park. It was a brief visit since the rain was falling steadily.”

Yellow River in Gansu

The Yellow River passes through the southern part of Gansu province. The river gets most of its water from Gansu and flows straight through Lanzhou, Gansu’s capital and largest city. Gansu was once an important part of the Silk Road. The heart of the province is the Hexi Corridor, a 1,000-kilometer-long narrow strip of land on the western bank of the Yellow River that provides access between the Central Plans of China to the west and was a key part of the Silk Road. A natural land passage the Hexi Corridor stretches from Lanzhou to the Jade Gate, It is bound to north by the Gobi Desert and Qilian Mountains to the south.

Lanzhou (1,560 kilometers west-southwest of Beijing in the southeast part of Gansu) is the largest city on the Yellow River and used to be one of the most polluted cities in the world. It is the capital and largest city of Gansu Province, with about 3 million people. It In the old days it was regarded as one of the gateways to the Silk Road. Today Lanzhou is a dirty, industrial city filled with smoke and air-borne chemicals from petrochemical factories and brickyard kilns trapped inside a long, narrow Yellow River valley, flanked by mountains. The air pollution is so bad there has some discussion about blasting a hole in the mountains to allow the dirty air to escape. Lanzhou was described The New Yorker as “an assemblage of rusting machinery, slag heaps, and landfills; of chimneys, brick kilns, and belching thick smoke; of concrete tenements whose broken windows are held together with cellophane and old newspapers."

Bingling Si (near Tianshui, 250 kilometers southeast of of Lanzhou) is situated in a canyon along the Yellow River. It name means "thousand Buddha" in Chinese and "10,000 Buddhas” in Tibetan. Situated in Xiaoji Mountain, 20 miles southwest of Yongjing County, it is where people have been carving statues and niches into two-kilometer stretch of steep cliffs above the surging Yellow River for more than 1000 years. There are 183 caves, 694 stone statues, 82 clay figures and 900 square meters of murals preserved here. The tallest statue is 27 meters (80 feet) high and the smallest is 20 centimeters. Two thirds of the sculptures which are set up along four tiers were made over 1000 years ago. The oldest date to 420 A.D. during the Western Jin Dynasty. The great 27-meter-high Maitreya Buddha is similar in style to the great Buddhas that once lined the cliffs of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Access to the site is by boat from Yongjing in the summer or fall. There is no other access point.

Yellow River in Ningxia

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is landlocked and located at the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River in northwest China. It borders Gansu Province to the south, Shanxi Province to the east, and Inner Mongolia to the north. Ningxia is sparsely settled, mostly desert and lies partially on the Loess Plateau and in the vast plain of the Yellow River.

Over the years an extensive system of canals has been built in Ningxia to take advantage of Yellow River and put it to use for irrigation. Extensive land reclamation and irrigation projects have made increased cultivation possible. The northern section, through which the Yellow River flows, supports the best agricultural land. The Yellow River flows through 12 cities and counties in central and north Ningxia. It brings rich water resource to Ningxia and makes Yinchuan Plain the most affluent area throughout the autonomous region. The Yinchuan plain has been called the “Eden of the Northern Wastes”. Another saying goes, “The Yellow River Brings prosperity to Ningxia”.

Yinchuan (1,130 kilometers west of Beijing) is the capital and largest and most important city in Ningxia, with about 2.5 million people. The city lies on the Yellow River and has long depended on it but these days so much water is taken out it it is often little more than a narrow channel. Yinchuan was once the home of the mysterious Xia civilization.

Ordos Loop and Middle Section the Yellow River

The middle section of the Yellow River passes through the Loess Plateau, where it picks substantial amounted of eroded sand and sediment. From Hekou to Yumenkou, the river passes through the longest series of continuous valleys on its main course — a region collectively known as the Jinshan Valley. There is abundant hydrodynamic potential here. The Yellow River cuts through northwestern Inner Mongolia. The famous Hukou Waterfall is in the lower part of this valley on the border of Shanxi and Shaanxi.

The Middle Section of the Yellow middle extends for 1,206 kilometers (749 miles) and has a basin area of 344,000 square kilometers (133,000 square miles), 45.7 percent of the entire Yellow River basin and has elevation drop of 890 meters (2,920 feet). There are 30 large tributaries along the middle reaches, and the water flow increase by 43.5 percent in this section. The middle section of Yellow River supplies 92 percent of the river's silts. The large amount of mud and sand discharged into the river makes the Yellow River the most sediment-laden river in the world.

