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Map of Yangtze RiverYangtze River

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The Yangtze River's Source

Yangtze River  From the bitter cold and treeless Alps of Upper Qinghai, around the source of the Yangtze, the snow that gradually melts in the summer sun trickles down the beds of Ancient glaciers,and finally reaches the pastures where man and beast can survive. The snowmelt forms small streams which sing through the tilted plateaus and nourish the grassroots and the hardy little flowers and plants that the Local Tibetan People use as medicine for a variety of ills.
  The streams flow more swiftly down the lower Qinghai Mountains, which give an impression of Central Europe. On successive steps of mountain and plateau, the People of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous District cultivate barley and shelter the Herds in winter, sending them up to the high pastures only in spring. Their diet Consists of meat, milk (fresh and fermented), and arley-meal, which is the staple. Sometimes they add sugar brought from distant parts of China. And in the forest belts they cut timber for the construction of new towns.

  The ubiquitous yak is the most usefu1 beast, but sheep are reared for meat and Wool and there are some goats. The tough, shaggy little ponies of the mountains are used as a means of transport, and mares' milk is a treasured delicacy and cure-all.

  Animal husbandry is the main occupation of these Tibetans and they continue to lead a semi-nomadic life, living in thick black yak-hair tents lined with bags of Precious bar1ey, and surrounded by their grazing flocks. For several days each spring the people gather together to sing, dance, hold horse races and tugs of war, before Again returning to their lives of isolation.

  The streams turn to sizeable rivers as they come down to the 3,000-metre (l0, 000-Foot) level or thereabouts. Typically they flow blue and wide across valley floors Where the barley is now fairly abundant and small villages-decorated with the inevitable Buddhist prayer flags-take the place of tent encampments. Despite their deep poverty, the women dress gaily in black and a rainbow of decorative co1ours, plaiting their hair Almost like Africans, and wearing it in braids, sometimes interwoven with red cord. To commemorate special religious festivals, pilgrimages are made to monasteries (Often many days' riding away) for they are social as well as religious occasions.

  The wildlife is abundant-Tibetan antelopes, Mongolian gazelles, snow leopards, Otters, martens, lynxes and deer, as well as dozens of species of birds. Carp throng the cold waters of the lakes. Nature reserves are being established to protect the Beautiful and threatened snow leopard and the primeval forests in which the wild ass And the snow cock still roam.

  At over 5,000 meters (16,400jeet) sheep graze near the tongue of one of the Glaciers whose melt waters feed the upper Tuotuohe in western Qinghai Province on the border with Tibet. For several years this river was considered to be the source of the Yangtze.