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Although the East China Sea has been known and traveled for hundreds of years, it only became the subject of major oceanographic research in the mid-20th century.
Most of the shelf belongs to the stable Neo-Cathaysian Geosyncline (or Cathaysian Platform), dating back at least 300 million years.Seismic profiling indicates that the geologic structure beneath the ocean floor consists of nearly parallel folds, with rock ridges near the northern limits of the East China Sea, near the edge of the continental shelf, and along the Ryukyus.These have afforded barriers for sediment brought down by the great Huang He (Yellow River) and also by the Yangtze.This brings in colder water, with temperatures of 41 °F (5 °C) in the north to 73 °F (23 °C) in the south.
Some warm water also enters the sea via the Luzon and Taiwan straits.
Because of the constricting nature of the adjoining Yellow Sea and the funnel shape of some of the inlets on the mainland, tidal ranges are especially high along the coast of China.