Sunday, January 20, 2008

Huang He (黃河)

I came face to face with Huang He for the first time in Lanzhou, Gansu (甘肅蘭州). Our bus drove along Huang He on the way from the airport into Lanzhou in the dark in the evening of 6th January. My thought then was: this should be Huang He (Yellow River) based on my understanding of the geography, but it is too small!

Then the following morning, we went to see the Yellow River, the source of much of the Chinese civilization, at the historical 中山橋. The original bridge at this position was built in the Ming Dynasty, in the 14th century. In the last years of the Tsing Dynasty, in 1907, the first iron bridge on the Yellow River was buit here. The current structure is the result of a re-enforcement in 1954.

The river was indeed a bit small, but don’t forget we were in the upper reaches of the river and it was dead winter. It was not that yellow. There was a layer of silt at the bottom, but the water was actually quite clear. It was indeed much clearer than the YangTze River (長江) at Wuhan (武漢), which was really a mud bath when I was there in summer. Lanzhou is the first major city on Huang He. From here, it has watered the Chinese civilization for thousands of years.

But boy, was the water cold! I couldn’t keep my hand in there for more than a few seconds. And it remained burningly cold for a long stretch of time afterwards. So I was making sacrifices for the sake of art - or at least a meaningful photograph.

The last picture is another view of the river from another bridge to the east of city, taken at dusk. The smog over the city is clearly visible. But, we all felt it was not as bad as that in Hong Kong.

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