Yangtze River or Chang Jiang River — History, Facts, and Cultural Meanings
Yangtze River or Chang Jiang River by Wushan Mountains of Chongqing, Photo by Zheng Yunfeng.
What Is Yangtze River or Chang Jiang River?
Yangtze River or Chang Jiang is the longest river in China.
It was the cradle of some great Neolithic civilizations, has nurtured countless people, had served exceptional military importance in ancient history, and now is playing a significant role economically and ecologically.
Yangtze River or Chang Jiang River Flow By Chongqing City, Photo by Guiji.
Why Is Yangtze River or Chang Jiang River Called Yangtze?
In ancient times, this river was called Jiang or Da Jiang, meaning the great, grand river.
Since the Three Kingdoms, Jin, North and South Dynasties (220 — 589), people officially named it Chang Jiang, meaning the longest river.
Meanwhile, the Chang Jiang River area had been developed and researched relatively later in history, plus its astonishing length, numerous and complicated tributaries and lakes, which made people give it different names to its different segmentations.
From west to east, the names of different parts of Chang Jiang River are Tuotuo He, Tongtian He, Jinsha Jiang, Chuan Jiang, Jing Jiang, Chu Jiang, Xunyang Jiang, Wan Jiang, and Yangzi (or Yangtze) Jiang.
Jinsha Jiang nearby Jin'an Town of Yunnan Province, Photo by Li Qi.
During the south tours of Emperor Yang of Sui (569 — 618), a fancy palace was constructed in a place named Yangzi for him to stay.
This palace then was named Yangzi Palace, and the Chang Jiang river in this area was called Yangzi River.
In Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) when western merchants and missionaries came to China through the Yangzi River, the English pronunciation "Yangtze" for "Yangzi" officially became the international name for the Chang Jiang River.
Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing, the Starting Point of the Yangzi River Section of Chang Jiang (from Nanjing to the Estuary), Photo by Yilu.
Where Does Yangtze River or Chang Jiang Start and End?
From west to east, the river flows to and ends in the East China Sea (Dong Hai).
Its estuaries had changed in history, however, they remained in the east of Jiangsu Province.
The source of the river, however, had been confusing in history.
Until 2008, the source of the Yangtze River is determined as an over 100,000 square kilometers (24,710,538 acres) big geographic unit, with three main source rivers: Dangqu (or Dam Chu), Tuotuo He, and Chuma'er He (or Qumar He).
Dangqu (or Dam Chu) River in Qinghai Province, Photo by Zhang Chaoyin.
Important Data and Facts.
The Yangtze River or Chang Jiang is 6300 kilometers (3915 miles) long;
It is the third-longest river in the world, and the longest river in China;
Its drainage area is 1,800,000 square kilometers or 444,789,687 acres;
Farmland in Middle and Lower Reaches Area, Photo by Sun Gongfu.
It has thousands of tributaries, and eight of them are big ones, each of which has over 100,000 square kilometers (24,710,538 acres) big drainage area;
The Yangtze River or Chang Jiang had been considered a natural barrier (Tian Xian) in history, and had served significant military functions;
The world's largest hydroelectricity, the Three Gorges Hydroelectric Power Station or Three Gorges Dam, is located in the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping in Hubei province.
Three Gorges Hydroelectric Power Station or Three Gorges Dam, Photo by Li Xinkuan.
Origin and Timeline of Major Civilizations of Yangtze River.
Around 5000 BC — 3300 BC: Hemudu Culture with Stilt Houses
Hemudu was a mature Neolithic civilization in the lower reaches, with stilt houses, black pottery, and rice cultivation skills.
Black Pottery (Bo) of Hemudu Culture Carved with Pig Pattern — Zhejiang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Around 4400 BC — 3300 BC: Daxi Culture with Red Painted Pottery
Daxi was a civilization located in the middle reaches, which was famous for painted and red potteries.
Red Pottery Ball of Daxi Culture — Sichuan Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Around 3300 BC — 2000 BC: Liangzhu Advanced Jade Civilization
Liangzhu, located in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, was a mature civilization with a clear social hierarchy, well-designed cities, efficient water conservancy projects, and advanced agricultural and handicraft techniques.
Among valuable relics unearthed from Liangzhu Archaeological Site, the jade articles were extremely astonishing, for showing highly developed skills and rich cultural symbols.
Ritual Jade Cong of Liangzhu Culture — Liangzhu Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Around 3300 BC — 2000 BC: Qujialing and Shijiahe the Entering of Bronze Age
Qujialing (Around 3300 BC — 2600 BC) then Shijiahe (Around 2800 BC — 2000 BC) were two successive civilizations in the middle reaches of the river, which entered the Bronze Age, developed cities, and formed social hierarchy and mature sacrificial rites.
