In ancient Tibetan language, the Yarlung Zangbo was called "Yangchabo Zangbo", meaning the water flowing from the upper slope. This not only shows the origin of Yarlung Zangbo River but also reveals the salient characteristics of this "Heavenly River": it extends over 2,000 km from its cradle to Pasighat where it leaves China. Of the total length, three-fourth of the river is above 3,000 meters high and some one-third over 4,000 meters. This feature of height is rare among the rivers in the world. It is the highest river in the world, being worthy of the title "heavenly river".
The Yarlung Zangbo River, which finds its source on the Gyima Yangzong Glacier with an elevation of 5,590 meters in Zongba County in the northern foothills of the Himalayas, belongs to the water system of the Indian Ocean. It flows from west to east across the southern section of the Tibet Plateau, passing through Xigaze, Lhasa, Shannan and Nyingchi areas and incorporating tributaries including the Nyang Qu River, the Lhasa River, the Nyang River and the Peilung River. It first runs across Mailing, then turns south to Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, with a length of 2,057 km, and then flows into India to become the Brahmaputra, which later meets with the Ganges River before flowing into the Bay of Bengal. It ranks as the sixth largest river in China (after the Yangtze, Yellow, Heilongjiang, Pearl and Lantsang rivers). The Yarlung Zangbo River boasts natural water energy of some 100 million kW, just next to the Yangtze.(1990)