China Rivers

Being abundant in rivers, China is one of the country with most rivers in the world. It has many great rivers which have a long history. There are more than 1,500 rivers with a basin area of more than 1,000 square kilometers. These rivers are not only an important part of China’s geographical environment, but also rich in natural resources. China’s rivers are unevenly distributed, with both exorheic rivers and inward flowing rivers. Here we give a brief introduction to the most famous and important rivers in China.

1. The Yangtze River(长江)

With total length of 6,300 kilometers, the Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and the third longest river in the world. Its basin area is 180 square kilometers, accounting for about 1/5 of the nation’s total, and its sea outflow is about 1 trillion cubic meters, accounting for more than 1/3 of the nation’s total. Originating from the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau, it flows through Qinghai, Sichuan, Tibet, Yunnan, Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu, Shanghai and finally into the East Sea.

Along the Yangtze River, there are many famous attractions for the visitors, including the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge and Three Gorges. Nowadays, Yangtze River Cruise has become a popular and must-do activity when visiting China. Read more about the Yangtze River.

Recommended Yangtze River Tours:

5 Days Yichang City Tour with Yangtze River Cruise from Yichang to Chongqing
11 Days China Classic Tour with Best Yangtze River Cruise Tour
14 Days China Speed Train Tour with Yangtze Cruise

2. Yellow River(黄河)

At the length of 5,464 km, the Yellow River or Huang He, is the second longest river in China only after the Yangtze River, and the fifth longest river in the world. Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai province of Western China, it flows through Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Shandong and empties into the Bohai Sea. Since the middle of the river flows through the Loess Plateau, it is also known as the most sandy river in the world. Its basin is the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization, so it is called “Mother River” by Chinese people. 

Along the Yellow River, tourists can not only fully enjoy the attractive natural scenery, but also explore the Chinese history and culture. Read more about the Yellow River.

Recommended Yellow River Tours:

1 Day The Yellow River’s Hukou Waterfalls Tour from Xian
4 Days Lanzhou and Linxia Tour with Xiahe Labrang Monastery
5 Days Henan Ancient Culture Tour

3. The Pearl River(珠江)

The Pearl River is the general name of the three rivers, Xijiang, Dongjiang, Beijiang and other tributaries collecting the pearl river delta. It is an extensive river system with the length of 2,400 kilometres in southern China. It is China’s third longest river after the Yangtze River and the Yellow River. The Xijiang river originates in eastern Yunnan. The pearl river flows through Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Guangdong, finally into the South Sea. When tour Guangzhou, night cruise along the Pearl River is the highlight and the don’t-miss activity.

Recommended Pearl River Tours:

1 Day Guangzhou City Culture Tour
5 Days Guangzhou and Guilin Tour
9 Days Southern China Tour

4. Heilongjiang River(黑龙江)

Heilongjiang River, also called Amur River, 4,478 kilometers long, is the world’s tenth longest river, forming part of the border between southeast Siberia and China. Originated in the boundary between Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Siberia, it empties into Tatar Strait, which is the longest river in north Asia. The river is named after the shape of a black dragon. The river is also home to a variety of large predatory fish.

5. Grand Canal(京杭大运河)

Besides natural rivers, there are many man-made canals, including Grand Canal, the earliest and longest canal in the world. Known as the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal, it starts at Beijing and to the city of Hangzhou, linking five main water systems of Haihe, Yellow River, Huaihe, the Yangtze River and the Qiantang River. At the total length of 1,801 km, it has a history of more than 2,000 years. Besides being an important water route, it also plays a comprehensive role in irrigation, flood control and drainage.

Recommended Grand Canal Tours:

Hangzhou Grand Canal and Qiantang River Night Cruise Tour
4 Days Suzhou Gardens and Zhouzhuang Water Town Tour
9 Days Beijing-Xian-Shanghai-Suzhou-Shanghai Small Group Tour

6. Brahmaputra River (雅鲁藏布江)

Located in the Tibet autonomous region, Brahmaputra River is the highest river in China, as well as one of the highest rivers in the world. It originates in the Angsi glacier, northern side of the Himalayas in southwest Tibet, flows outside of China via Pasighat and eventually south into the Indian Ocean. It has a total length of 2,057 kilometers within the territory of China and ranks fifth in China.

7. Lancang River(澜沧江)

Lancang river is a trans-boundary river in Southeast Asia, which is called Mekong river in southeast Asia. It runs through the most countries in Asia, including China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and empties into the Pacific Ocean near Ho Chi Minh City. It is the world’s 7th-longest river and the 3rd-longest in Asia. Its total length is 4,880 km, of which 2,139 kilometers are in China. Reputed as the “Danube of the East”, Lancang River is China’s main artery of water carriage connecting Southeast Asian countries.

Recommended Lancang River Tours:

1 Day Mekong River Cruise Tour from Guanlei Port to Chiang Saen

8. Nujiang River (怒江)

Nu river is a great river in southwest China. Originating from the southern foot of Tanggula mountain along the Qinghai-Tibet border, it flows into Yunnan province and then is called Salween river after Myanmar, finally empties into the bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. The Salween river is 3,200 kilometers long in total, of which 2,013 kilometer is in China. The Nujiang gorge is 310 kilometers long. With an average depth of 2, 000 meters, it is the second in the world only to the grand canyon in the United States.

Recommended Nujiang River Tours:

15 Days Three Parallel Rivers Overland Tour with Biluo and Meili Snow Mountains

9. Tarim River(塔里木河)

It is the longest inland river in China and the fifth-longest inland river in the world. The Tarim River originates in the Karakorum and Kunlun Mountains. The Tarim River and most of its tributaries originate in the Karakorum and Kunlun Mountains. In total length of 2,137, the basin covers an area of 198,000 square kilometers and eventually flows into the Taitema Lake.

10. Liaohe River (辽河)

Liaohe river is the largest river in the south of northeast China and one of the seven big rivers in China. It flows through Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Jilin and Liaoning provinces, and injects into Bohai at Panshan county, Liaoning province. Its basin covers a total area of 219,000 square kilometers and the river is 1,390 kilometers long.