Huang He (黃河 pinyin huang2 he2, formerly transliterated as Hwang-ho), literally the Yellow River, is at 5,500 km the second longest river in China, only surpassed by the Chang Jiang.
It originates from the Yekuzonglie Basin at an elevation of 4,500m in the northern slope of the Bayankera Mountains in the Qingzuang Plateau.
During the long history of China, Huang He was considered as a blessing from the heaven as well as a devil from the hell. Records indicate that, from 602 BC to present, the river's course made at least 5 major large-scale changes in direction and its levees were breached more than 1,500 times. A major course change that took place in 1194 A.D took over the Huai River drainage system throughout the next 700 years. The mud in the Huang He literally blocked the mouth of the Huai River and made thousands homeless. The Yellow River adopted its present course in 1897 after the final course change occurred in 1855. Currently, Huang He flows through Jinan, capital of the Shandong province and ends in the Bohai Sea (Bohai Gulf).
The river gets its yellow color for silts that are carried in the flow. Centuries of silt deposition and diking has caused the river to flow above the surrounding farmland, making flooding a critically dangerous problem. During World War II, the Nationalist troops under Chiang Kai-Shek broke the levees holding back the Yellow River in order to stop the advancing Japanese troops. The river at that time flooded a huge area and the floodwaters took some 900,000 lives.
Sometimes Huang He is literally spoken as the Zhou Liu (濁流), or the Muddy Flow. The Chinese expression "when the Yellow River flows clear" is similar to the English expression "when hell freezes over."
The provinces of Hebei and Henan derive their names from Huang He. Their names mean respectively "north" and "south of the (Yellow) River".
Other passing cities include: Lanzhou.