2.Watch: Map of China’s deserts

7/26/2010

Huanghe

(the Yellow river)

Source: http://landmarkhs.org/news/archives/socialstudies/rivervalleys/

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7/26/2010

Ghi chú của người post:

Tài liệu dưới đây cho thấy, người Tàu phát tích ở lưu vực sông Hoàng hà. Vì bị lụt lội và đói kém, cùng với nạn cướp phá của các sắc tộc phương bắc ở Mông Cổ, nên mới bắt đầu xâm lăng các vùng lân cận và tiến dần về phương Nam. Trong khi đó các bộ tộc Bách Việt ở phía Nam sông Dương Tử, có nền văn minh lúa nước, không bị đói khổ, nên không phát triển về mặc quân sự. Do đó, khi bị ngoại bang xâm lăng thì trở tay không kịp.  Bách Việt bị mất dần là do vậy.

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 Huang He

The 5,500-kilometer-long Huang He, meaning “the Yellow River”, originates from the Kunlun Mountains in western China and flows generally eastward across northern China to the Gulf of Bohai. It is named for the vast quantities of yellow silt it carries to its delta.

The river often causes devastating floods on the plains of its lower course due to elevated river bed. Huang He is also called the “mother river” of China, for the Chinese civilization has evolved in the region around the river. A 50-year construction program, designed to control future flooding and to harness the river for increased irrigation and hydroelectric production, was initiated in 1955.

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Setting

Huang He is the second longest river in China. Tracing to a source high up the majestic Kunlun Mountains in the nation’s far west, it loops north, bends south, and flows east for 5,464 kilometers until it empties into the sea, draining a basin of 745,000 square kilometers which nourishes 120 million people. Millennia ago the Chinese civilization emerged from the central region of this basin.

As the most heavily silt-laden river in the world, the Yellow River got its name from the muddiness of its water, which bears a perennial ochre-yellow color. The river is commonly divided into three stages. In the upper reaches, the river runs through mountainous and arid regions for 3,472 kilometers, ending at Hekouzhen of Inner Mongolia just before it makes a sharp turn to the south.

In the middle reaches, ending at Zhengzhou in Henan province, the river flows south between the Shaanxi and Shanxi Provinces, draining a basin consisting largely of thick deposits of unmodified aeolian loess which is eroded readily by rainfall and wind and accounts for over 90 per cent of the sediment in the main channel downstream. After traversing a 1,206-km course from Hekouzhen to Zhengzhou, the river emerges from narrow mountainous constrictions onto a flat alluvial plain shortly following a sharp turn to the east.

The river descends from an altitude of 4,575 meters above sea level at the source to 1,000 meters at Hekouzhen and 400 meters at Zhengzhou.

In the lower reaches, from Zhengzhou to the sea for a distance of 786 kilometers, the river is confined to a levee-lined course as it flows northeasternly across the North China plain before emptying into the Gulf of Bohai. During two thousand years of levee construction, excessive sediment deposits have raised the riverbed several meters over the surrounding grounds; it is as much as 10 meters above the city level of the ancient capital Kaifeng on its southern bank, where the levee embankments are 13 kilometers apart. Nearly all rivers to the south of the levee-protected channel drain into the Huai River system, while those to its north into the Hai River system .

Flood devastation has caused untold human suffering throughout the river’s history, and the Yellow River has gained the unenviable distinction as “China’s Sorrow”. Records indicate that the river’s levees were breached more than 1,500 times, and its course has changed 26 times in the last three millennia. A major course change taking place in 1194 A.D. was probably the most devastating economically. Flood water rushed onto the Huai River basin south of the Yellow River and took over Huai River’s drainage system for the next 700 years.

The river adopted its present course in 1897 after the final course change occurred in 1855. To this day, floods still ravage frequently the damaged Huai River system, reducing a once flourishing Huai River valley, where the Grand Canal traversed, to destitute poverty.

The river’s sediment comes entirely from the middle region of the river’s basin, draining a loess-covered terrain consisting of a wind-blown silt deposit of high uniformity. Though the climate there is arid with an annual rainfall in the 400-millimeter range and the annual evaporation rate is three to four times as much as in other places, during the July-August-September rain season, rain bursts out which account for almost half of the annual precipitation. Such sudden amounts of rain erode loess cliffs rapidly bringing a huge amount of the eroded silt into the gullies, from which it is funneled into the rivers and to the main channel, transported laboriously for a distance over 1,000 kilometers before it is flushed out to sea

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The Cradle of Chinese Civilization

Why is Huang He basin the “Crade of Chinese Civilization”? Some say it has something to do with the terrain in the Yellow River basin, the terrain of the loess plateau. The loess plateau in the Yellow River basin extends for an area of 43,000 square kilometers lying mainly in Shanxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, and Gansu. For the most part, the loess plateau is badly dissected by gullies due to erosion, and its features are generally referred to as “Qian Shan Wan He” (thousands of hills and ten folds more gullies). Transportation is so prohibitive within such a terrain that it simply cannot facilitate the emergence of a viable society.

