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Rivers and Lakes
Most of China's rivers flow from west to east into the Pacific Ocean except a few in southwest China that flow to the south. The rivers in China total 220,000 kilometres in length and more than 1,500 of them drain an area of 1,000 square kilometres or larger each. The total flow of these rivers is 2,700 billion cubic metres, almost the same as the total flow of the rivers in Europe. The nation's largest rivers originate on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and thus have a high drop. Accordingly, China is rich in hydropower resources, leading the world with 680 million kilowatts hydropower reserves.

The Yangtze River (Changjiang), 6,300 kilometres long, is the largest river in China. It has a catchment area of 1,800,000 square kilometres, and is the major inland-river transport artery in China. The Yellow River (Huanghe), stretching over 5,464 kilometres, is China's second largest. Its catchment area, covering more than 750,000 square kilometres, is the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization and has a wealth of historic sites and relics, many of them buried underground.

China also has a famous man-made waterway, the Grand Canal, running from Beijing in the north to Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, in the south, totalling 1,801 kilometres in length. It was dug in the 5th century B.C. and repeatedly extended and dredged, becoming a major thoroughfare for water transport in subsequent dynasties. In ancient times, materials were transported from south to north and emperors went from north to south on pleasure trips through this canal.

China has many natural lakes, most of them scattered in the Middle-Lower Yangtze Plain and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. China's largest freshwater lake is Lake Poyang with an area of 3,583 square kilometres and the largest salt lake is Lake Qinghai in the west with an area of 4,583 square kilometres.
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