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Three Parallel Rivers
In the 1980s, an expert at the United Nations found a marvelous natural scene on a satellite map of the Northern Hemisphere. In the northwest area of Yunnan Province, there are three rivers flowing parallel from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to the south, but never converge. This is the 29th project of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage in China, Three Parallel Rivers in Yunnan Protected Areas.
Originating in the Tanggula Mountain on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Jinsha River, Lancang River and Nu River flow parallel along the Hengduan Mountains for several hundred kilometers. It is a very rare phenomenon that the shortest distance between the Lancang River and Jinsha River is only 66 kilometers (about 41 miles) and between the Lancang River and Nu River the distance is less than 19 kilometers (about 12 miles). Interestingly, their entrances to different seas are thousands of kilometers away.
This protected area covers Nu Jiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Lijiang District. The Three Parallel Rivers have spectacular scenery that is composed of the rivers, mountains, rare plants, animals and 16 ethnic groups' inhabitation.
In this protected area, you can see the typical topographic feature of Yunnan, comprised of the wonderful view of the parallel rivers, high mountains and deep gorges. The height of snow-covered mountains in this area varies from 2,000 meters (about 6562 feet) to 6,000 meters (over 19,600 feet), and there are over 100 snow-covered mountains higher than 5, 000 meters (over 16, 400 feet). Among them, the most famous one is the Meli Snow Mountain, which is regarded as a Holy Mountain by the local Tibetan People.
Correspondingly, the gorges are very deep. Nu River Gorge, Lancang River Gorges and Jinsha River Gorges are particularly famous. The average depth of Nu River Gorge is 2,000 meters (about 6562 feet) and it was so named 'the Oriental Grand Gorge'. The famous Tiger Leaping Gorge , which is a part of Jinsha River Gorge, is the deepest gorge of the world. The gorge bottom consists of the subtropical climate, dry and hot, while half way up the mountains it is cool and pleasant. The summits of the mountains are covered with snow all year round. Within the height of several thousand meters, the climate and natural landscape change greatly.
Due to vertical climate differences, there are 20% Higher Plants and over 25% more animals in this area. Some rare plants and animal can also be found here, such as Yunnan golden monkeys, antelopes, snow leopards, Bengalese tigers and black necked cranes.
The protected area of the Three Parallel Rivers is also a region inhabited by 16 different ethnic groups. It is a peculiar place where multi-ethnic groups, different languages, various religions, cultures and manners and customs co-exist. The place where the Naxi Dongba Religion culture originated, Baishui Tableland , the old town remains vibrant today, Lijiang , as well as the ethnic group which has the characteristic of a matriarchal society, Mosuo people attract numerous visitors from all over the world.
The protected area of the Three Parallel Rivers has great value in science, aesthetics and a unique culture of ethnic groups. It is a stirring attraction for scientists, explorers and visitors world wide.
 
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