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The Grand Canal

Just like the Great Wall, the Grand Canal is widely recognized as one of the four ancient greatest construction projects in the world. It is a masterpiece of Chinese people and a group of water conservancy experts in their efforts to utilize and change the nature. China's Grand Canal is the earliest and longest man-made waterway in the world. Tracing back 2400 years to the Spring and Autumn Period, Fu Chan, King of Wu Kingdom, ordered the canalization from Jiang Do to Mo Kou.The subsequent digging work kept on until the artificial Grand Canal running from Hangzhou to Beijing came into being in 1293 A. D. With a total length of 1782 kilometers, the canal, linking Qian Tang River, Chang Jiang River, Huai He River, Yellow River and Hai He River, flows past Bejing city, Tian Jing city, He Bei Province, Shan Dong Province, Jiang Su Province and Zhejiang Province. It is 21 times longer than the Panama Canal, and surpasses the Suze Canal by 10 times, with 2000 years earlier than the above-said two canals.

At 1,800km (1,116 miles), the Grand Canal is the longest canal in the world. Together with the Great Wall of China, this waterway, which runs from Beijing to Hangzhou, is one of China's great engineering feats. The first 85km (52 miles) were constructed as early as 495 B.C., but the Herculean task of linking the Yellow River and Yangtze River began in earnest in the early 7th century, when the second Sui dynasty Yang Di emperor had the waterway dug from his capital at Luoyang to Beijing in the north and to the Yangtzei River basin. Due to the differences in terrain and water levels, locks and dams had to be built along the way.

The original purpose of the canal was to transport the plentiful grains of the affluent south to the poorer north, but over the course of the years, the canal became a major trade conduit as commodities such as tea, silk, porcelain, lacquerware, and salt were all shipped up north. By the time of the Yuan dynasty (1206-1368), the final stretch of the canal was completed, linking Beijing all the way to Hangzhou. Many of the bricks and stones used to build Beijing's temples and palaces arrived via the canal. By the time of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), political power had shifted south to Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, as the Song emperors moved their capital to Hangzhou and the Ming emperors established themselves in Nánjing.

The canal only fell into disuse in the early 20th century, thanks to constant flooding from the Yellow River, silting, and the development of rail lines. Today, the navigable sections are primarily south of the Yangtze River in the region known as Jiangnan, which includes the cities of Wuxi, Yangzhou, Suzhou, and Hangzhou.

The Grand Canal, 1,764 km (about 1200 miles) in length, is the longest man-made waterway as well as being the greatest in ancient China, far surpassing the next two grand canals of the world: the Suez and Panama Canals. Running from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in the south to Beijing in the north of China and connecting different river systems, the Grand Canal contributed greatly to ensure that the Chinese primary economy thrived in past dynasties. Now more than 2000 years old, some parts of the canal are still in use, mainly functioning as a water-diversion conduit.
The canal we see today was built section by section in different areas and dynasties before it was linked together by the Sui Dynasty (581-618). In 604 AD, Emperor Yangdi of the Sui Dynasty toured Luoyang (now the city in Henan Province). The following year, he moved the capital to Luoyang and ordered a large-scale expansion of the Grand Canal. The primitive building techniques stretched the project over six years. Approximately half the peasant builders (about 3,000,000) died of hard labor and hunger before it was finished. This project was thought to have been wasteful of manpower and money, which resulted in the downfall of the Sui Dynasty.

Grand Canal Scenery
There are many famous tourist cities scatted along the Grand Canal, including Jining, Xuzhou, Huai'an, Yangzhou, Wuxi, Suzhou, and Hangzhou. No matter in which city, the Grand Canal is picturesque with its banks full of cultural relics.

In Zaozhuang, Shandong, the Grand Canal passes Weishanhu Lake and forms a marvellous sight. In the lake, there is the river; and in the river, there is the lake. Here, visitors can see men fishing, casting their nets into the river on the boats floating on the lake. Some of them are angling at ease and some are driving cormorants sitting in their boats. It is a place where visitors can have a look at the oldest way of fishing.

In Huai'an, Jiangsu, there is an ancient wharf, and the museum reflects the Grand Canal's water transportation history. The spectacular scene of the Grand Canal, the old Yellow River and Huaihe River meeting together is also within the view.

