Browsing through a Chinese geographic map, you may easily note with interest that three mighty and important rivers run parallel to each other for hundreds of kilometers in the southwestern province of Yunnan. The three rivers are the upper reaches of the Yangtze, the Mekong, and the Salween (known as Jinshajiang River, Lancangjiang River, and Nujiang River respectively in China).
An educational program produced by CCTV on the Three Parallel Rivers (from left to right: the Salween, the Mekong, and the Yangtze)
The areas these three parallel rivers run through are now designated as a World Natural Heritage for their outstanding value for recording and displaying the earth’s evolutionary history.
The area of the Three Parallel Rivers records certain major geological events in the evolution of Asia’s land surface, notably the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate. The three rivers are flanked by four parallel north-south trending mountain ranges, each with a height exceeding 4000m above sea level. Called “Hengduan Mountains” in China, these four mountain ranges have been corrugated and uplifted by the pressures of crustal folding. The Mekong River valley per se is a fault zone that was formed in the squeezing between the two Plates. In fact, the same process also resulted in the uplifting of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, and the closure of the ancient Tethys Sea in the area.
Location of The Three Parallel Rivers as indicated on a Chinese map
The Hengduan Mountain Ranges which flank the Three Parallel Rivers, were a result of the tectonic movement - collision and squeezing between the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The same process created the Himalayas.
The geological movements were mixed with climatic and topographical conditions, which have made the area of the Three Parallel Rivers a dramatic expression of ecological processes. The area lies within an active orographic belt, resulting in a wide range of rock substrates. The area also happens to lie at a bio-geographical convergence zone (temperate and tropical). These are coupled with a diversified landscape (altitudes being in a range of 760- 6740m) and a monsoon climate, providing the area various favourable conditions for biodiversity.
As a witness of the earth’s geological processes of the past millions of years, the area of the Three Parallel Rivers features an outstanding diversity of landscapes. There are deep river gorges and towering snow-clad mountains, luxuriant forests, alpine karst, Danxia landforms (reddish sandstone), glaciers, etc., dotted by lakes and meadows. The three great Asian rivers running in parallel is a marvelous sight, too. At certain places, they are only within 18 kilometers from each other.
|Ropeway is a common method of transport in this off-the-beaten-track area.||The intoxicating Shangri-La happens to be located in the heart of the Three Parallel Rivers Protected Areas.|
The Salween winding through the mountain valleys
The First Bend of Yangtze River
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain: White water River. The landscape looks like a big tortoise shell.
Meili Snow Mountain in the area of Three Parallel River
Rare, Protected Animals in the Three Parallel Rivers Areas
Yunnan Sub-Nosed Monkeys, no less precious than giant pandas
Crossoptilon, a chicken species
Langur, a monkey with hood-shaped hair
Yakins, whose horns are a bit special
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