2800 BC — 1100 BC: Sanxingdui the Mysterious Bronze Culture
Located in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, Sanxingdui was a civilization with grand ancient city ruins and exquisite bronze wares, and more mysteries to be further discovered.
Bronze Trees of Sanxingdui Culture — Sanxingdui Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
2070 BC — 1127: Development of Different Regional Cultures
Except that in Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC — 403 BC), Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC), Three Kingdoms, Jin, North and South Dynasties (220 — 589), Five Dynasty and Ten Kingdoms (907 — 979), some regimes had established in the Yangtze River basin.
Huizhou Culture Style Buildings in Hongcun, Photo from CNG.
From 1127 to today: Developing and Flourishing
In the year 1127, Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279) was forced to migrate its capital to southern China.
Since then, the Yangtze River area was extensively developed, and gradually surpassed the Yellow River area in the north economically.
Shanghai City Near the Estuary of Chang Jiang, Photo by Lin Wenqiang.
Features and Cultural Symbolisms of Yangtze River or Chang Jiang in Ancient Chinese Poems.
Beauty and Magnificence
山随平野尽，江入大荒流。Li Bai (701 — 762)
Grand mountains disappear into the plain, magnificent river surges in the wilderness.
Breaking Mount Heaven’s Gate, the great River rolls through; green billows eastward flow and here turn to the north.
From both sides of the River thrust out the cliffs blue; leaving the sun behind, a lonely sail comes forth. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
Wu Gorge or Wuxia, Photo from CNG.
Moon's reflection in the river looks like a mirror flying from the sky, a fancy mirage formed on floating clouds.
星垂平野阔，月涌大江流。Du Fu (712 — 770)
The boundless plain fringed with stars hanging low, the moon surges with the river on the flow. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
江流天地外，山色有无中。Wang Wei (701 — 761)
The river flows outside of heaven and earth, the mountains show and hide now and then.
一道残阳铺水中，半江瑟瑟半江红。Bai Juyi (772 — 846)
A shred of setting sun on the river, turns half of the water emerald and half red.
Tieban Zhou in Wuhan, Photo by Liu Bin.
Philosophy and Eternity
江畔何人初见月，江月何年初照人。Zhang Ruoxu (about 660 — 720)
Who by the riverside did first see the moon rise? When did the moon first see a man by the riverside? (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
We do not know tonight for whom she (the moon) sheds her ray, but hear the river say to its water adieu. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
滚滚长江东逝水，浪花淘尽英雄。Yang Shen (1488 — 1559)
Wave on wave the long river eastward rolls away, gone are all heroes with its spray on spray. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
Farewell and Sentiment
孤帆远影碧空尽，唯见长江天际流。 Li Bai (701 — 762)
His lessening sail is lost in the boundless blue sky, where I see but the endless River rolling by. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
浔阳江头夜送客，枫叶荻花秋瑟瑟。Bai Juyi (772 — 846)
One night by the riverside I bade a friend goodbye, in maple leaves and rushes autumn seemed to sigh. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
春风又绿江南岸，明月何时照我还。Wang Anshi (1021 — 1086)
The vernal wind has greened the Southern shore again, when will the moon shine bright on my return? (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
大江东流去，游子日月长。Du Fu (712 — 770)
The river flows to the east, is long as the days away from home.
Qutang Gorge, Photo by Wang Zhengkun.
Emotions and Feelings
野径云俱黑，江船火独明。Du Fu (712 — 770)
Over wild lanes dark cloud spreads, in boat a lantern looms. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
孤舟蓑笠翁，独钓寒江雪。Liu Zongyuan (773 — 819)
A lonely fisherman afloat is fishing snow in a lonely boat. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
闲观扬子江心浪，静听金山寺里钟。Pan Lang (? — 1009)
Leisurely appreciating waves in the center of Yangtze River, quietly listening to bell sounds from Jinshan Temple.
Jinshan Temple in Zhenjiang City of Jiangsu Province
月落乌啼霜满天，江风渔火对愁眠。Zhang Ji (about 715 — 779)
At moonset cry the crow, streaking the frosty sky, dimly lit fishing boats, neath maples sadly lie. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
无边落木萧萧下，不尽长江滚滚来。Du Fu (712 — 770)
The boundless forest sheds its leaves shower by shower, the endless river rolls its waves hour after hour. (Translated by Bian Zhilin and Xu Yuanchong)
日暮乡关何处是，烟波江上使人愁。Cui Hao (704 — 754)
Where is my native land beyond the setting sun? The mist-veiled waves of the river make me homesick. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
Sunset on Yangtze River in Anhui Province, Photo by Ji Sheng.
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