The Yellow River is said to be one of the most unique rivers in the world. It flows from the Tibetan Plateau in northern China and then continues northwards towards Mongolia. The river then runs south through the Qinling Mountains and finally heads east towards the sea via 50 different routes.
Both the Yellow and the Yangtze River flow through China from the Tibetan Plateau. The two rivers are well known for the amount of glacial silt they carry. The Yellow River is said to be the most silt laden river in the world and is thought to have even more of the material than the Yukon River, the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Nile. For tens of millions of years glaciers have been grinding down the sides of the Himalayas producing the crushed rock. The rock is so fine that it can stay in the rivers for long periods of time. It is thought that the best farmland in China is along the eastern seashore, which was in fact created by the deposits of glacial slit from the two rivers.
There is such a large amount of silt in the river that it often rises above ground level of the countryside it flows through. The river has been known to rise 30 meters above the surrounding land. In the event of a flood, the river overflows its banks and the results can be disastrous. Shanghai the financial capital of China, is built at the mouth of the Yangtze River. The Yangtze is navigable 1,000 miles up the river making it a good location to build a city as it meets the ocean. The Yellow River however, is not navigable, it also continually breaks its banks making it hard to predict at what point it will reach the ocean. At times the mouth of the Yellow River has been known to move 300 miles to a new location.
Some historians claim the personality trait of perseverance amongst Chinese people was partly due to their attempts to contain the Yellow River. The lives of many in China centered on the Yellow River valley; this was in part because the land there is fertile due to the silt, soil and minerals that are washed down from the river.
Controlling the river is an important part of the Chinese psyche, as shown on the rare occasion when Mao's Communist Party worked together with Chiang KaiShek's Nationalists at the end of World War II. This was in order to repair the dikes of the Yellow River which had been broken during the war. When the task was complete, the two sides returned to fighting each other.
China porcelain is created from deposited glacial silt, otherwise known as clay. Caves can be dug from this silt; Chairman Mao's army is thought to have spent some time living in glacial silt caves such as these.
Glacial silt can be found in a large plateau north of Xian called the Loess Plateau. If you would like to visit the Yellow River, it can be found 50 miles away from the city.