Together with its arid climate, its agricultural productivity is at best marginal even for a primitive society. Then how did a superior dynastic society spring from such a place thousands of years ago?

The answer lies in a certain landform called Tai Yuan, a sort of tableland on a plateau, unknown anywhere else on earth. Tai Yuan represents an original state of the loess plateau before it is totally carved up by erosion. There are still several pieces of such Tai Yuans in existence today, mostly in the western part of the Wei River Valley along the border between Shaanxi and Gansu. They are ideal for agricultural production as well as community activities.

A few thousand years ago, the Tai Yuan landform must have been even more extensive and better connected allowing it to faciliate unrestricted transportation. Jingchuan in Gansu is situated by the Jing River with its activities center around the river, 200 meters below the height of a normal Tai Yuan. There is nevertheless a small piece of Tai Yuan at a hill top, a small pile of earth amid a field of corn.

Next to it a small dirt road is still in use. But, 1800 years ago, a mighty army might have rested here, on its way to commit the infamous act of usurping the throne from a young emperor.

The so-called “cradle of Chinese civilization” cuddled people and events much earlier than those of the Three Kingdoms, all the way back to the time of the legendary Yellow Emporor Huang Di, about 4000-5000 years ago. The Banpo Museum outside Xi’an preserved the remains of a sequence of neolithic societies from 6000-9000 years ago. Chinese anthropologists consider them to be matriarchal societies adopting a communal way of life, which was imposed on the inhabitants not by choice but from scarcity. There was barely enough food provision to last from one year to another, and the society was not given the luxuary to operate in any other way but to share equally.

After the early matriarchal societal structure was replaced by the patriarchal structure, rapid rise in agricultural productivity made available food surplus for the first time in the history of mankind.

With rising food surplus, more and more tribes could prosper through plundering, by pillaging villages after harvest, rather than participating in productive activities.

Huang Di came originally from Shandong, and all of the famous tribal battles that he allegedly fought were located in the present North China plain which at the time was part of the Yellow River’s flood plain. This shows that the wealth over the plain was abundant. He abandoned such an abundant plain and came to the hilly region of the present-day basinbecause of the landform of the Tai Yuan. The steep slopes on the two sides of a Tai Yuan provided its inhabitants favorable defensive advantages.

Huang Di, after occupying one such favorableTai Yuan site, decided to settle down and abandon the marauder’s way of life.

Because of the favorable security afforded by the terrain, the political structure established by Huang Di was allowed the establishment to prosper for numerous generations of successors and eventually blossom into the flower of the early Chinese civilization.

With time, walled cities were built and communities no longer relied on the Tai Yuan for protection. Descendants of Huang Di began to move away from the loess plateau to occupy more favorable sites in terms of production and transportation. A population burst occurred as they brought with them their superior political skills which they acquired through several hundred years of uninterrupted practice and gave birth to the most glorious civilization on the face of the earth. The Chinese people are forever grateful for such a gift from Huang Di that call themselves the Descendants of Huang Di.

http://library.thinkquest.org/20443/huanghe.html

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Taklamakan – Desert With No Ocean Underground

By Antoaneta Bezlova – Asia Water Wire

BEIJING, Nov 8, 2006 (IPS) – When the city of Korla rose from the Taklamakan desert in mid-1950s, it was marvelled as a triumph of human willpower over adverse nature. Thousands of soldiers dispatched by the Chinese communist party put this place on the map in China’s far west Xinjiang, by digging 600 km of channels to coax underground water to large collective farms.

Half-a century later, Korla has to defend every bit of its existence in the desert by erecting sentries of trees against the encroaching sands. It has to fight for every drop of water by using sophisticated water conservation technology imported from Israel.

While the gleaming modern centre of today’s Korla is a far cry from the cluster of shacks this place used to be in the 1950s, the enormous efforts to build and maintain it have exhausted local ecology to a degree rendering people question the wisdom of creating it in the first place.

“If it wasn’t for the oil in the desert this place wouldn’t have survived,” says Tian Yugang who works on the afforestation of the city.

