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Yellow River and Loess Deposits

Yellow River and Loess Deposits
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2005-08-02
Categories: River
Camera: Canon 1D Mark II, Canon 24-70 mm f 2,8 L-USM
Exposure: f/7.1, 1/250 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-06-21 8:33
Viewed: 25846
Points: 56
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
This shot was taken near the Bingling Grottoes. They are carved into the thick loess deposits. These deposits are seen here from the Yellow River.

Early Chinese literature refers to the Yellow River simply as He, or "River". The first appearance of the name "Yellow River" is in the Book of Han written in the Western Han dynasty (206 BCAD 9). The name "Yellow River" describes the perennial ochre-yellow colour of the muddy water in the lower course of the river. The yellow color comes from loess suspended in the water.

Sometimes the Yellow River is poetically called the "Muddy Flow" (pinyin: Zhu Li). The Chinese expression "when the Yellow River flows clear" is similar to the English expression "when Hell freezes over."

Loess is an aeolian sediment which forms by the accumulation of wind-blown silt and lesser and variable amounts of either sand or clay. Glacial loess is derived from either glacial or glacial outwash deposits, where glacial activity has ground rocks very fine (rock flour). After drying, these deposits are highly susceptible to wind erosion, winnowing of their silts and clays, transportation of these sediments, and deposition some distance downwind from glacial deposits. The loess deposits found along both sides of the Mississippi River Alluvial Valley are a classic example of glacial loess Nonglacial loess consists of silt-size sediments eroded by wind from either deserts, dune fields, or playa lakes. The prolonged accumulation of wind-blown volcanic ash can form loess. Some types of nonglacial loess are;-
1) volcanic loess in Ecuador and Argentina;
2) tropical loess in northeastern Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay:
3) gypsum loess in northern Spain;
4) trade-wind loess in Venezuela and Brazil; and
5) anticyclonic gray loess in Argentina

The thick Chinese loess deposits are classic nonglacial (desert) loess with their sediments having been blown in from deserts in northern China. The loess covering the Great Plains of Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado is nonglacial desert loess. Nonglacial desert loess is also found in Australia and Africa.

Loess deposits may become very deep a hundred metres or more in areas of China and the midwestern United States. Loess deposits are geologically unstable by nature, and will erode very readily. Even well-managed loess farmland can experience dramatic erosion of well over 25 tonnes per hectare per year.

Though in geological time loess has an incredible rate of erosion, in a more human time scale loess is very durable and resistant to maltreatment. In China, for instance, loess deposits along the Yellow River have been farmed and have produced phenomenal yields for over a thousand years; though a large amount of the credit for this goes to the farmers themselves, as Chinese farmers were the first to practice active erosion control, which also started about one thousand years ago. The largest deposit of loess in the United States, the Loess Hills along the border of Iowa and Nebraska, has also survived under intensive farming and, in this case, poor farming practices. For almost 150 years this loess deposit was farmed with Mouldboard Ploughs and fall tilled (both practices are intensely erosive); at times it suffered erosion rates of over 100 tonnes per hectare per year. However, today this loess deposit is worked as low till, or no till, in all areas and is aggressively terraced.

The Bingling Temple (pinyin: Bǐnglng S) is a series of grottoes filled with Buddhist sculpture carved into natural caves and caverns in a canyon along the Yellow River. It lies just north of where the Yellow River empties into the Liujiaxia Reservoir created by the Liujiaxia Dam at Yongjing, about 80km from Lanzhou. Administratively, the site is in Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province.

Bingling is a transliteration from Tibetan meaning "Ten Thousand Buddhas".

The caves were a work in progress for more than a millennium. The first grotto was begun around 420 CE at the end of the Western Jin Dynasty. Work continued and more grottoes were added during the Wei, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The style of each grottoe can easily be connected to the typical artwork from its corresponding dynasty. The Bingling Temple is both stylistically and geographically a midpoint between the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan and the Buddhist Grottoes of central China, Yungang Grottoes near Datong and Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang.

Over the centuries, earthquakes, erosion, and looters have damaged or destroyed many of the caves and the artistic treasures within. Altogether there are 183 caves, 694 stone statues, and 82 clay sculptures that remain. The relief sculpture and caves filled with buddhas and frescoes line the northern side of the canyon for about 200 meters. Each cave is like a miniature temple filled with Buddhist imagery. These caves culminate at a large natural cavern where wooden walkways precariously wind up the rock face to hidden cliff-side caves and the giant Maitreya Buddha that stands more than 27 meters, or almost 100 feet, tall.

The sculptures, carvings, and frescoes that remain are outstanding examples of Buddhist artwork and draw visitors from around the world. The site is extremely remote and can only be reached by boat from Yongjing during summer and fall. The rest of the year, the site is inaccessible, as there are no roads in the area.

nglen, jaycee, alikox, zulfu, xTauruSx, gerbilratz, boreocypriensis, Royaldevon, pekkavalo1, Dis. Ac., bahadir, CeltickRanger, Argus, mariki, haraprasan, eng55, vanderschelden, gracious, ramthakur, eqshannon, lovenature, yasin has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-06-21 9:11]

Hi James. I wish i had taken more notice at school because this is Interesting notes. It must have been an trip worth doing. You have captured good detail in the rocks with natural colours. a good picture from a boat. TFS.