The Ordos Loop is an enormous, rectangular, northward-oriented bend of the Yellow River that is roughly 650 kilometers north to south and 350 kilometers across, where it tops out in Inner Mongolia. It begins in Zhongning County in Ningxia and ends with a drastic eastward turn at its confluence with the Wei River at Tongguan in Shaanxi. Ordos Loop is mainly in the Mid Section of the Yellow River but doesn’t correspond with it exactly. The Ordos Plateau, or simply the Ordos, is the land enclosed by the Ordos Loop. The Great Wall of China cuts across the center, roughly separating the sparsely populated north — considered the Ordos proper — from the more the Loess Plateau to the south. The Wei River valley, which includes Xian, cuts horizontally across the south of the loop and was one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. Ordos Desert in the north is part of Inner Mongolia.

Shaanxi Loess Region

Shaanxi Loess Region is a 150,000-square-mile region in Gansu, Shanxi, Henan and Shaanxi provinces where everything is gritty yellow: the mountains, the cliffs and the houses where many people live. Even the air is yellow. It gets its color from the yellow dust that gets kicked up by the strong winds that blow through from time to time. The dust in turn comes from a fine loosely packed soil called loess, which is found in other parts of the world but not in the concentrations that are found here.

Loess soil is very fertile. The Loess Plateau produces a lot of crops and would be one of the breadbaskets of China of it weren't for the fact that the region is so dry. It only receives 10 inches of rain a year. Many crops are coaxed from terraces or raised with irrigation water from the Yellow River and its tributaries. It is the last major area of arable land as one heads north.

Compacted loess can be easily carved, and many farmers in Loess Plateau live in caves carved out of the loess cliff sides. Some farmers even dig down in their fields and make their homes underground. It is not usual in some places to see fields with smoking chimneys rising out of them from such homes.

The Loess Plateau is one of least inviting landscapes in China. It was once covered by forest but is now largely bare expect in areas of agriculture On some barren slopes, without a tree or bush in sight, are the slogans “Make the Green Mountain Even Greener” written in large characters. Occasionally there are serious problems In May 2005, a huge sink hole swallowed 11 houses in Jixian County in Shanxi Province. Sixteen people escaped the 80-meter-wide, 1250-meter-long hole created in loess soil.

Loess is hard when dry but dissolves when wet. Rains wash away huge amounts of soil and leave behind gullies that can become canyons that make travel across the region difficult. Loess is also light and blows away very easily. In the spring, when the winds are strongest, yellow dust from the Loess Plateau is carried westward into Korea and Japan, where it forms a pollen-like film. Some even makes it way to North America. The soils that blew away in dust bowl region of Oklahoma were primarily loess.

The Loess Plateau has some of the world's highest erosion rates, Farming is difficult. Rain and irrigation water are n short supply. The edges of terraced fields routinely collapse down steep gullies. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia

Yellow River in Shanxi and Shaanxi

Shanxi Province is situated on the Loess Plateau in the middle reaches of the Yellow River in northern China. The Yellow River defines the south and west of the province. The Zhongtiao Mountains run along part of the southern border and separate Shanxi from the east-west part of the Yellow River. Mount Hua is to the southwest.

The Yellow River forms the western border of Shanxi with Shaanxi. The Fen and Qin rivers are tributaries of the Yellow River that run north-to-south through Shanxi and drain much of its area. Shaanxi includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River. The northern part of Shaanxi shares the Ordos Desert with Inner Mongolia. The Loess Plateau occupies the central part of the province. Between the Loess Plateau and the Qinling lies the Wei River Valley, or Guanzhong, a cradle of early Chinese civilisation. The Wei River is a major river in west-central China's Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. It is the largest tributary of the Yellow River.

Dragon's Gate

Dragon's Gate (between Xiangning County and Hejin in Shanxi province and Hancheng in Shaanxi province) is the most spectacular of a series of gorges that squeeze the languid Yellow River into a raging torrent downriver from the Shaanxi Loess Plateau . Inside this 12-mile-long gorge, the Yellow River is compressed to a width, in some places, of only 50 feet by steep cliffs that rise up on both sides of the river.

Dragon's Gate embraces Lóngmén Shān, a mountains situated where the Yellow River abruptly leaves the vast Loess Plateau to enter a plain which connects both to an area of plains. The mountain is part of the Loess Plateau's southern edge but is also part of the Lüliang Mountains, which runs parallel to the Yellow River as it flows south.

The Dragon’s Gate — also called “Yu's Doorway” or “Yu’s Gate” gate is the place at Lóngmén Shān's southwestern tip where the Yellow River breaks out of the Loess Plateau. Three bridges span the Yellow River in this area. As there are no other nearby bridges either upstream or downstream, it is a major river crossing point.

