Rivers in Tibet

Tibet is the place with the numerable rivers in China. According to related research, there are more than 20 rivers with the area over 10,000 km2, 100 rivers covering the area of more than 2,000 km2 and 100 rivers with the area of more than 100 km2. Jinsha River, Nujiang River, Yarlung Zangbo River, Lancang River and many other big rivers pass through the plateau. Meanwhile, Tibet is the important region with the numerable international rivers, such as Ganges River, Indus River, Mekong River, Salween River and Irrawaddy River, etc.

List of Main Rivers in Tibet

Water System Rivers
Pacific Water System Jingsha River, Lancang River
Indian Ocean Water System Yarlung Zangbo River, Nujiang River, Shiquan River, Xibaxiaqu River, Pengqu River, Xiangquan River, Kongque River, Jitaiqu River, Boqu River
Northern Tibet Water System Zajiazangbu River
Southern Tibet Water System Kadongjiaqu River

Famous Rivers Originated in Tibet 

1. The Yarlung Zangbo River

Also famous as the Brahmaputra River, the Yarlung Zangbo rises from its source close to Mount Kailash in western Tibet. Running almost 2,900 kilometers across Tibet, it then makes unusual turn and heads back west and into India, before turning south through Bangladesh and emerging in the Bay of Bengal. This huge river also has the largest waterfall in the Himalayas, measuring 30 meters in height. Finally, it heads to the Bay of Bengal.

2. Salween River(Nujiang River)

Known in Tibet as the Gyalmo Ngulchu, the Salween flows over 2,800 kilometers from its source in the Tanggula Mountains in the north of the Tibetan Plateau. Crossing Tibet and southwest China, it flows into Myanmar and forms the part of the border with Thailand before finally emptying out into the Andaman Sea.

3. Mekong River(Lancang River)

Starting as a small stream in the high-altitude areas of Tibet, the mighty Mekong River soon becomes a roaring torrent as it passes through Tibet and mainland China. As it turns west into Laos, the river becomes calmer as it flows into the lowland plains. The mighty Mekong forms the part of the border between Laos and Myanmar and Laos and Thailand. After running across western Cambodia and southwest Vietnam, and passing through the famous Mekong Delta, it finally affluxes into the South China Sea.

4. Yangtze River

Another river rising in the high Tanggula Mountains of northern Tibet, the Yangtze, the first longest river in China, flows for 6,300 kilometers across China to the eastern coast near Shanghai. Starting at an altitude of around 5,000 meters, this massive Asian river descends from the Tibetan Plateau to flow across China’s lowland regions before exiting in the East China Sea.

5. Yellow River

Known in Tibet as the Ma Chu, the Yellow River basin is often regarded as the cradle of civilization in Northern China. This region was the most prosperous area of China during early history, though it was also the source of some of China’s biggest floods, causing it to be nicknamed the River of Sorrows. The second longest river in China, after the Yangtze, its 5,464-kilometer length originates in the Bayan Har Mountains of Amdo and flows across nine Chinese provinces before ending at the Bohai Sea in Shandong Province.

6. Indus River

In Tibetan, the Indus River originates in the area of Lake Manasarovar in Tibet’s Ngari Prefecture. The river runs immediately west and into the Ladakh District of Kashmir before entering Pakistan from the north. The river then flows the entire length of Pakistan, emptying out into the Arabian Sea close to the city of Karachi. Around 3,180 kilometers long, this is Pakistan’s longest river.

7. Sutlej River

The Kailash Region is also the home of the source of the River Sutlej, or Langchan Khambab in Tibetan, which carves a very different route into Pakistan before joining its sibling from Ngari, the River Indus, for the last 1,000 kilometers to the sea.

8. Irrawaddy River

The largest river in Burma (now Myanmar), the Irrawaddy is the main river of Myanmar, and a source of water for most of the country. It is still unclear as to which side of the border the source of this massive waterway lies, as the area is still in dispute between China and Burma. However, its main feeder, the Dulong River, does originate on the Tibetan Plateau, in the north of Tibet in Chayu County and runs through Yunnan Province before crossing into Myanmar to join with the Irrawaddy not far downstream from the source.

9. Bhote Kosi River

In Nepali, the name Bhote Kosi actually means “river from Tibet”, which is exactly what it is. The river is sourced in Tibet in the lower slopes of the famous Mount Shishapangma, and is known there as the Rongshar Tsangpo. Its short journey through Tibet allows it to meet with the Nyalam River, which joins it before they slip gracefully across the border together, thundering down from the Himalayas into Nepal just after the Sino-Nepal border.

10. Arun River

After passing into Nepal and meeting the Sun Khosi River (sourced close to Gyirong in Tibet), the Bhote Kosi joins another Tibetan-sourced river that runs through Nepal. The Arun River has its source close to the slopes of Mount Everest, on the northern side, and flows into the Sun Kosi after it crosses into Nepal, though it is still called the Arun after the merging, despite it being the smaller of the two rivers. After the Bhote Kosi River joins the Arun River, they both merge into the Ganges River, which has its actual source in Northwest India.