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Grand Canal

An Introduction to Grand Canal

The Grand Canal, also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, is the world’s oldest and longest canal, far surpassing the Suez and Panama Canals, the next two giant canals of the world. The canal goes from Beijing in the North to Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province in the South, flows through Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang Provinces.

Interconnecting five rivers, the Haihe, Yellow River, Huaihe River, Yangtze River and the Qiantang River, the canal served as a significant means of transportation for centuries. It facilitated the transport of food and goods from the south to the north and boosted commercial development in the country. The section from Suzhou to Hangzhou is still in active use today, with vendors rowing their boats directly to households and shops in local townships.

The Grand Canal is a great engineering project created by the ancient Chinese. It is also a precious human heritage left by the ancestors. The Grand 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 604AD, the emperor Yangdi of the Sui Dynasty left his capital city - Changan (today’s Xian) and cruised to Luoyang, a city which interested him. The next year, he ordered the capital to be moved to Luoyang and Great Canal to be built. After six years of efforts from thousands of labourers, the original small canals were connected and formed the new Great Canal which is in total 1,764 kilometers long. From then on, the Great Canal played an important role in Chinese history, transporting foods and goods from South to North China and greatly promoted the administration and defense of China as a union, strengthening economic and cultural exchange between the North and the South.

The Grand Canal is currently being upgraded to serve as the Eastern Route of the South-North Water Transfer Project. Additional amounts of water from the Yangtze will be drawn into the canal in Jiangdu City, where a giant 400 cu.m./s. pumping station was built already in the 1980's, and is then fed uphill by pumping stations along the route and through a tunnel under the Yellow River, from where it can flow downhill to reservoirs near Tianjin. Construction on the Eastern Route officially began on December 27, 2002, and water is supposed to reach Tianjin by 2012.

Boating on the Grand Canal is one of the best ways to get a panoramic view of the landscape of typical river towns in southern China, which include ancient dwellings, stone bridges of traditional designs and historical relics. Experiencing some of the local customs offers much delight to travelers. Tourists also have a good opportunity to enjoy local food while appreciating the surrounding scenery.

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