Hukou Waterfall

Hukou Waterfall (on the Shanxi-Shaanxi border, 120 kilometers southeast of Yan’an, 400 kilometers southwest of Taiyun) is the most impressive waterfall on the Yellow River. Situated in the Qinjin Canyon on the middle reaches of the Yellow River, it is the second largest waterfall in China. Only Huangguoshu waterfall in Guizhou is bigger. The riverbed here is like an enormous teapot where the water is poured out. This is the waterfall is named Hukou Waterfall (Kettle Spout Falls)

When the mighty Yellow River flows through mountains and gorges to Hukou, the billowy water streams narrow suddenly, from over 300 meters to 50 meters in width, falling 30 meters into a deep riverbed like a herd of galloping horses, transforming the quiet river into a turbulent one. The thundering sound can be heard from quite a distance. The tremendous mass of water strikes the rocks, creating piles of foam and huge water poles. It is an amazing view with mist all around.

Hukou Waterfall is 50 meters high. It was naturally formed from water in the middle reaches of the Yellow River flowing through the Jinxia Grand Canyon. The width of the waterfall changes with the season. It usually stretches 30 meters wide but can increase to 50 meters during the rainy season; Admission: 81 yuan (US$12.8) per person; Tel: 0086-911-4838030

Lower Reaches of the Yellow River

The Lower Reaches of the Yellow River refers to the part of the river in primarily in Henan and Shandong Provinces, stretching from Zhengzhou, Henan to its mouth in the Bohai Sea in Shandong. The silt picked up in the middle reaches of the river are largely deposited here, elevating the river bed. Excessive sediment deposits have raised the riverbed several meters above the surrounding ground. At Kaifeng, Henan, the Yellow River is 10 meters (33 feet) above the ground level.[31]

The Lower Reaches of the Yellow River stretches 786 kilometers (488 mile). The river follows a levee-lined course as it flows to the northeast across the North China Plain before emptying into the Bohai Sea. The basin area in this stage is only 23,000 square kilometers (8,900 square miles), a mere three percent of the total, because few tributaries add to the flow in this stage. Nearly all rivers to the south drain into the Huai River, 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 only 93.6 meters (307 feet), with an average grade of 0.012 percent.

To hold the river back and prevent floods, the Chinese have built most of the Yellow River’s 800 kilometers of levees in this area. Some of the levees are huge. Because water levels in the river rise every year, the levees also have to be raised. In many places the river has sat above the surrounding landscape for some time. The journalist Edgar Snow wrote in 1961: "The riverbed [is] twenty to twenty-five feet above the surrounding countryside. I have watched junks sail overhead at that height."

Today, the Yellow River is above the landscape for much of its last 800 kilometers (500 miles) to the sea and the river continues to rise at an alarming rate of four inches a year. If a levee breaks, larger tracts of the countryside are vulnerable to flooding. Much of the silt, sand and mud carried by the Yellow River originates in the faster-flowing upper reaches but is largely deposited on the flat plain, where the river flow is much slower.

Artificial embankments that channel the flow require constant repair. In some places the river flows on a raised ridge that is 50 meters (164 feet) m) or more above the plain. Still enough sediment reaches the sea, where deposits have created a kind of continental shelf (a Distal Depocenter) around the Shandong Peninsula in the Bohai Sea extending to the North Yellow Sea and South Yellow Sea.

Yellow River in Henan

HENAN PROVINCE is considered the birthplace of Chinese civilization. Located in central- eastern China on the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River plain, it is where the Shang dynasty, China's first dynasty, came into existence around 1700 B.C. when members of the invading Shang tribe overpowered the local tribes. Like Shandong, Henan is an important agricultural region dominated by the Yellow River. Shaolin Temple — of kung Fu fame — is located here.

Although the name of the province means "south of the river", approximately a quarter of the province lies north of the Yellow River. The Yellow enters Henan from the northwest, via the Sanmenxia Reservoir and passes Luoyang, where the mountains gave way to plains. Huge amount of sediments due to the silt it picks up from the Loess Plateau has traditionally been deposited in Henan, raising the riverbed and causing frequent floods there. In recent decades, the construction of dams and levees, as well as excessive water use have ended the floods.

Zhengzhou (700 kilometers southwest of Beijing and 600 kilometers southeast of Shanghai) is the capital and largest city of Henan Province, with about 6 million people. Located on the Yellow River, it is important inland transportation hub, a textile production center and, to many people, the ballroom dancing capital of China. Zhengzhou (also spelled Cheng-chou and Chengchow) lies at a crucial railroad junction for both north-south and east-west lines. Industries have traditionally included textiles, flour mills, tobacco factories, locomotive repair plants, and a thermal generating station. Nearby countryside is irrigated by a pumping station erected in 1972.

