The Yangtze River is also known as the Yangzi o Yangtze Kiang, meaning 'long river' in Tibetan. The name likely comes from the ancient ferry crossing of Yangzi Jin, which means Yangzi crossing. Because it was the first name heard by European missionaries and merchants, such name, which was used only for the lower course of the river, was applied in English to the entire river.
However, when the Yangtze first appeared in British maps, it was called Quian and Quianshui, names given to it by Marco Polo.
The Yangtze has played a major role in the history, culture and economy of China. It is the longest river in China and in Asia. It flows through eight provinces before it discharges into the East China Sea near Shanghai. It is also the third longest river in the world after the Amazon and the Nile.
It is more than 6,000 kilometres long and a large portion of its course is navigable. In addition to its cultural significance, it has a major role in energy production, since one of the main dams on the river, the Three Gorges Dam, is the largest dam in the world, and its hydropower plant is also the largest in the world.
In the province of Yunnan, the river flows through deep gorges: this is one of the protected areas in the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Yangtze River is sometimes considered as the boundary dividing Northern and Southern China, although Chinese geographers consider the Qinling-Huaihe Line to be the official north-south boundary.
However, not everything is idyllic in this river landscape: it is estimated that 25 million tonnes of waste are discharged into the Yangtze every year, that is, nearly 40% of the waste generated in China.