The Mythology of the Yangtze River
The Yangtze River, known as Chang Jiang in Chinese, is the longest river in Asia, stretching over 6,300 kilometres from the glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai, to the mouth of Shanghai to the East China Sea. Throughout the centuries, Chinese historians have regarded the Yangtze River as the most important river in China, as it not only serves as a vital part of the transport system, supplying water to millions of people living in the surrounding areas, but it also holds immense symbolic importance. In fact, in many Chinese myths and legends, the Yangtze River is regarded as a spiritual being that is closely associated with many deities, making it a revered part of Chinese folk religion.
According to legend, a god from Kunlun Mountains known as Yu the Great founded the river. When the Yellow River began to flood and cause destruction on the northern plains, Yu started to dig the path of the Yangtze River. To commemorate his efforts, Yu was enshrined in the Three Gorges region, an area that has been venerated ever since. In the myths, Yu is not only the founder of the Yangtze River, but he is also regarded as a symbol of persistence and perseverance, as he fought against huge currents and had to battle against countless man-made obstacles. In traditional Chinese culture, Yu is venerated as a legendary figure and often compared to Sun Tzu, the famous strategist and author of the famous treatise The Art of War.
In addition to Yu, the River Goddess of the Yangtze is also an important figure in Chinese mythology. She is worshipped as the guardian spirit of the river and is said to bring both prosperity and increasing fertility to those who worship her. According to legend, she was born from the tears of a fisherman, who had found himself in turmoil after the death of his wife. The Goddess then descended from Heaven and helped the fisherman in his time of need, becoming the overlord of the Yangtze River in the process.
However, the importance of the River Goddess of the Yangtze is not limited to Chinese mythology. She is considered to be the mother of the entire Central Plain and protector of all its people, with her shrine located at the entrance of the river in Xuan Shan. To this day, the Goddess still stands as the guardian spirit of the Chinese people, watching over them and protecting them from harm.
In addition to these two mythical figures, there are numerous other gods and goddesses that are believed to be associated with the Yangtze, each of them representing a different aspect of the river and its surrounding areas. For example, the goddess Nu Wa is often seen as the creator of the Yangtze River and the patron deity of rain and fertility.
The Yangtze River is an important part of Chinese culture and mythology, and its significance is further enhanced by its geographical position. On a map, the Yangtze River is easily distinguishable by its long and winding path, which starts in the east and eventually curves to the south before flowing into the East China Sea.
The Geography and Economics of the Yangtze River
The Yangtze River, which is the fastest-flowing river in the world and has an average discharge rate of 29,900 cubic meters per second, is the main waterway of central and eastern China and runs through the ten largest cities in the country. Along the route, there are numerous hydroelectric projects and dams, which not only provide essential water resources to the area, but also generate clean energy that is used for electricity production.
At the same time, the Yangtze River, which also serves as an important transportation route and has had a great impact on commercial activity, has also played a significant role in the economic development of the region. Communities along the river have relied on its resources to sustain themselves, with fishing and tourism becoming major industries.
The Yangtze River basin is one of the most important agricultural areas in China, and is home to some of the country’s largest provinces. It is also home to two-thirds of the population in China, and is responsible for around 70% of the country’s electricity production. As such, it is clear that the Yangtze River is essential to the economic success of the country.
In addition to providing resources and electricity, the Yangtze River also acts as an important breeding ground for fish, mollusks, shrimp, and other aquatic creatures, making it one of the most biologically diverse regions in China. There are many rare species found here, such as the Yangtze Finless Porpoise, which is listed as critically endangered.
The Yangtze River is also an important area for cultural and historical heritage, being home to numerous ancient cities and sites of archaeological significance. These include the dramatic Three Gorges Dam, which was constructed to regulate the flow of the river and generate energy, and the stunning Yellow Mountain, which is considered to be one of the four sacred mountains in Chinese culture.
Environmental Impacts of the Yangtze River
The increasing number of people living in the Yangtze River basin, coupled with a booming industrial sector, has resulted in the river becoming the most polluted body of water in the country. Over the last few decades, the river has been subject to numerous forms of pollution, including agricultural and industrial runoff, sewage, and pesticides. In addition, the construction of numerous dams along the river have altered its course and increased its vulnerability to pollution.
The combination of environmental degradation and over-exploitation of the river’s resources has had a drastic impact on the flora and fauna of the river. A number of species, such as the Yangtze River dolphin and the Chinese Sturgeon, have already gone extinct due to the destruction of their natural habitat, while many other species are threatened with extinction.
Despite its current state, there are still many opportunities to reduce the damage and make the Yangtze River a more sustainable ecosystem. In particular, China’s government has recently increased the number of protected areas along the river, particularly in the Three Gorges area, in an attempt to mitigate the effects of human activity. Additionally, numerous organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have initiated a number of programs aimed at helping local communities and businesses adopt more sustainable practices that are more respectful of the river and its ecosystems.
Conservation and Preservation Efforts For the Yangtze River
In recent years, conservation and preservation efforts for the Yangtze River have increased in order to protect the valuable resources and biodiversity of the area. As the river has become increasingly polluted, conservation groups have been calling for the implementation of stricter regulations on pollution and better oversight of commercial activities and fishing.
The Chinese government has also been taking part in the conservation and preservation of the Yangtze River, launching several programs and initiatives aimed at protecting and restoring the river’s natural state. This includes the implementation of the Ecological Red Line, an environmental protection zone that covers more than 4,400 square kilometres of the Yangtze River basin, and the Three Gorges Restoration Project, which seeks to protect the fragile biodiversity of the Three Gorges area.
In addition to these initiatives, there have also been a number of global efforts to save the Yangtze River. In July 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the Three Gorges area of the Yangtze River an “international biosphere reserve”. This designation not only recognizes the importance of the area, but is also seen as an important step forward in the preservation of the Yangtze River, as the protected area includes important habitats for a wide range of plant and animal species.
The Yangtze River has long been regarded as an important part of Chinese culture, mythology, and history, and its importance has only increased in recent decades. It is the longest river in Asia and is home to some of the most biodiverse habitats in China, making it an essential resource for the country. Despite the problems caused by pollution, over-exploitation, and human activity, there are still opportunities to make the Yangtze River a more sustainable ecosystem, and a number of initiatives have already been established to ensure the preservation of this precious resource.