Yellow River Sights in Henan Province

Yellow River Scenic Area (on the southern shore of the Yellow River in Zhengzhou) is a national AAAA tourism zone, and a natural scenic zone, integrating sightseeing, leisure, holidays, popular scenic education, root exploration, sacrificing the ancestors and carrying forward the Chinese civilization. This scenic area is covered with green trees, and dotted with pavilions and towers, with picturesque scenery. Standing on the mountain, tourist can have a nice view of the Yellow River that keeps runing. The Yellow River Scenic Area is composed of five major scenic zones and more than 40 tourist attractions, such as Five Dragon Peak, Yueshan Temple, Xinghai Lake, the statues of emperors of Yandi and Huangdi.

Mangshan Yellow River Tourist Center (32 kilometers northwest of Zhengzhou) is a 10-square-mile area known for four things: 1) a project that diverted the Yellow River to Zhengzhou; 2) the Yueshan Temple Scenic Spot, where Zijin Tower and Iron Chain Bridge are found; 3) Luotuo Bridge and the nearby Stele Forest of the Yellow River, with 570 stone pinnacles inscribed with calligraphy; and 4) the Hanba Erwangcheng Scenic spot, which contains two Shang-era archeological sites and a mountain with a wonderful view of the Yellow River.

Yellow River Boat Tours can be organized from Sanmenxia dam to Ruicheng. Along this 65-kilometers route you will see the Mausoleum for the Yellow Emperor, the Burial Ground for Carriages and Horses, the No. 1 dam on the Yellow River, the Pagoda of Baolun Temple, Shaanxian cave dwellings and hot springs. The water is calm around Sanmenxia but rough around Luoyang.

Luoyang and Longmen Caves

Luoyang (160 kilometers west of Zhengzhou) is an industrial city with about 2 million people. Located along the southern banks of the middle reaches of the Yellow River, it was one of the seven ancient capitals of China, serving 13 different dynasties — among them the Xia, the Shang, the Eastern Zhou, the Eastern Han, the Cao Wei, the Western Jin, the Northern Wei, the Sui and the Tang — and remaining a seat of power until, 1592. It is considered an encapsulation of ancient Chinese history.

Longmen Caves (12 kilometers south of Luoyang) stretch for a 1½ kilometers along a 100-foot-high cliffside on the west bank of Yellow River. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of the three great treasure houses of grotto art in China, the Buddhist caves features more than 2,345 caves and grotto niches, 43 pagodas, 3,600 tablets and 100,000 statues built over a 400 year period between A.D. 493 and 960. The tallest is 50 feet tall and the smallest is only two centimeters. The best are comparable to the finest sculptures in the world. Others look like something a schoolchild could make.

Binyang Cave is the main cave in the group. Nearby is Thousand Buddha Cave. Fengxiansi Cave contains the largest group of images as well as some of the most expressive and expertly carved ones. Here, a 50-foot-tall Buddha stands alongside a Heavenly King crushing a demon and a 30-foot Lishi guardian with rippling muscles and fierce expressions — considered by some scholars to be finest sculptures in China. Many of the caves are filled with dripping water tainted by acid rain from produced by the nearby industrial city of Luoyang. UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site

Yellow River in Shandong

Shandong Province is a mostly flat, densely populated and largely agricultural province with canals, drab cities, factories and cabbage fields fertilized with human excrement. Located on a fertile peninsula situated on the lower reaches of the Yellow River and is bordered by the Bohai and Yellow Seas, it is the second most populous province in China after Guangdong and is a major coal producing area. The region's fortunes have traditionally risen and fallen with the Yellow River, which these days is drained of so much water before it enters Shandong it sometimes doesn't have any water when it reaches the Yellow Sea.

The Yellow River passes through Shandong's western areas, entering the sea along Shandong's northern coast; in its traversal of Shandong it flows on a levee, higher than the surrounding land, and dividing western Shandong into the Hai He watershed in the north and the Huai He watershed in the south. The Grand Canal of China enters Shandong from the northwest and leaves on the southwest.

Jinan (in west Shandong, 500 kilometers south of Beijing) west Shandong) is the capital and largest city, with about 7 million people. Jinan originally not located on the Yellow River. When the river shift to a new bed right to the north of Jinan in 1852 the town became a city and railroad hub, with a major market for agricultural products from the productive farming regions to the north.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, Nolls China Web site; CNTO; Perrochon photo site;; University of Washington; Ohio State University; UNESCO; Wikipedia; Julie Chao photo site

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization),, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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