Ever Heard of Yellow River in China?
Thought of as the “mother river” and the “cradle of civilization” in China, the astounding Yellow River is the third longest in all of China after the famous Yangtze River and the Yenisei. This magnificent river is actually the sixth longest river in the entire world. The Yellow River, or Huang He, twists and winds its way through an amazing five thousand, four hundred sixty four kilometers through the country – that’s about three thousand three hundred ninety five miles of bending, curving, rushing water and vivid landscape. Along the way there are magnificent waterfalls, breathtaking views of China’s countryside, famous gorges to behold and interesting caves to explore. There are many stops along the way, so start packing your bags if you want to experience what this mighty river has to offer! Which other holiday destinations have you heard that is full of excitement such as this?
The Yellow River’s journey
The Yellow River headwaters begin in the Bayan Har Mountain range, a branch of the Kunlun Mountains in the
northwestern Qinghai Province of China. Here the Yellow River moves quietly through the region, irrigating the farmlands and bringing life to the people of Qinghai.The river water is clear, and moves steadily through the area where many small lakes are formed, as well as marshes. A good portion of this land is protected as the Sanjiangyuan – meaning the “Three Rivers’ Sources” – National Nature Reserve, to protect the precious source of the Yellow River, the Yangtze and the Mekong. The river runs through nine different Chinese provinces and autonomous regions of China along its journey to the Bohai Sea. There are over thirty branches and more streams than you can count, which feed the mighty Yellow River along its course through the country.
The Yellow river comes to Taohuayu in Zhengzhou City, Henan Province where the river itself slices the Loess Plateau in half. This division of the two parts of the Loess Plateau creates the longest continuous gorge in the entire drainage area of the river. The Loess Plateau is incredibly erosion-prone, as it is built up of silty sediment that has been deposited there by wind storms throughout history. The river easily erodes through the Loess Plateau, picking up a lot of sediment with it as it flows. The enormous amount of sand and mud discharged into the Yellow River in this area makes it the most sediment-laden river in the globe. These sediments are later deposited in the lower reaches of the Yellow River, which elevates the lower reaches’ river bed.
These lower reaches of the Yellow River flow through a leveed course across the North China Plain, ending in a delta on the Bohai Sea. The sediments carried here have actually raised the bed several meters over the past two thousand years.
The Yellow River, life giving mother river and Scourge of the Sons of Han
The Yellow River is generally regarded by most Chinese people as being the “Mother river,” and the home of a spiritual nurturing force for China. It is the water from the Yellow River that brings life and spreads the spirit of nurturing growth and sustainability throughout China, it has been the muse of major literary figures, artists and an inspiration to virtually anyone whose life and welfare depend on it.
This river is also heralded as “The Cradle of Chinese Civilization,” as neolithic, bronze age and iron age sites have been found in the Yellow River’s drainage basin. This area is understood to have been the centre of Chinese culture since the Azilian or middle stone age. It is said that the Chinese see themselves as being “children of the Yellow River,” as all of Chinese history can be traced back to this region.
As much as the Yellow River is revered for being the bringer of life, it is feared and respected for its ability to devastate lands during flood season – garnering the name “Scourge of the Sons of Han,” and “River of Sorrows.”
Special attractions along the Yellow River – what to do, where to go, and what should you see?
Lanzhou City: Lanzhou is the first major city along the Yellow River’s meandering journey, and for a long time Lanzhou had the only bridge crossing the Yellow River in the whole region, which made this city a key stop along the Silk Road. The Zhongshan Iron Bridge was constructed on the Yellow River, at the base of the White Pagoda Hill. A floating bridge called Zhenyuan Bridge crossed the Yellow River during the fourteenth century, which was important for the existence of the Silk Road. This floating bridge made way for for the current Iron Bridge in 1907, and later reinforced in 1954. It’s a sight to see and a part of the region’s history.
This Yellow River city also attracts tourists to its Waterwheel Park, located at the west end of Binhe Road in Lanzhou. A sculpture of the Yellow River Mother lies to the west, the White Pagoda Mountain Park to the north, and the White Cloud temple to the south. This highlight along the famous river showcases the oldest irrigation tools in the city, the water wheels. These water wheels made their appearance in Lanzhou during the Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644. These water wheels are known as the Tiger Wheel and the Irrigation Wheel. The Waterwheel Park, along with Waterwheel Square and Culture Square make up the city’s Waterwheel Expo. More than ten different water wheels from around the globe are on display in Waterwheel Square. You can peruse tourist information in Culture Square, and visit the Yellow River Rare Stone Hall, the Performing Hall, and the Lanzhou Modern History Exhibition Hall. The culture of the water wheel is demonstrated in photographs, theatrical performances, and written descriptions throughout the halls.
