Yarlung Tsangpo

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Yarlung Tsangpo
yar klung gtsang po
Brahmaputra River, Shigatse.jpg
Yarlung Tsangpo, Shigatse Prefecture
CountryChina, India, Bangladesh
Physical characteristics
 • locationAngsi Glacier in Shigatse, Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Length2,840 km (1,760 mi)
Basin size340,000 km2 (130,000 sq mi)
 • average7,700 m3/s (270,000 cu ft/s)
Basin features
 • leftRaka Tsangpo, Nimu Maqu, Lhasa, Nyang

The Yarlung Tsangpo, also called Yarlung Zangbo (Tibetan: ཡར་ཀླུངས་གཙང་པོ་, Wylie: yar kLungs gTsang po, ZYPY: Yarlung Zangbo) is the upper stream of the Brahmaputra River located in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China.[1] It is the longest river of Tibet.

Originating at Angsi Glacier in western Tibet, southeast of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, it later forms the South Tibet Valley and Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon before passing into the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Downstream from Arunachal Pradesh the river becomes far wider and is called the Siang. After reaching Assam, the river is known as Brahmaputra. From Assam, the river enters Bangladesh at Ramnabazar. From there until about 200 years ago it used to flow eastward and joined the Meghna River near Bhairab Upazila. This old channel has been gradually dying. At present the main channel of the river is called Jamuna River, which flows southward to meet the Ganges, which in Bangladesh is called the Padma.

When leaving the Tibetan Plateau, the river forms the world's largest and deepest canyon, Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon.[2]


Yarlung Tsangpo southwest of Lhasa
Map of the Yarlung Tsangpo River
Yarlung Tsangpo River, sediment
Yarlung Tsangpo River as it courses through Tibet, with peaks Namche Barwa and Gyala Peri. The picture is centered on 29°09′22″N 93°58′59″E / 29.156°N 93.983°E / 29.156; 93.983

The Yarlung Tsangpo River is the highest major river in the world. Its longest tributary is the Nyang River. Major tributaries of Yarlung Tsangpo include Nyangchu River, Lhasa River, Nyang River, and Parlung Tsangpo.

In Tibet the river flows through the South Tibet Valley, which is approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) long and 300 kilometres (190 mi) wide. The valley descends from 4,500 metres (14,800 ft) above sea level to 3,000 metres (9,800 ft).[3][4] As it descends, the surrounding vegetation changes from cold desert to arid steppe to deciduous scrub vegetation. It ultimately changes into a conifer and rhododendron forest. The tree line is approximately 3,200 metres (10,500 ft).[5] Sedimentary sandstone rocks found near the Tibetan capital of Lhasa contain grains of magnetic minerals that record the Earth's alternating magnetic field current.[6]

The basin of the Yarlung River, bounded by the Himalayas in the south and Kang Rinpoche and Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains in the north, has less severe climate than the more northern (and higher-altitude) parts of Tibet, and is home to most of the population of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, formed by a horse-shoe bend in the river where it leaves the Tibetan Plateau and flows around Namcha Barwa, is the deepest, and possibly longest canyon in the world.[7]

The Yarlung Tsangpo River has three major waterfalls in its entire course.[8] The largest waterfall of the river, the "Hidden Falls", was not publicized in the West until 1998, when its sighting by Westerners was briefly hailed as a "discovery."[9] They were even portrayed as the discovery of the great falls which had been the topic of stories told to early Westerners by Tibetan hunters and Buddhist monks, but which had never been found by Western explorers at the time.[10] The Chinese authorities protested, however, saying that Chinese geographers, who had explored the gorge since 1973, had already taken pictures of the falls in 1987 from a helicopter.[11]

Kayak exploration[edit]

Yarlung Tsangpo whitewater

Since the 1990s the Yarlung Tsangpo River has been the destination of a number of teams that engage in exploration and whitewater kayaking.[12] The river has been called the "Everest of Rivers" because of the extreme conditions of the river.[13] The first attempt to run was made in 1993 by a Japanese group who lost one member on the river.

In October 1998, a kayaking expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society attempted to navigate the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon. Troubled by unanticipated high water levels, the expedition ended in tragedy with the death of expert kayaker Doug Gordon.[citation needed]

In January–February, 2002, an international group consisting of Scott Lindgren, Steve Fisher, Mike Abbott, Allan Ellard, Dustin Knapp, and Johnnie and Willie Kern, completed the first descent of the upper Tsangpo gorge section.[14]

Dams and hydropower projects[edit]

In November 2020, the chairman of PowerChina announced the construction of a "super" dam on the Yarlung Zangbo which would be the world's largest hydroelectric project.[15]


  1. ^ Yue-man Yeung & Jianfa Shen 2004.
  2. ^ "The New largest Canyon in the world - The Great Canyon of Yalung Tsangpu River (Tibet)". www.100gogo.com. Archived from the original on 28 February 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  3. ^ Yang Qinye & Zheng Du. Tibetan Geography. China Intercontinental Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 7508506650.
  4. ^ Zheng Du; Zhang Qingsong; Wu Shaohong (2000). Mountain Geoecology and Sustainable Development of the Tibetan Plateau. Kluwer. p. 312. ISBN 0-7923-6688-3.
  5. ^ "Yarlung Tsangpo arid steppe". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 29 June 2007.
  6. ^ "Yarlung Tsangpo River in China". Atmospheric Data Science Center. Archived from the original on 11 June 2002. Retrieved 27 June 2007.
  7. ^ "The World's Biggest Canyon". www.china.org. Retrieved 29 June 2007.
  8. ^ "Hidden Falls". WWD - Waterfall Database. Retrieved 30 June 2007.
  9. ^ "Fabled Tibetan Waterfalls Finally Discovered". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2007.
  10. ^ Compiled by Nima Dorjee (7 January 1999). Fabled Tibetan Waterfalls Finally Discovered. World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 99/01/07 Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine (retrieved on 14 September 2008)
  11. ^ Peter Heller (July 2002). Liquid Thunder. Outside Online. (retrieved on 14 September 2008)
    Antonio Perezgrueso (undated). The Echo of Liquid Thunder. (span. original: Los ecos del trueno líquido) Explorations and Expeditions on the English pages of the Sociedad Geográfica Española (retrieved on 14 September 2008)
    Who found it first? no longer existing website, quoted without further information on The Ancients. Shangri-La Found as: "Little attention was paid to the Chinese team that had been striking for the falls during that fateful trekking season. They claimed to have reached the falls before Baker but were ignored for the most part by everybody except their government who decided to close the gorge to westerners." (retrieved on 14 September 2008)
  12. ^ "Tibet Hidden Falls | The Hidden Lands of Tibet". Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  13. ^ Press release of successful kayak run
  14. ^ Heller, Peter. "Tsangpo Expedition: Liquid Thunder". Outside Magazine. Outside Online. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  15. ^ Patranobis, Sutirtho (29 November 2020). Janardhanan, Vinod (ed.). "China to build a super dam on its part of Brahmaputra river". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 11 December 2020.


External links[edit]