The Hsi river is part of a system of rivers in Southern China. The Chinese name for the river is Xi Jiang which is often spelled Hsi Chiang. In the western tongue, this means West River. The river is also known as the Si Kiang. Although not as notable as the larger Yellow and Yangtze rivers, the amount of water contained in the Hsi system is beaten only by the Yangtze.
The river flows under different names at points along its 1,216 mile course. It is considered to begin, under the name of the Nanpan river, when it enters Guangdong (Guangxi region). The Nanpan starts in the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau at around 6,900 feet. Flowing south-east, the river falls sharply, 5,900 feet in 530 miles and runs for roughly 535 miles until it is joined by the Hongshui River near the town of Ceheng. The Hongshui is also known as the Beipan river.
At this point, the river flows through a valley and has mountainous banks and is treacherous to navigate, mostly due to rapids which are as shallow as three feet. The river continues to be a border between Guizhou and Guangxi provinces for 75 miles before turning at Gongchuan and continuing eastward.
When the river reaches Shilong, it is joined by a major tributary, the Liu river. From this point the river is known as the Qian and is a short section of the whole. Running through the Dateng Gorge for most of its 75 miles, the river becomes very deep at some points, up to 280 feet deep.
The Yu River joins at the end of this section and the name changes again, to the Xun River, and continues east for 120 miles, also taking in the Gui and Beilu rivers. Entering Guangdong province, below Wuzhou, the river finally takes on the name of Xi (Hsi). The river valley is known for its hollows and gorges. Two notable gorges are the Sanrong and Lingyang. These are 230 to 260 feet wide and up to 250 feet deep.
Having almost reached journey’s end, the Xi joins the Bei river and flows south until joining the Pearl River Delta. The Pearl Delta consists of three rivers, the Xi, Bei and Dong. The Xi eventually empties into the South China Sea, to the west of Macau.
The Hsi is the longest river of Southern China and drains 127,000 square miles of southern China and Vietnam. Flowing for over half its course through mountainous areas, it is as much as 9,900 feet above sea level at its highest point. For all the difficulties of navigation, the Hsi river is a commercial waterway, integral to linking southern China’s interior with the cities on the deltas.