The Yellow River or Huang He is a major river in the Asian nation of China. It stretches across China's northern reaches, meandering through several provinces before it empties into the Bo Hai Sea. It is the second longest river in China, surpassed only by the mighty Yangtze, and it is the sixth longest river in the world. Visitors to China often try to visit a section of this river, since this river is an important part of China's geology, culture, and history.
The name of this river is a reference to the yellow silt which accumulates in its waters. The natural yellow tone of the river has been remarked on by many visitors to the area over the course of China's history. It is also sometimes known as “China's Pride,” acknowledging its role as the cradle of Chinese civilization. The Yellow River is also prone to catastrophic flooding, leading some people to call it “China's Sorrow” or “China's Curse.”
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The river originates in the Kunlun mountain chain of China's Qinghai province. As it snakes across the Northern regions of China, it meets up with hundreds of tributaries which slowly swell its heavily silted waters until it reaches the Bo Hai Sea. The banks of the Yellow River have hosted human civilization for hundreds of years, and numerous archaeological sites close to the river constantly uncover new and fascinating things.
The Chinese traditionally used the river for agriculture, harnessing its waters for irrigation and to water livestock. The river continues to be used for agricultural purposes in the modern era, although agriculture is putting such a heavy demand on the river that some scientists are urging a rethinking of Chinese agricultural practices. Since the 1970s, the lower reaches of the Yellow River have actually dried up several times due to excessive water use.
The water of this river also provides a major shipping route for the Chinese, ensuring that goods can penetrate inland China. In the modern era, the Chinese have also harnessed the power potential of the Yellow River by putting in several major hydroelectric dams along its length. As China has industrialized, some people have raised concerns about the health of bodies of water like the Yellow River. In addition to being heavily exploited, China's waters are also growing polluted, due to lack of adequate pollution controls and reinforcement.