In Yangzhou, Jiangsu, there is a spectacular scene formed as the Yangtze River and the Grand Canal meet. Lots of historical relics and human landscapes are found scatted along the banks of the Canal. The Shuidou Gate and Dongguan Ancient Ferry are the witnesses of the ancient harbour. There are also irrigation works and the buildings of Yangzhou, and the housing of the merchants dealing with salt business such as the Ge Garden can be admired.

In Suzhou, Jiangsu, visitors can travel along in a painted boat and appreciate the Grand Canal scenery for about 16 kilometres. There are ten land and water city gates, together with eighteen ancient bridges, to greet visitors cruising along the river.

Hangzhou Section Scenery: Landscapes along the Grand Canal in Hangzhou section provide numerous sceneries and can be admired. Among them there are the newly-built China Grand Canal Museum, two landscape belts along the banks of the Grand Canal; two squares - the West Lake Cultural Square and the Grand Canal Cultural Square; three parks - Genshan Park, Qingsha Park and Beixing Park, and six bridge ports and fifteen bridges.

The China Grand Canal Museum, which opened to visitors on Oct. 1st, 2006, is the first museum in China with the theme of the Grand Canal. The Genshan Park is featured with the waterscape, while Qingsha Park presents the traditional streets to visitors. The mysterious Beixing Park brings out the best scene, with the adjacent Grand Canal Cultural Square. The fifteen bridges over the Grand Canal are very characteristic, with each full of its unique scene, especially at night. Visitors can also have a look at the site of Fuyi Granary, which is the famous granary in the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911) in Hangzhou.

A visitor can admire the moon of the West Lake, the tidewater of the Qiantang River, and boating on the Grand Canal. This is a fantastic evening in Hangzhou

Cruise Information
The most popular section to cruise on the Grand Canal is the section that passes through Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces. The first cruise line on the Grand Canal was launched in Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province in the early 1980s, and has attracted numerous visitors worldwide. The line later expanded to more cities including Suzhou, Changzhou, Yangzhou and Hangzhou.

There are Cruise ships on the Grand Canal from Yangzhou to Suzhou. In Hangzhou section, there are hydro-busses leaving from different wharfs that offer visitors a chance to admire the Grand Canal scenery in less than two hours. Get information about the Grand Canal Cruise Schedule.

After the founding of PRC, the Grand Canal was classified as one of the key river transportation routes. The reform policy has quickened the pace of canal reconstruction. In addition to the heavy task of transportation, the Grand Canal plays a simultaneously significant part in flood prevention, irrigation, water supply and travel. Having experienced twists and turns, the Grand Canal is bound to exhibit its vitality as a result of river harnessing, continuing to give impetus to economic development along the canal.

A bird's-eye view of the only remaining canal-related places in Hangzhou.
  Stone Pagoda at Xiang Ji Si  Built in 1713, the octagonal pagoda has seven layers. Though an imitation of the Double Pagodas at Temple of the Soul's Retreat, the stone pagoda bears a different technique and carvings in relief with a thinner eave. It is a typical example representing early Qing time stone pagoda works.

  Gong Chen Bridge   In a country well-known for arch bridges, the magnificent Gong Chen Bridge is located in the northern end of Gong Shu District. Spanning the Grand Canal, it reaches Tai Zhou Road in the east and connects Qiao Nong Road in the west. The character "Gong"  stands for welcome extension, while "Chen" refers to emperors or kings. The bridge, constructed in 1631, was designed to receive kings and also served as the northern gate of Hangzhou.

  Fu Yi Warehouse  It is the last warehouse for cargos at the Grand Canal Hangzhou section. As a cargo delivery and collection location, Gong Shu District at the southern end of the Grand Canal had many warehouses, most of which have been demolished so far.

   Xiao He Street   Tracing back its origin to the Southern Song Dynasty, the remaining part reflected the style of Ming and Qing Dynasty to Kuo Ming Tang's rule. Especially, the façade along the small river can date back its architectural construction prior to the Ming Dynasty. That is the only place at the old area of Hangzhou that can reflect the historical style of the town.

   Yang Guan  It use d to be a port for cargo inspection alongside the Grand Canal beside Gong Chen Bridge, set by the Japanese imperialists after Jia Wu War. It also presents the proof of Japanese evil invasion into China.

   Gao's Garden   Built in the early Kuo Ming Tang period, the garden is a kind of Chinese style villa located by the Grand Canal under Gong Chen Bridge. Originally a private garden, it now belongs to a factory.

  Related links:
          Grand Canal Cruise Schedule

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