1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Yangtsze-Kiang

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20619451911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 28 — Yangtsze-KiangGeorge Jamieson

YANGTSZE-KIANG, a great river of China, and the principal commercial watercourse of the country. It is formed by the junction of a series of small streams draining the E. slopes of the Tibetan plateau, and for the first third of its course flows almost parallel with the Mekong and the Salween, each, however, separated from the other by intervening ridges of great height. The total length of the Yangtsze is calculated to be not less than 3000 m. Although the term Yangtsze is applied by Europeans to the whole course of the river, in China it indicates only the last three or four hundred miles, where it flows through a division of the empire which in ancient time was known as “Yang,” a name which also survives in the city of Yang-Chow in the province of Kiang-su. The ordinary official name for the whole river is Ch‛ang Kiang (pronounced in the north, Chiang) or Ta Chiang, meaning the “long river,” or the “great river.” Popularly in the upper reaches every section has its local name. As it emerges from Tibet into China it is known as the Kinsha Kiang or river of Golden Sand, and farther down as the Pai-shui Kiang. In Sze-ch‛uen, after its junction with the large tributary known as the Min, it is for some distance called the Min-kiang, the people being of opinion that the Min branch is in fact the main river. The fall in the upper reaches is very rapid. At the junction of the two main affluents in Upper Tibet, where the river is already a formidable torrent barely fordable at low water, the altitude is estimated at 13,000 ft. From Patang (8540 ft.) to Wa-Wu in Sze-ch‛uen (1900 ft.) the fall is about 8 ft. per mile, thence to Hwang-kwo-shu (1200 ft.) about 6 ft. per mile, and farther down to Pingshan (1039 ft) the fall is about 3 ft. per mile. At Pingshan, in the province of Sze-ch‛uen, the river first becomes navigable, and the fall decreases to about 6 in. per mile down to Chungk‛ing (630 ft.) . From Chungk‛ing through the gorges to Ich‛ang (130 ft.), a distance of nearly 400 m., the fall again increases to about 14 in. per mile; but from Ich‛ang down to the sea, a distance of 1000 m., the fall is exceedingly small, being as far as Hankow at the rate of 21/2 in., and from Hankow to the mouth at the rate of little more than 1 in. per mile. The last 200 m. are practically a dead level, for at low-water season there is a rise of tide enough to swing ships as far up as Wuhu, 200 m. from the mouth.

The principal tributaries, counting from the sea upwards, are: (1) the outlet from Poyarig lake, draining the province of Kiang-si (2) the Han river, entering on the left bank at Hankow; (3) the outlet from Tungt‛ing lake on the right bank, draining the province of Hu‛nan; (4) the three great rivers of Sze-ch‛uen, the Kialing, the To Kiang and the Min, all entering on the left bank; and (5) the Yalung, draining a vast area on the borderland between Sze-chu'en and Tibet. The whole drainage area is about 650,000 sq. m., of which more than four-fifths lie above Hankow. The period of low water is from December to March. The melting of the snows on the Tibetan highlands combined with the summer rainfall causes an annual rise in the river of from 70 to 90 ft. at Chungk‛ing and from 40 to 50 at Hankow and Kiukiang. The mean volume of water discharged into the sea is estimated at 770,000 cub. ft. per second. The quantity of sediment carried in solution and deposited at the mouth is similarly estimated at 6428 million cub. ft. per annum, representing a sub aerial denudation of the whole drainage area at the rate of one foot in 3707 years. (See Journal of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xvi., Dr Guppy.)

The Yangtsze-kiang forms a highway of first-class importance. As the rise in the river is only about 130 ft. for the first 1000 m.. it resembles a huge canal expressly formed for steam navigation. Except at winter low water, steamers of 5000 or 6000 tons can reach Hankow with ease. Between Hankow and Ich‛ang, especially above the outlet from Tungt‛ing lake, the volume of water diminishes very much, and as the channel is continually shifting with the shifting sand-banks, navigation is more difficult. Above Ich‛ang, where the river flows between rocky gorges, and where a series of rapids are encountered, navigation is still more difficult. But taking the Yangtsze as a whole, with its numerous subsidiary streams, canals and lakes, it forms a highway of communication unrivalled in any other country in the world. About half the sea-borne commerce of all China is further distributed by means of the Yangtsze and its connexions, not to mention the interchange of native produce between the provinces, which is carried by native sailing craft numbered by thousands.

The Yangtsze valley as a political term indicates the sphere of influence or development which by international agreement was assigned to Great Britain. This was first acquired in a somewhat negative manner by the Chinese government giving an undertaking, which they did in 1898, not to alienate any part of the Yangtsze valley to any other power. A more formal recognition of the British claim was embodied in the agreement between the British and Russian governments in 1899 for the delimitation of their respective railway interests in China, Russia agreeing not to interfere with British projects in the basin of the Yangtsze, and Great Britain agreeing not to interfere with Russian projects north of the Great Wall (Manchuria). The basin or valley of the Yangtsze was defined to comprise all the provinces bordering on the Yangtsze river, together with the provinces of Ho-nan and Chehekiang. This agreement was communicated to the Chinese government, and has been generally acknowledged. The object of the negotiations was to guard against conflict of railway interests; in all other respects the policy known as that of the “open door” was advocated by Great Britain and the chief commercial states. This policy was more fully declared by mutual engagements entered into in 1900 by the Great Powers on the initiative of the United States, whereby each undertook to guarantee equality of treatment to the commerce of all nations within its own sphere. As to railway enterprise, an agreement of 1910 admitted French, German and American financial interests equally with those of great Britain in the projected line from Hankow to Sze-ch‛uen.  (G. J.)