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Shaanxi has a varied terrain. In the north are plateaus, in the middle plains and in the south mountain areas. 1) The Northern Shaanxi Plateau is the middle part of the Loess Plateau, comprising the whole of northern Shaanxi. Except for scattered stony and rocky mountains, most of it is covered with a deep layer of loess. Here vegetation is sparse and erosion over the centuries has brought about a varied loess land formation. 2) The Guanzhong Plain, also known as the Weihe Plain or the Guanzhong Basin, is 30-80 km. by 300 km. and crossed by the Weihe and its tributaries, the Jinghe and Beiluo rivers. With fertile soil, abundant farm produce, large population and convenient communications, the area is one of the country's important industrial-agricultural centers. 3) The Southern Shaanxi Mountain Area, also known as the Qinba Mountain Area, includes the Qinling and Daba ranges and the Hanshui Valleyland between them. Rising more than 2,000 meters above sea level, the Qinling range is the major watershed of the Yellow and Yangtze river valleys and an important geographical divide between northern and southern China. Mount Taibai, its main peak, is 3,767 meters in elevation, and Huashan Mountain in the eastern rim is one of the country's five sacred mountains. The Daba range on the Shaanxi-Sichuan border is the boundary range between the Hanzhong and Sichuan basins. The Hanshui Valleyland is interspersed with canyons and basins, of which the Hanzhong Basin is a known farming area. The Huanghe creates numerous gorges as it flows along between Shaanxi and Shanxi. Its tributaries, the Wuding, Yanhe, Luohe, Jinghe and Weihe rivers, flow past the Loess Plateau and carry large quantities of mud and silt with them as they empty into the Yellow River. The Hanshui River, the longest tributary of the Yangtze River, rises in the southwest, flows past the Qinba Mountain Area then eastward to Hubei where it merges with the Yangtze.


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