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China Travel Guide

Explore Huang He River

Explore Huang He Huang He River or Yellow River is the second-longest river in China with 5,464 km. Originating in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into the Bohai Sea.

The Yellow River is known in China as “the cradle of Chinese civilization”, as its basin is the source of the northern Chinese civilizations and is the most prosperous region in early Chinese history.

The river is frequently associated to a dragon, a allusion not only to its sinuous course, but also to its uncontrollable nature, and its behavior, by turns benign - providing irrigation to areas otherwise arid and inhospitable - and malevolent - originating floods and devastation -. Huang He River is sometimes called "China's Sorrow".

The central Chinese provinces of Shanxi, Shaanxi, Henan and Shandong are linked and dominated by the Huang He, which has played a vital role in their history, geography and destiny. It was in this soil, on the flood plain of the river, that Chinese civilization first took root.

The river's modern name (Yellow River) is a reference to the enormous quantities of yellow sediment -loess - it carries. Loess is a soft ground, prone to vertical fissuring. In Shanxi and northern Shaanxi it has created one of China's most distinctive scenes, plains scarred with deep, winding crevasses, in a restricted palette of browns. In southern Shaanxi and Henan, the landscape is flat with a monotonous color. Irrigation has transformed the desert loess into rich and fertile lands.

In Shanxi Province are located stunning Yungang cave temples, Wutai Shan - one of the most beautiful holy mountains -, and quirky temples and villages that seem stuck in the last century. The fertile and wealthy Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, has a lot of temples, museums and tombs, including the Terracotta Army deservedly ranking as one of China's premier sights. It is also the home of a significant Muslim minority.

Following the Yellow River east are two holy mountains, Hua Shan and Song Shan (home of the celebrated Shaolin monks), and the city of Luoyang in Henan, with the wonderful Longmen cave temples and Baima Si just outside. Continuing east brings you to the charming town of Kaifeng, to Anyang, capital of the Shang dynasty, and to the Linxian Canal, a reminder of China's modern history.

Explore Huang He Farther east is Shandong Province. The town of Qufu, which was the birthplace of Confucius, has a great temple and mansion; Tai Shan is the most popular holy mountain in the area, and the peculiar city of Qingdao is a reproduction of a Bavarian village built by the Germans in the last century.

With a good rail transport, an increasing tourist industry and an agreeable weather outside the winter months, travel in the region can be very pleasant. Sadly, the capricious nature of the river makes river travel impossible in Shandong. Most towns and cities now have hotels such as Kaifeng, Qufu and Tai'an, which are anxious to be a focus for travelers.

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