For his Yangtze photos Nadav Kander came to China several times in 2005 to 2007, visited 186 cities and traveled along the world’s third-largest river, from the spring in the Himalaya to the mouth.
Humans are usually just portrayed as small figures next to a gigantic setting, either the river itself or one of the numerous construction projects. The Chinese people shown are often merely victims of the unstoppable change flowing through China with an enormous force comparable to that of the Yangtze River.
Old, traditional buildings and housing boats are replaced by gigantic anonymous buildings, reducing the human to the role of a spectator rather than a maker.
Video: Nadav Kander’s opinions on the purpose of photography, the rapid change of China & his own identity
Nadav Kander about 'Yangtze — The Long River'
7 min 51 sec
Video: Nadav Kander about Yangtze
Nadav Kander in collaboration with the Royal College of Art, London, 2009
More people live along the Yangtze’s banks than in the whole of the United States, that is one in every eighteen people on the planet. […] This extraordinary and vast river is embedded in the consciousness of the Chinese. It is much more than a waterway. It contains their history and their folklore. It runs in the blood of the people.
China is a nation that appears to be severing its roots by destroying its past. Demolition and construction were everywhere on such a scale that I was unsure if what I was seeing was being built or destroyed, destroyed or built.
About the Yangtze River
What makes the Yangtze River unique?
The Yangtze River is widely known for being one of the most interesting and visually distinct rivers globally. It has different names based on what regions it goes through: Jinsha, Tongtian, Blue River, Yangzi Jiang, Jing Jiang, and even the Sichuan River. According to researchers, another remarkable Yangtze River fact is that the earliest evidence of human activity found near it was stated to be around 27000 years ago.
What the river is known for
The Yangtze River basin is known for the fact that this is a grain and rice-producing region. People also produce barley and wheat here, as well as maize, beans, and cotton. Interestingly, the river first appeared on the European maps under the name Quiansui or Quian, both named Marco Polo. It’s still safe to say that this river is iconic for China and it continues to help the local economy2 greatly.
How long is the Yangtze River?
The Yangtze River covers most of China and it*s more than 6000km in length. Out of those, around 2800km are navigable. One of the main Yangtze River facts is that this is the longest river in Asia (6.300 km) and the second one in the world regarding their water debt (103 m).
The watershed of this river alone is more than 695000 square miles, so it does cover a significant amount of space, which is quite impressive. Some ocean vessels can travel 1000 miles on the river. If you have a smaller boat, you will be able to travel even further than that when necessary.
Dams & floods
You will also be impressed that the Yangtze River is home to one of the oldest dam-free irrigation systems named the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project on the western side of Chengdu. The first dam created on the Yangtze River was the Gezhouba Dam, but the largest one is the Three Gorges Dam3, finished in 1998.
What a lot of people dislike is the fact that the Yangtze River valley floods every summer4, however, river dikes made it accessible for people to live in the valley.
All images by Nadav Kander unless otherwise noted.