The Pearl River or less commonly, the "Guangdong River" or "Canton River" etc, is an extensive river system in southern China
. The name Pearl River is usually used as a catchment term to refer to the watersheds of the Xi Jiang ("West River"), the Bei Jiang ("North River"), and the Dong Jiang.These rivers are all considered tributaries of the Pearl River because they share a common delta, the Pearl River Delta.
Measured from the farthest reaches of the Xi Jiang, the Pearl River system is China's third longest river (2,400 km, after the Yangtze River and the Yellow River), and second largest by volume (after the Yangtze). The 409,480 km sq Pearl River Basin drains the majority of South Central (Guangdong and Guangxi provinces), as well as parts of Southwest (Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces) in China, and Northeast of Vietnam
As well as referring to the system as a whole, the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang) name is also applied to a specific branch within the system. This Pearl River is the widest distributary within the delta, although considerably short. The waters that converge east of the Bei Jiang are first referred to as the Pearl River just north of Guangzhou. The Pearl River is famed as the river that flows through Guangzhou.
The Pearl River's estuary, Bocca Tigris, is regularly dredged so as to keep it open for ocean vessels. The mouth of the Pearl River forms a large bay in the southeast of the delta, the Zhujiang Kou. This bay separates Macau and Zhuhai from Hong Kong
The Pearl River is named this because of all the pearl coloured shells that lie at the bottom of the river in the section that flows through the city of Guangzhou. The Pearl River is thought to be one of the world's most polluted waterways.