Top 10 Major Rivers in China

Written by Sally Guo Updated Apr. 6, 2021

As the third biggest country in the world, China has a vast network of rich rivers and waters. Among them, there are 10 major rivers in this country, including the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, the Pearl River, the Huaihe River, the Songhuajiang River, and the Liaohe River. 

Contact us via WeChat

for any inquiry

Scan ChinaTravel QR Code


1. The Yangtze River

The Yangtze River also called the Changjiang River(长江), is the third-longest river in the world, ranking after the Nile in Africa and the Amazon River in South America. It is 6397 kilometers long and is the longest and biggest river in Asia.

The Yangtze River rises in Tanggula Mountain in Tibetan Plateau and flows through 9 provinces and 2 municipality cities.

The key cities along the Yangtze River include Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Chongqing, and Chengdu.

The Yangtze River together with the Yellow River is known as the “Mother River” in China.

There are a lot of famous attractions along the Yangtze River such as the Three Gorges, Joining a Yangtze River Cruise is a popular and worthy activity, which can offer visitors a magnificent and unforgettable journey on the Yangtze River. 

Top Yangtze River Cruise Ships 2024

Yangtze River Scenery
Yangtze River Scenery

2. The Yellow River

The Yellow River, with a total length of 5464 kilometers ranks as the second-longest river in China after the Yangtze River and the fifth-longest river in the World. The Yellow River wanders through 9 provinces and joins the Bohai Sea in east China's Shandong Province. 

The Yellow River flows through the Loess Plateau which makes the river with high sediment concentration.

However, the Yellow Basin was one of the main birthplaces of the Chinese nation. It promotes Chinese civilization in the history of China, so Chinese people call it the “Mother River”

Hukou waterfall
Yellow River - Hukou waterfall

3. The Pearl River

The Pearl River, with a total length of 2400 km, is China's third-longest river. 

The river originates from West China's Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau and empties into the South China Sea in Guangzhou. 

Night Cruise along the Pearl River is a highlight tour plan on a lot of travelers’ travel lists in Guangzhou. Travelers can enjoy the beautiful scenery in the evening along the Pear River, a journey that can be compared with the night in Hong Kong

Night view of the Pearl River
Night view of the Pearl River

4. The Songhuajiang River

Songhuajiang River is called the “Mother River” in the Northeast of China. The River originated in Tianchi (The Heavenly Lake) in Changbaishang Mountain.

Owned many tributaries, it is known as the “Milky Way” in the Manchu language.

The river is over 1840 kilometers long and its drainage area is about 545,000 square kilometers. There are beautiful attractions along the river such as the famous Songhuajing River Rime.

The best time to witness the beautiful scenery is from Dec.20 to February next year.

Songhuajiang River in Winter
Songhuajiang River in Winter

5. The Huaihe River

The Huaihe River rises in Tobaishan Mountain, flows through Henan, Anhui, and Jiangsu Provinces, and merges into the Yangtze River at Sanjiangying.

The river is famous for its difficult management. It is divided into 3 parts, and the total drop is about 200 meters. The Huaihe River and Qinling Mountain form the geographical boundaries of the North and the South in China.

6. The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal, short for the Beijing- Hangzhou Grand Canal is one of the famous man-made Canals in the world. It is one of the great waterway projects in ancient times and the earliest and longest canal in the world. The canal was built in the 5th century in ancient times.

The Great Canal starts in Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province and extends to  Beijing. It links with the Huaihai River in the North and connects with the Qiantang River in the South. With a total length of 1794 kilometers, the canal flows through six Provinces in China.

Now the section between Suzhou and Hangzhou is still in use, which offers beautiful Jiangnan scenery. Thousands of travelers are attracted by the famous Wuzhen Town, where the canal is one of the most important elements.

Grand Canal
Grand Canal

7. The Heilongjiang River

The Heilongjiang River is an international river running through China and Russia. Known as Amur, it passes the Northeast of China and joins the Okhotsk Sea.

The Heilongjiang River gets its name because it meanders as a black dragon. The whole river is 4,370 kilometers long and is the No.11 biggest river in the world. The river not only makes people in Heilongjiang Province benefit but also provides beautiful attractions along the river.

8. The Brahmaputra River

The Brahmaputra River rises in the Himalayas in the Tibet Autonomous Region and is the highest-altitude river in the world. Its entire length is 2840 kilometers and most parts of the river are in China.

The Brahmaputra River in Tibet Language means that the snow comes from a high mountain. It is loved as a “cradle” and “Mother River” by Tibetan people. The Grand Brahmaputra Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the World.

Brahmaputra River
Brahmaputra River

9. The Three Parallel Rivers

Jinsha River, Lancang River, and Lu River rise in Dajiang of the Tibetan Plateau and flow together for over 170 kilometers in Yunnan Province, which forms a magnificent and irreplaceable attraction in China. Travelers can view strange scenery the Water in three rivers doesn’t mix with each other.

Jinsha River

The upper reaches of the Yangtze River are called the Jinsha River which merges into Hengduan Mountains and links with the Min River. The Jinsha River is about 2316 kilometers long and the section around the Hengduan Mountains flows torrentially.

Jinsha River
Jinsha River

The Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest canyons in the world, is a famous attraction on the Jinsha River. Hiking along the Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the top hiking tourism lines in China.

Lancang River

Lancang River starts from the Tibetan Plateau, and passes through Simao and Xishuangbanna in China.

The lower reaches are known as the Mekong River out of China. With a total length of 4880 km, the river runs through Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and mingles in the South China Sea.

Called “the Oriental Danube”, the Lancang River offers an international waterway tour route in China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand.

Nujiang River

Nujiang River, one of the big rivers in Southwest China, rises in Tanggula Mountains in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The upstream is called “Nagqu River” in Tibetan Language and the section in Myanmar is renamed the Salween River.

With a total length of 3240 kilometers, the part flowing through China is about 2013 km. Travelers can explore regional minorities’ culture and customs in Yunnan such as the Lisu people along the Nujiang River. 

10. The Li River

The Li River is located in the Eastern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, belonging to the Pearl River water system. It is famous for its beautiful scenery consisting of water, hills and countryside life.

Li River
Li River

With a total length of 437 km, the river between Guilin and Yangshuo covers an essential journey of the beautiful Karst landscape in Guilin.

Taking a cruise or hiking along the Li River are popular activities in Guilin. Travelers from home and abroad love to have a holiday in Guilin because of the wonderful Li River.

Li River Cruise Tickets

Contact us via WeChat

for any inquiry

Scan ChinaTravel QR Code

Create My Trip

Need Help?

Request a custom itinerary today and get one step closer to your personalized trip

Create Your Trip