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Yalu River

Yalu (鸭绿江/압록강/ )
Name origin: Manchu, "the boundary between two countries"
Countries China (CHN), North Korea (PRK)
Provinces Jilin (CHN), Liaoning (CHN), Ryanggang (PRK), Chagang (PRK), North Pyongan (PRK), Sinuiju SAR (PRK)
Source South of Heaven Lake, CHN-PRK border, Paektu Mountain
 - coordinates
Mouth Korea Bay
 - coordinates
Length 790 km (491 mi)
Location of the Yalu River
Yalu River
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese 绿
Korean name
Manchu name
Manchu script
Romanization Yalu ula

The Yalu River (Yalu in Chinese; also called the Amrok in Korea) is a river on the border between North Korea and China. Together with the Tumen River to its east, and a small portion of Paektu Mountain, the Yalu forms the border between North Korea and China and is notable as a site involved in military conflicts in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and the Korean War.


  • Name 1
  • Geography 2
  • History 3
  • Economy 4
  • Crossings 5
  • See also 6
  • External links 7
  • References 8


[1] There are two versions regarding the origin of the river name. One is that the name derived from "Yalv ula" in Manchu language, one ethnic language in China.The Manchu word "Yalu" means "the boundary between two countries". In Mandarin Chinese, "Yalu" phonetically approximates the original Manchu word "Yalu" in Mandarin, but literally means" Duck Green" which was said to be the color of the river once before. The other is that the river was named after the combination of its two upper branches, which was called "Ya"and "Lu" respectively.


From 2,500 m above sea level on Baekdu Mountain (Changbai Mountain), on the North Korea-China border, the river flows south to Hyesan before sweeping 130 km northwest to Linjiang and then returning to a more southerly route for a further 300 km to empty into the Korea Bay between Dandong (China) and Sinŭiju (North Korea). The bordering Chinese provinces are Jilin and Liaoning.

The river is 795 km (493 mi) long and receives the water from over 30,000 km² of land. The Yalu's most significant tributaries are the Changjin (장진강, 長津江), Heochun (허천강, 虚川江), Tokro and Ai (瑷河) rivers. The river is not easily navigable for most of its length.[2]

The depth of the Yalu River varies from some of the more shallow parts on the eastern side in Hyesan (1 metre) to the deeper parts of the river near the Yellow Sea (2.5 metres).[3] The estuary is the site of the Amrok River estuary Important Bird Area, identified as such by BirdLife International.[4]

There are 205 islands on the Yalu. A 1962 border treaty between North Korea and China split the islands according to which ethnic group were living on each island. North Korea possesses 127 and China 78. Due to the division criteria, some islands such as Hwanggumpyong Island belong to North Korea but abut the Chinese side of the river.


North Korean village in the Yalu River delta

The river basin is the site where the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo rose to power. Many former fortresses are located along the river and the former capital of that kingdom was situated at what is now the medium-sized city of Ji'an, China along the Yalu, a site rich in Goguryeo era relics.

Wihwa Island on the river is historically famous for the decision of General Yi Songgye in 1392 to there turn back his army southward to Kaesong in the first of a series of revolts that eventually led to the establishment of the Yi Dynasty.[5]

The river has been the site of several battles because of its strategic location between Korea and China, including:

The Korean side of the river was heavily industrialized during Colonial Korea (1910–1945), and by 1945 almost 20% of Imperial Japan's total industrial output originated in Korea. During the Korean War the movement of United Nations troops approaching the river precipitated massive Chinese intervention from around Dandong. In the course of the conflict every bridge across the river except one was destroyed. The one remaining bridge was the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge connecting Sinuiju, North Korea to Dandong, China. During the war the valley surrounding the western end of the river also became the focal point of a series of dogfights for air superiority over North Korea, earning the nickname "MiG Alley" in reference to the MiG-15 fighters flown by the combined North Korean, Chinese and Soviet forces.

It was the advance of UN forces during the Korean War toward the Yalu which prompted Chairman Mao Zedong to involve China in the war for fear of an American invasion, since toppling communism was one of America's stated goals and Douglas MacArthur had expressed his desire to expand the war into China.

The river has frequently been crossed by North Koreans fleeing to China since the early 1990s.


The river is important for hydroelectric power, and one of the largest hydroelectric dams in Asia is in Sup'ung Dam, 106 m high and over 850 m long, located upstream from Sinuiju, North Korea. The dam has created an artificial lake over a portion of the river, called Sapung Lake. In addition the river is used for transportation, particularly of lumber from its forested banks. The river provides fish for the local population. Downstream of Sup'ung is the Taipingwan Dam. Upstream of Sup'ung is the Yunfeng Dam. Both dams produce hydroelectric power as well.


The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge across the Yalu (Amnokgang) at Sinŭiju and Dandong

See also

External links

  • Encyclopædia Britannica


  1. ^ 
  2. ^ Entire paragraph taken from Earth Snapshot Website. (March 25, 2011). Sediments in Korea Bay and Incheon Bay, North and South Korea. Retrieved from
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica. (December 5, 2011). Yalu River. Retrieved from
  4. ^ "Amrok River estuary". Important Bird Areas factsheet. BirdLife International. 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  5. ^ Jeong Woo-sang (10 June 2011). "What Is Hwanggumpyong Island?". Digital Chosun. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
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