Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Joseph Lisowski writes


Flakes of paint 
China white like
A marionette’s tears

Decades fall hard— 
Flooded banks

Roiling mud, 
Yellow water.

My blessings are 
Those inflatable rafts
That bounce but keep

Me afloat.

 Yangtze river, China


  1. Cháng Jiāng ("Long River"), at 6,300 km (3,915 mi), is the longest river in Asia and the longest in the world entirely within one country. It flows from the glaciers on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in Qinghai eastward across southwest, central, and eastern China before emptying into the East China Sea at Shanghai, draining 1/5 of the land area of the People's Republic of China. Its river basin is home to 1/3 of the world's most populous nation. In antiquity it was the Jiang, but by the time of the Han Dynasty, "jiang" had come to mean any river in Chinese, so this one was the Dàjiāng ("Great River")and then, after the Han ended, the current "Long River." Until modern times the Chinese gave different names to different sections of the river. One of the three main headwaters, the northern one, is the Chumar (Tibetan for "Red River"), which flows from the Hoh Xil Mountains in Qinghai into the Tongtian; Tuótuó Hé ("Tearful River"), known in Mongolian as the Ulaan Mörön ("Red River") and in Tibetan as Machu (perhaps "Wound-[like Red] River"), flows from the Gelaindong Massif in the Tanggula Mountains of southwestern Qinghai to the confluence with the actual geographical headwater, the Dangqu (derived from the Tibetan for "Marsh River"), to form the Tongtian. The Tongtian ("River Passing Through Heaven," named after a fictional river in Wu Cheng'en's 16th-century novel "Journey to the West" [better known as "Monkey"]), is known in Mongolian as the Murui-ussu ("Winding Stream") and formerly as the Drichu ("River of the Female Yak," transliterated into Chinese as Zhíqū). It flows 813 km (505 mi) from Yushu in Qinghai Province to the confluence with the Dangqu. From the Batang near Yushu, the Jinsha ("Gold Dust" or "Golden-Sanded River," named during the Song dynasty when the area attracted large numbers of gold prospectors) travels 2,308 km (1,434 mi) to Yibin in Sichuan; in the 5th century BCE this was the Hei Shui ("Black Water) and later in the Three Kingdoms period the Lújiāng, and until the Ming Dynasty was regarded as a tributary, while the Min was thought to be the main course of the river. From Yibin to Yichang, the river is the Chuan Jiang ("Sichuan River"). In Hubei Province, it is the Jing Jiang (the "Jing River," named for Jingzhou Province), and in Anhui Province it is the Wan Jiang ("wan" is the shorthand name for Anhui). The lower part, from Nanjing to Shanghai, is the Yangtze, which is the name given to the entire river in English; it probably came from an ancient ferry crossing, Yangzi or Yangzijin.

  2. Before that, Westerners had routinely mistaken Jiāngkǒu, the name for the river mouth, as the name of the river itself; hence, to Marco Polo it was the Quian, which became Kian or Kiam to the English and eventually Kiang, Ta-Kiang, Keeang-Koo, "Kyang Kew, or Kian-ku, but for a time it was also referred to as the Blue River (probably as an analog to the much smaller Yellow River [Huáng Hé], the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization, from which region the state of Qin began the unification of China in 318 BCE when king Huiwen subdued Ba and Shu on the upper Yangtze in modern Sichuan, giving Qin a strong base to attack powerful Chu settlements downstream. Huiwen and his advisor Zhang Yi then launched a series of diplomatic and military offensives against Chu, forcing it to move its capital eastward from modern Hubei Province to Anhui Province, but after the death of Huiwen, Qin turned its attention elsewhere, giving Chu time to recover some of its lost power and territory. In 247 BCE, 13-year-old Ying Zheng became king of Qin and resumed the conquest of neighboring states, taking Han in 230 BCE, Zhao in 228 BCE, and Wei in 225 BCE, then turning his attention back against Chu. After an initial disastrous defeat, Qin forces ended Chu independence in 223BCE, taking control of the entire Yangtse valley; and by 221 BBC all of China was unified under Qi rule. Ying Zheng declared himself "Qin Shi Huang" [First Emperor of Qin"], though he is better known as Shi Huangdi, the first emperor.)


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