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-06-21 9:17]

Hi James,

Interesting picture and fascinating notes. The things we didn't learn in school! Excellent details of the rocks and the moss on them. I don't remember seeing a clean blue river in China but we were blessed with blue skies and hardly any pollution.


Hi James,
Heights of cliffs are impressing. Nice POV and of course, excellent note.
Best regards,

  • Great 
  • zulfu Gold Star Critiquer [C: 685 W: 0 N: 2] (43)
  • [2008-06-21 9:42]

Hello James
Wonderful landscape shot of this beautiful place. TFS. Regards,

Hello James, amazing landcape capture in all aspects. TFS. Regards,

Hello James
Your picture compliment your notes and vice versa...Its another fascinating fact filled post you present today...Great work from the boat.
All the Best

Hi James, stunning bit of geography you have there, it is an amazing place to see, the colours and details are first rate, composition also excellent, notes first class.... regards h

Hello James,

This is magnificent scenery!
The rocks look like ornate pillars sculptured by nature!

Very interesting notes!
This is better than Wikipedia!

Kind regards,
Bev :-)

Hi James,

Very impressive view. One of the places I have not visited but can immediately tell that your picture gives great credit. However, everything is still much better if you are there. Great composition, good distinction of different levels, very good sharpness and colours.



Hello James,

Nice picture, and very good note's.


Hello James, superb landscape capture. TFS. Regards,

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2008-06-21 22:42]

Hello James,
This shot is in itself interesting to see the cliffs and pillars of soft loess so well captured by the Yellow River, but the very informative note really adds another dimension. Great that you can share not only your fine photos but the knowledge in your notes is so enlightening that I for one feel that I have almost accompanied you on your tour and I am very grateful!

Hi James, my dear friend!
A perfect landscape shot of this splendid place in all around my friend. Stratifications are perfectly shown here by your excellent photocraphical experience and expertism my friend!
many thanks for sharing this beauty. Have a nice weekend!


Hi James
WOW you have been to some amazing places. I like the way the rocks rise magnificently from the river and you have captured the colours well. Enjoyed reading your notes.

Hello James,

Very good picture of this impressive wall of rocks. Great POV, DOF and sharpness. Excellent detail. Very good light and natural colours.

Hi James,
A beautiful scenic view of these beautiful mountains. Superb capture with a nice composition. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-06-22 8:30]

Hello James, WOW what a shot. Excellent landscape with superb composition. Lovely Ganesh

  • Great 
  • eng55 Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1256 W: 42 N: 1976] (5892)
  • [2008-06-22 8:45]

Hi James,
Lovely capture.Exposure is spot on,details are crisp clear.POV,framing and composition are wonderful.Excellent note too!
Thanks for posting.

Hello James,
Impressive view from the Yellow river. Most interesting note.

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-06-22 11:45]

One word... Incredible!!!
The geology here is truly stunning! I would love to see a place like this.
Superb composition, great detail, excellent lighting and brilliant sharpness.

Very well done, James!


p.s did you get my latest email? :-) Also my Dad will email you back soon.

hI james..It is a beautiful, amazing and fantastic place...Information and picture perfect...Huge mountain make picture more interesthing..I think you are a good photographer...Kind regards..Cypturk

Hello James...Very good shot..Different shape and huge mountain make picture fantastic...Amazing place worth to by seen...Your information very useful...Great shot..Well done...All the best...Leyla

hello James

beautiful image of this river with fine POV to the rocks
of the background, also making fine DOF, excellent sharpness
and details and educative notes, TFS


  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2008-06-22 21:34]

Hello James

A very impressive view,excellent pov.
The focus and details are sharp.
Amazing places you have visited.


Hello James,
This is the most informative and useful notes regarding the awesome and well known Yellow River!
the image is perfectly captured with all the details on the rock pattern with good colour!
many thanks for this great sharing
my best regards

The Loess are truly magnificent to look at, James.
I have always been intrigued by such formations and your note describes these ones from China very well.
The perspective is very impressive here, giving an awe-inspiring view of those sedimentary columns.
TFS and regards.

  • Great 
  • PaulH Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1137 W: 26 N: 3879] (13882)
  • [2008-06-23 3:34]

Hi James, great view of nature's architecture here, your water born POV really adds to the drama. Nice details and colour too, well done.

Jane and I both say Wow again. You must certainly come and visit our humble dwelling here in the US...next time I hear you are so close and not able to come I will feel badly. Your images speak volumes....you are perhaps one of the greatest and most versatile photographers here...

  • Great 
  • yasin Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 31 W: 1 N: 43] (129)
  • [2008-06-24 22:28]

A very impressive view, James. The colours and details are good. A GREAT NOTE! You should write a book, James! :))

Best wishes,

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