The Chishui River is the upper Yangtze River basin’s right tributary. It rises in Yunnan Province and runs for 437 kilometers (272 miles) until entering the Yangtze River in Hejiang County, Sichuan Province, in Southwest China.
The Chishui River or “Red Water” has brought blessings and curses.
The river turns blood red with riverbanks teeming with poisonous snakes when it rains.
In old stories, local people believed that dragons lived in the river’s depths. They hunt fish and shrimp on a large scale during rainy weather, making the river turn blood-red.
In another version, the red color comes from the blood of a snake demon which violates the law and suffers punishment from the Gods. The snake demon’s eggs hatch into poisonous snakes on both sides of the river.
Some say it’s because many heroes died here in the past when the Red Army of Chinese Workers and Peasants crossed the river. Their blood spilled into waterways. As a result, a Heavenly God feels sorry for the heroes and, when it rains, turns the river red. Therefore, the river is also known as “The River of Heroes.”
In reality, to the west of this river lies a site called Hongshiye Valley. There is a 200-meter-long (about 600 feet) groove full of unusually vivid red sandstone in the Valley. These red sandstones are soft and wear quickly.
On rainy days, wind and rain wash away the fine red sand on the surface of the sandstone, which then flows into the Chishui River, turning the river water blood crimson, making a red dragon-like Chishui.
The environment in the area is favorable to deadly poisonous snakes on both sides of the riverbank. In addition, snakes thrive in this area because of the humid weather.
Hence, locals avoid approaching this area whenever it rains. Even a slight bite can cause death.
Apart from its scary stories, the Chishui River has dramatically contributed to the local development.
One distinctive aspect is the brewing industry. Folks on both sides of the strait have brewed a unique spirit since ancient times. As a result, the river has inspired Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd, the world’s largest liquor maker, and China’s most valuable non-tech company as of 2021.
One of its famous spirits is Moutai baijiu. It has a complex flavor and a purity that prevents hangovers. The water used to make the fiery flavor comes from the Chishui River.
Li Baofang, former chairman and general manager of Moutai Group, said that the company would not have existed without the healthy ecosystem along the river. The river is Moutai’s life.
One more thing that makes Chishui unique is the unpolluted water source despite the changes of the times. Thus, the local government has made great efforts to protect the river’s ecology and beauty.