Yellow River in Qinghai Province
Yellow River or Huang He ( listen (help·info)) is the second longest river in Asia, after the Yangtze River, and the sixth longest river system in the world at the estimated length of 5,464 km (3,395 mi). Originating in the Bayan Har Mountainsin Qinghai province of Western China, it flows through nine provinces, and it empties into the Bohai Sea near the city of Dongying in Shandong province. The Yellow River basin has an east–west extent of about 1,900 kilometers (1,180 mi) and a north–south extent of about 1,100 km (680 mi). Its total drainage area is about 752,546 square kilometers (290,560 sq mi).
Its basin was the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization, and it was the most prosperous region in early Chinese history. There are frequent devastating floods and course changes produced by the continual elevation of the river bed, sometimes above the level of its surrounding farm fields.
Early Chinese literature including the Yu Gong or Tribute of Yu dating to the Warring States period (475–221 BC) refers to the Yellow River as simply 河 (Old Chinese: *C.gˤaj, modern Chinese (Pinyin) Hé), a character that has come to mean “river” in modern usage. The first appearance of the name 黃河 (Old Chinese: *N-kʷˤaŋ C.gˤaj; Middle Chinese: Huang Ha) is in the Book of Han written during the Eastern Han dynasty about the Western Han dynasty. The adjective “yellow” describes the perennial color of the muddy water in the lower course of the river, which arises from soil (loess) being carried downstream.
One of its older Mongolian names was the “Black River”, because the river runs clear before it enters the Loess Plateau, but the current name of the river among Inner Mongolians is Ȟatan Gol (Хатан гол, “Queen River”). In Mongolia itself, it is simply called the Šar Mörön (Шар мөрөн, “Yellow River”).
In Qinghai, the river’s Tibetan name is “River of the Peacock” (Tibetan: རྨ་ཆུ།, Ma Chu; Chinese: s 玛曲, t 瑪曲, p Mǎ Qū’)