- Location: 4, Binhe Central Road, Qilihe District, Lanzhou
Transportation: Bus 7, 135, 140, 25 and 20 will bring you there from Lanzhou city center
Opening times: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm each day
Five Springs Park
Since the construction of the temple over two thousand years ago during the Tang Dynasty between 618 and 907, Five Springs Mountain has attracted visitors to the area to marvel at its splendor. Waterfalls cascade from the east and west sides of the mountain – the West Dragon Mouth and the East Dragon Mouth. This Yellow River city attraction features architectural buildings from the Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644, as well as the Qing Dynasty between 1644 and 1911, which are displayed on the Middle Peak in Five Springs Park. As you walk along past the mountain gate, you take in the sights of many ancient halls, corridors and pavilions lined up along the Middle Peak. These structures include the Arhat Hall, the Grand Buddha Hall, the Butterfly Pavilion, Wanyuan and Wenchang Pavilions, Ksitigarbha Temple and the Thousand-Buddha Pavilion, making this area a wondrous stop along the Yellow River. Both sides of the Middle Peak are where the West Dragon Mouth and the East Dragon Mouth are located.
The Nine-Turning Bridge and a beautiful lotus pool are constructed near the East Dragon Mouth, making use of the spring water connecting to the Yellow River. A twisting corridor links the East Dragon Mouth to the Middle Peak.
The West Dragon Mouth is accompanied by The Little Penglai Pavilion, standing out colourfully against the greenery of the treescape. Also featured on the western side is a zoo, where you can see monkeys, deer, bears, pandas, and even ligers – cross between lions and tigers. A three-meter tall iron bell which was built in the 2nd year of the Taihe Period of the Jin Dyntasty (1202) and it measures two meters in diameter and weighs over five thousand kilograms. When you enter the Arhat Hall, you can see an enshrined bronze statue of Buddha measuring is 5.3 meters or 17 feet tall, weighing in at over ten thousand kilograms. The Temple Fair is held in the Yellow River city of Lanzhou on this Five Springs Mountain Park area each year on April 8th. During the course of the ceremony, there will be the washing of the figures of Buddha, flower exhibitions and a variety of different sorts of cultural activities made available. This Temple Fair attracts thousands each year, and is a wonderful experience to behold.
- Location: 77, Wuquan South Road, Chengguan District, Lanzhou
Transportation: bus 8, 18, 71, 78, 101, 102, 106, 31, 33 and 34 are able to bring you there from Lanzhou city center
Opening times: 6:00 am to 6:00 pm each day
The word Hukou translates to flask mouth, or mouth of teapot, and it’s easy to see why: The Yellow River rushes through and over the Hukou Waterfall, where it finds its way through the narrow valley blocked by mountains on either side. Hukou Waterfall is second largest waterfall in China after Huangguoshu Waterfall in Anshun city, and the largest along the Yellow River. The river’s rich sediment tinges the waters yellow, making this the world’s only yellow waterfall! The width of Hukou Waterfall varies by season, usually measuring about 30 meters or 98 feet across but growing to 50 meters or 164 feet during its flood season. Hukou Waterfall is situated at the intersection of Shanxi Province and Shaanxi Province, 48 kilometers or 30 miles from Yichuan County of Yan’an and approximately 400 kilometers or 249 miles from Xi’an.
The Yellow River bed suddenly narrows down from 300 meters or 984 feet to 50 meters or 164 feet, turning the river into rapids. The tremendous amount of rushing water splashes over the rock, creating the magnificent waterfall we see, reaching 15 meters or 49 feet high – as though the river were being pouring down from an enormous teapot, hence the name Hukou.
The scene can be overwhelmingly beautiful. Just beneath the waterfall lies the Qilangwo Bridge, which connects the two provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi. When the sun is shining, the mist created by the waterfall is refracted by the sunlight creating a breathtaking rainbow spanning the water like a second colourful bridge. The majesty of this area earned the Hukou Waterfall’s 1991 title of being one of the “40 Best” national scenic spots. Over the course of history this scenic spot has attracted a variety of prominent artists and poets to marvel at the grand view, creating numerous artworks and works of literature describing the power and the beauty of the Yellow River and its Hukou Waterfall.
When visiting Hukou Waterfall, be sure to see the sights and photograph the captivating falls, but don’t miss out on the raft tours! Visitors to the falls can explore the river area by raft to get up close and personal, and relax in this scenic area by tasting the Yan’an wines and dining on Yellow River carp at one of the nearby restaurants, featuring the best of the local Chinese dishes. There are also Chinese fast food establishments in the area.
When visiting the Hukou Waterfall, the best time to come are the periods between April to May, and September to November. It’s during these two times that the Yellow River waters flowing through the Hukou Waterfall are the most active, making the sightseeing the best. Getting there in the winter provides visitors with a much different view, as Hukou Waterfall transforms into a huge silvery ice waterfall with silver icicles hanging off the cliffs around the edge. Buses to Hukou Waterfall can be take from the bus station of Yichuan County, which is approximately a one hour drive. A tourist round bus departs from Xi’an to Hukou Waterfall, leaving at 6:30 am and heading back at 3 or 4 pm – check the schedules daily to ensure the correct time.
The Yellow River isn’t just the name of an ochre-coloured river in China. It holds important significance: it is an icon of the Chinese nation, the spirit of the Chinese people and of civilization. Come, see the amazing Yellow River for yourself!
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