Three Parallel Rivers

Three Parallel Rivers,Yunnan


The Three Parallel Rivers, namely the Jinsha Jiang, Lancang Jiang, and Nu Jiang join together forming an unmatched natural miracle, a geographical accident of the Himalayan orogeny that began 40 million years ago.

Originating on China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the three rivers are the upper reaches of the well-known Yangtze, Mekong, and Salween rivers. They flow 170km from north to south, through the high mountains and ranges of Yunnan Province-the Dandanglika, the Gaoligong, the Nushan, and the Yunling-side by side by side without converging. The shortest distance between the Lancang and Jinsha rivers is 66km, the Lancang Jiang and Nu Jiang come to about 19km of each other.

The Three Parallel Rivers is NOT a scenic spot, but a vast area in northwest Yunnan of 1.7 million hectares, comprising 9 nature reserves and 10 scenic resorts in Lijiang, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture's. Located where East Asia, South Asia and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau meet, the area features unique alpine landforms and some of the richest biodiversity in the world.

In the arid, hot Nujiang River Valley, 760m at its base and 6,740m at Kawagebo Peak, there are snow-capped mountains, glaciers, valleys, alpine wetlands, forests, meadows, freshwater lakes, and rare animals and plants. The area has 118 snow-covered mountains in various shapes over 5,000m. Scattered around these mountains are virgin forests and hundreds of glacial lakes.

Crystal-like glaciers extend from the top of the Kawagebo Peak, the main peak of Meili Mountain, to the forests at an elevation of 2,700m. These are reputed to be the rarest of monsoon oceanic glaciers. Monsoon Tibetan people regard Meili Mountain as scared, and no climbers are permitted on its face. >> Three Rivers Trekking Maps

Multinational Cultures

For a long time, local people have suffered hardships and inconveniences caused by the area's secluded geographical conditions. But this isolation has created distinctive religions, customs, and cultures among local ethnic groups, including the Han. Here, Tibetan Buddhists, who mainly live on animal husbandry, inhabit the plateaus. The Naxi, mainly farmers, inhabit the Jinsha River Valley and the Lijiang Basin.

Though influenced by the Han people, they have preserved their own primitive but brilliant Dongba region and culture. The Yi and Primi mainly live on the slopes between valleys and plateaus. The Lisu, Nu, and Derung mainly live in the valleys and mountainous areas in the south. The plains and mountainous areas in the southeast are mainly inhabited by the Bai, who boast advanced agriculture and handicrafts and a complex history and culture. Wars and conflicts have occasionally occurred among these groups, as well as a few foreign missionaries, due to differences in religion, customs, and cultures, but for most of history they have coexisted in harmony, composing a big family with combined cultures.

An Ecological Microcosm

The Three Parallel Rivers area is reputed to be the "Biological Gene Bank of the World." Because it was not covered by the Quaternary glaciers and most mountains lie from north to south, the area has become a main passage and sanctuary for biological species of the Eurasian Continent.

Although the area covers no more than 0.4% of Chinese territory, it contains more than 20% of higher plants and 25% of animal species of the country, including 77 species of endangered animals like the Yunnan golden monkey, the antelope, the snow leopard, the Bengali tiger, and the black-necked crane. There are 34 species of rare plants under state-class protection, including the Chinese fir, the spinulose tree fern, and the yew. Wild flowers bloom on carpet-like meadows, amid tranquil forests and near clear lakes in Spring.

In July 2003, the Three Parallel Rivers Reserve was enrolled on the World Heritage List.
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