Like many other settlers in Korla Tian comes from inland China. His parents – members of communist China’s paramilitary corps, or Bing Tuan, were sent to isolated Xinjiang by chairman Mao Zedong in the 1950s to open up new land and build new cities.

It was the Bing Tuans that secured the subjugation of this Muslim-populated territory for the rule of distant communist rulers in Beijing. It was the Bign Tuans too that set into motion the backbreaking work of introducing farming in this arid land where there is insufficient water.

The economic magnet of this rugged place though is the abundance of oil extracted in the Taklamakan desert, which has kept the Han Chinese coming to Korla since the oil discovery in the late 1950s.

Korla now hosts the headquarters of Tarim Oilfield Co, a unit of the state oil giant, PetroChina, and receives throngs of visitors from foreign firms interested in the oil and gas reserves in China’s western deserts.

With its Karaoke bars, oversized department stores and a neon-lit promenade along the man-made Peacock river, the city strives to be a mini-replica of booming metropolises of the east coast like Shanghai.

Yet there is one flaw that has escaped local officials’ drive for perfection. Being only 70 km from the desert, the city is plagued by fierce desert storms that ravage the fragile vegetation and blanket the skies for days on in spring.

It rains so little that the locals remember every day of the year when it happened. The drought sucks all the moisture from the soil, making it an easy prey for the storms. Encircled by dry mountains from all sides, Korla gets whipped by sand that is picked up by the wind and deposited on every visible surface. It happens on some 40 days every year.

So desperate were local officials to tame the storms that in mid-1990s they embarked on a scheme to level off some of the surrounding hills by blowing them up.

“We thought this would decrease the sand carried by the wind and would help us irrigate the land better,” recalls Zhang Yizhi, vice-director of Korla’s Afforestation Bureau.

At the time Beijing had declared a nationwide battle on encroaching deserts by erecting an enormous “green wall” in the areas worst hit by desertification. Korla had its share – some 13,000 hectares of land allocated by the central government, in a massive tree-planting scheme to hold back the deserts.

But while Korla could plant the trees it could not irrigate them properly because of its hilly terrain. Blowing up a few of the hills encircling the city didn’t produce the result city leaders had hoped for. It was impossible to alter entirely the vast stretches of rocky outcrops surrounding the place.

The miraculous solution came in the shape of a dripline irrigation technology introduced by the Israeli company Eisenberg Agri Co. Ltd (EAC). It uses a pressurised system of several main pipes and hundreds of drip lines that can carry the water up the hill and deliver it through sprinkles to the roots of every tree.

“The brilliant thing about this technology is that the water pressure and volume are the same on top of the mountain and at the bottom of it,” gushes Korla’s vice-mayor Qu Sihao. “It really works here because all we have are hills”.

While in the past it would take 800 to 1000 cubic metres of water to irrigate one mu (0.067 hectare) of land with planted trees, now the city can save 75 percent of the water. Since introducing the technology in 2001, Korla leaders claim to have successfully planted more than 3,000 hectares with trees.

The resources mobilised to achieve this are mind-boggling. The government is spending 1,167 yuan (148 US dollars) per every mu of newly planted trees along with an annual payment of 184 yuan (23 dollars) for maintaining it.

Mar. 12 has been declared a Tree Planting Day and every year local government leaders join thousands of people who take up shovels in a mass campaign to plant trees.

Zhang, at the local afforestation bureau, believes the strategy is paying off. In the past five years desert storms have decreased by 6 to 7 days and Korla’s summer temperature is slightly lower. Yet the place is continuously dry and the tree belt created resembles a small green dent in an ocean of sand.

The gains are tiny compared with the environmental losses during the past five decades of water overuse and excessive farming. Overall, Xinjiang faces an uphill battle in reversing the tide of ecological degradation because its scarce water resources are mostly from glacier mountains and concentrated in two to three months in the summer. More than a quarter of Xinjiang’s territory is covered in desert.

This year China claimed a victory in slowing the spread of deserts, saying the rate at which the desert is eating up farm and other land had slowed from 10,400 sq km to about 3,000 sq km a year.

Lester Brown, the president of the United States -based Earth Policy Institute, however believes China is losing the centuries-old war against the deserts.

“A huge dust bowl is developing in western China,” he says, “perhaps the world’s largest conversion of productive land into desert we have witnessed so far”.

(*The Asia Water Wire, coordinated by IPS Asia-Pacific, is a series of features around water and development in the region.) (END)

Source: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=35406

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