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Jinsha River

Jinsha (金沙江)
Yangtze (长江)
Jinsha flowing along the bottom of Tiger Leaping Gorge
Name origin: Chinese: "Gold Dust River"[1]
Country China
States Qinghai, Tibet, Yunnan, Sichuan
Part of Yangtze River basin
 - left Beilu River, Yalong River
 - right Pudu River, Xiaojiang River, Niulan River
Cities Lijiang, Yunnan, Panzhihua
Source Tongtian River
 - location Confluence of the Tongtian and Batang Rivers, Qinghai
 - elevation 4,500 m (14,764 ft)
 - coordinates 34°05′51″N 92°54′38″E / 34.09750°N 92.91056°E / 34.09750; 92.91056
Mouth Yangtze River
 - location Confluence with Min Jiang at Yibin, Sichuan
 - elevation 300 m (984 ft)
 - coordinates 28°46′05″N 104°38′29″E / 28.76806°N 104.64139°E / 28.76806; 104.64139
Length 2,290 km (1,423 mi) approx.
Basin 485,000 km2 (187,260 sq mi) approx.
 - average 4,471 m3/s (157,892 cu ft/s)
 - max 35,000 m3/s (1,236,013 cu ft/s)
Map of the Jinsha River drainage basin

The Jinsha River (Chinese金沙江, p Jīnshājiāng, "Gold Dust River"[1]) is the Chinese name for the upper stretches of the Yangtze River. It flows through the provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan in western China. The river passes through Tiger Leaping Gorge.

It is sometimes grouped together with the Lancang (upper Mekong) and Nu (upper Salween) as the Sanjiang ("Three Rivers") area,[2] part of which makes up the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas.


The river was first recorded as the Hei (黑水, Hēishuǐ, lit. "Blackwater") in the Warring States' "Tribute of Yu". It was described as the Sheng (t 繩水, s 绳水, Shéngshuǐ, "Rope River") in the Han-era Classic of Mountains and Seas. During the Three Kingdoms, it was known as the Lu (t 瀘水, s 泸水, Lúshuǐ).[3] The present name was adopted in during the Song dynasty.

Owing to earlier romanization systems, the river has been known as the Chin-sha Chiang and Kinsha Kiang (when it was not simply described as the Yangtze) in English sources for the last three centuries. The most common present name, Jinsha is the Hanyu Pinyin romanization of the same Chinese characters as the other two.

Although the name is generally over-literally translated as the "Gold Sand"[4] or "Golden-Sanded River",[5] the name is not poetic or descriptive of the color of the river's banks. Rather, 金沙 described actual placer gold, alluvial gold powder sometimes still panned from the river's waters.

The Jinsha culture in prehistoric China derives its name from a road near its type site and not from the river directly.



The Jinsha River is simply the upper course of the Yangtze, although the Yalong and Min rivers were sometimes considered to have been the main course before the advent of modern geography.[6] It is traditionally considered to begin at the confluence of the Tongtian and Batang rivers near Gyêgu in Qinghai.

As the Jinsha River, it then flows south through a deep gorge parallel to the similar gorges of the upper Mekong and upper Salween rivers, from which it is separated by the Ningjing Mountains. It forms the western border of Sichuan for some 250 miles (400 km) and then flows into Yunnan province. After a large, 200 mile (320 km) long loop to the north of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, the Jinsha swings northeast, forming the Sichuan-Yunnan provincial boundary until it joins the Min River at Yibin in Sichuan to form the Yangtze.


The upper course of the river falls about 14 feet per mile (2.7 m/km). Below Batang in Sichuan, the gradient gradually decreases to about 8 feet per mile (1.5 m/km) but the Jinsha is not navigable. Its upper course through the gorges, particularly, is more of an obstacle than an aid to transportation.


The Jinsha is being heavily developed, primarily for hydroelectric power. As of March 2014, a total of 25 dams are completed, under construction or planned for the river. Those dams are listed below from downstream to upstream.[7][8]

  • Xiangjiaba Dam – completed, 7,750 MW
  • Xiluodu Dam – completed, 13,860 MW
  • Baihetan Dam – under construction, 16,000 MW
  • Wudongde Dam – under construction, 10,200 MW
  • Yinjiang Dam – planned
  • Jinsha Dam – planned, 520 MW
  • Guanyinyan Dam – under construction, 3,000 MW
  • Ludila Dam – under construction, 2,160 MW
  • Longkaikou Dam – completed, 1,800 MW
  • Jinanqiao Dam – completed, 2,400 MW
  • Ahai Dam – completed, 2,000 MW
  • Liyuan Dam – under construction, 2,400 MW
  • Liangjiaren Dam – planned, 4,000 MW
  • Longpan Dam – planned, 6,000 MW
  • Bengzilan Dam – planned, 2,100 MW
  • Rimian Dam – programmed, 3,720 MW
  • Changbo Dam – programmed, 1,060 MW
  • Suwalong Dam – programmed, 1,160 MW
  • Batang Dam – programmed, 740 MW
  • Lawa Dam – programmed, 1,680 MW
  • Yebatan Dam – programmed, 2,080 MW
  • Boluo Dam – planned, 960 MW
  • Yanbi Dam – planned, 300 MW
  • Gangtuo Dam – planned, 1,100 MW
  • Guotong Dam – planned, 140 MW


Imperial China

The pre-imperial "Tribute of Yu" recorded the traditional view of the Yangtze River as originating with the Min or Yalong instead of the Jinsha and this remained unchallenged for millennia, even after Li Daoyuan's Commentary on the Water Classic recorded much of the Jinsha's extensive river system during the Northern Wei. The Ming-era geographer Xu Xiake was the first to correct this, although it remained a common misconception in China as late as the early 20th century.

People's Republic

The Jinsha River is under heavy development by China, with over sixteen dam projects in various phases of development along the river, and many on its tributaries as well, especially the Yalong. Four dams along the lower part of the river are under construction or have already been completed to generate hydroelectric power and to trap silt that would otherwise create problems at the Three Gorges Dam. The ten largest dams will produce 55,710 megawatts of power.

See also


  1. ^ a b Little, Archibald. The Far East, p. 63. 1905. Reprint: Cambridge Univ. Press (Cambridge), 2010. Accessed 13 August 2013.
  2. ^ E.g., in the "Annual Report of the Chinese Academy of Geological Research", p. 24. Geological Publishing House, 1994.
  3. ^ It has also appeared as the Li (丽水, Lìshuǐ, "Beautiful River"); Mahu (马湖江, Mǎhújiāng, "Horse Lake River"); and Shen (神川, Shénchuān, "Holy River" or "River of Spirits").[citation needed]
  4. ^ Pletcher, Kenneth. The Geography of China: Sacred and Historic Places, p. 359. Britannica Educational Publishing (New York), 2011. Accessed 16 August 2013.
  5. ^ E.g., in Davis, John. The Chinese: A General Description of the Empire of China and Its Inhabitants, Vol. 1, pp. 132 ff. C. Knight, 1836.
  6. ^ Fan Chengda. James M. Hargett (trans.) Riding the River Home: A Complete and Annotated Translation of Fan Chengda's (1126–1193) Travel Diary Record of a Boat Trip to Wu, p. 77. Chinese Univ. of Hong Kong (Hong Kong), 2008. Accessed 15 August 2013.
  7. ^ Dong, Luan. "INTERACTIVE: Mapping China's "Dam Rush"". Wilson Center. Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "The Last Report on China's Rivers". China's Rivers Report. March 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2014.