China's topography is varied and complicated, with mountainous land and very rough terrains occupying 2/3 of the total land. The terrain of China slopes from west to east, forming a flight of three tiers, ranging from mostly plateaus and towering mountains in the west to flat and fertile plains in the east.
The top of the three tiers is the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Averaging more than 4,000 m above sea level, it is often called the "roof of the world." Along the plateau's southwestern fringe is the Himalayan Range, on the eastern section of which looms the 8, 848 meter-high Mt. Everest (Qomolangma), the world's highest peak.
The vast area north and east of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau that drops to an elevation below 1,000-2,000m forms the second tier-a land interspersed with extensive basins and highlands,including the Yun-Gui Plateau, the Loess Plateau, Inner Mongolia Plateau, Tarim Basin, Jungar Basin and Sichuan Basin.
The third tier, with an elevation below 1000m, begins at a line drawn around the Greater Hinggan, Taihang, Wushan and Xuefeng mountain ranges and extends eastward to the coast. Interspersed amongst the plains are hills and foothills. Though some peaks in this area are as high as 2,000m, the plains along the coast have an elevation of less than 50m.
Rivers and Lakes
China possesses numerous rivers and most of the famous rivers originate from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Among them are the Changjiang (Yangtze) River, famous for its magnificent riverside scenery and the Three Gorges, and the Huanghe River, which has long been regarded as the mother river of China. The Grand Canal from Beijing to Hangzhou is the longest canal in the world.
There exist more than 2800 lakes. Most of the freshwater lakes amass in the middle and lower reaches of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River. Numerous salt lakes lie on the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, of which Qinghai Lake is the largest and Nam Co is a lake with the highest elevation in the world.
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