Grand Canal of China

Grand Canal of China

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The Grand Canal in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is the longest canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

 or artificial river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 in the world. Starting at Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

, it passes through Tianjin
Tianjin
' is a metropolis in northern China and one of the five national central cities of the People's Republic of China. It is governed as a direct-controlled municipality, one of four such designations, and is, thus, under direct administration of the central government...

 and the provinces of Hebei
Hebei
' is a province of the People's Republic of China in the North China region. Its one-character abbreviation is "" , named after Ji Province, a Han Dynasty province that included what is now southern Hebei...

, Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

, Jiangsu
Jiangsu
' is a province of the People's Republic of China, located along the east coast of the country. The name comes from jiang, short for the city of Jiangning , and su, for the city of Suzhou. The abbreviation for this province is "苏" , the second character of its name...

 and Zhejiang
Zhejiang
Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of the People's Republic of China. The word Zhejiang was the old name of the Qiantang River, which passes through Hangzhou, the provincial capital...

 to the city of Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century BC, although the various sections were finally combined during the Sui Dynasty
Sui Dynasty
The Sui Dynasty was a powerful, but short-lived Imperial Chinese dynasty. Preceded by the Southern and Northern Dynasties, it ended nearly four centuries of division between rival regimes. It was followed by the Tang Dynasty....

 (581–618 CE).

The total length of the Grand Canal is 1776 km (1,103.6 mi). Its greatest height is reached in the mountains of Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

, at a summit of 42 m (138 ft). Ships in Chinese canals did not have trouble reaching higher elevations after the pound lock was invented in the 10th century, during the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 (960–1279), by the government official and engineer Qiao Weiyo. The canal's size and grandeur won it the admiration of many throughout history, including the Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese monk Ennin
Ennin
Ennin , who is better known in Japan by his posthumous name, Jikaku Daishi , was a priest of the Tendai school.- Birth and origin :...

 (794–864), the Persian historian Rashid al-Din (1247–1318), the Korean official Choe Bu
Choe Bu
Choe Bu was a Korean official during the early Joseon Dynasty . He is most well known for the account of his shipwrecked travels in China from February to July 1488, during the Ming Dynasty . He was eventually banished from the Joseon court in 1498 and executed in 1504 during two political purges...

 (1454–1504) and the Italian missionary Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci, SJ was an Italian Jesuit priest, and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China Mission, as it existed in the 17th-18th centuries. His current title is Servant of God....

 (1552–1610).

Historically, periodic flooding of the adjacent Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

 threatened the safety and functioning of the canal. During wartime the high dikes of the Yellow River were sometimes deliberately broken in order to flood advancing enemy troops. This caused disaster and prolonged economic hardships. Despite temporary periods of desolation and disuse, the Grand Canal furthered an indigenous and growing economic market in China's urban centers through all the ages since the Sui period.

Early history


In the late Spring and Autumn Period (722–481 BC), King Fuchai of Wu, ruler of the State of Wu
Wu (state)
The State of Wu , also known as Gou Wu or Gong Wu , was one of the vassal states during the Western Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn Period. The State of Wu was located at the mouth of the Yangtze River east of the State of Chu. Considered a semi-barbarian state by ancient Chinese...

 (present-day Suzhou
Suzhou
Suzhou , previously transliterated as Su-chou, Suchow, and Soochow, is a major city located in the southeast of Jiangsu Province in Eastern China, located adjacent to Shanghai Municipality. The city is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the shores of Taihu Lake and is a part...

), ventured north to conquer the neighboring State of Qi
Qi (state)
Qi was a powerful state during the Spring and Autumn Period and Period of the Warring States in ancient China. Its capital was Linzi, now part of the modern day city of Zibo in Shandong Province....

. He ordered a canal be constructed for trading purposes, as well as a means to ship ample supplies north in case his forces should engage the northern states of Song
Song (state)
Sòng was a state during the Eastern Zhou Spring and Autumn Period . Its capital was Shangqiu . In 701 BC, a political marriage between Lady Yong of Song and Duke Zhuang of Zheng empowered Song to manipulate the management of Zheng.- Origin :After King Wu of Zhou overthrew King Zhou of Shang,...

 and Lu
Lu (state)
The State of Lu, was a Zhou Dynasty ducal vassal state before and during the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history. Founded in the 10th century BC, its dukes used Ji as their family name. The first duke was Boqin |Qi]] and to the south by the powerful state of Chu...

. This canal became known as the Han Gou (邗沟 "Han-country Conduit"). Work began in 486 BC, south of Yangzhou
Yangzhou
Yangzhou is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China. Sitting on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the southwest, Huai'an to the north, Yancheng to the northeast, Taizhou to the east, and Zhenjiang across...

 to north of Huai'an
Huai'an
Huai'an , known as Huaiyin before 2001, is a prefecture-level city in northern Jiangsu province of Eastern China. It borders Suqian to the northwest, Lianyungang to the north, Yancheng to the east, Yangzhou to the southeast, and the province of Anhui to the southwest.The municipality has 4,799,889...

 in Jiangsu, and within three years the Han Gou had connected the Yangtze River
Yangtze River
The Yangtze, Yangzi or Cháng Jiāng is the longest river in Asia, and the third-longest in the world. It flows for from the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai eastward across southwest, central and eastern China before emptying into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It is also one of the...

 to the Huai River
Huai River
The Huai River is a major river in China. The Huai River is located about mid-way between the Yellow River and Yangtze River, the two largest rivers in China, and like them runs from west to east...

 by means of existing waterway
Waterway
A waterway is any navigable body of water. Waterways can include rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, and canals. In order for a waterway to be navigable, it must meet several criteria:...

s, lake
Lake
A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams,...

s, and marsh
Marsh
In geography, a marsh, or morass, is a type of wetland that is subject to frequent or continuous flood. Typically the water is shallow and features grasses, rushes, reeds, typhas, sedges, other herbaceous plants, and moss....

es.

The Han Gou (邗沟) is known as the second oldest section of the later Grand Canal since the Hong Gou ('Canal of the Flying Geese', or 'Far-Flung Canal') most likely preceded it. It linked the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

 near Kaifeng
Kaifeng
Kaifeng , known previously by several names , is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, Central China. Nearly 5 million people live in the metropolitan area...

 to the Si
Si River
The Si River is a watercourse located in Shandong Province, China. It rises in the southern foothills of the Mengshan Mountains then flows through Sishui County, and the cities of Qufu and Yanzhou before emptying into Lake Nanyang...

 and Bian
Bian River (China)
The Bian River , also known in Chinese as the Bian Shui , was an ancient river partly located within the borders of China’s Kaifeng City, Henan Province....

 rivers and became the model for the shape of the Grand Canal in the north. The exact date of the Hong Gou's construction is uncertain; it is first mentioned by the diplomat Su Qin
Su Qin
Su Qin , was an influential political strategist during the Warring States Period of Chinese history . He was born in Chengxuan Village, Luoyang in present day Henan Province. According to legend Su Qin was a disciple of Gui Guzi, the founder of the School of Diplomacy...

 in 330 BC when discussing state boundaries. The historian Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

 (145–90 BC) dated it much earlier than the 4th century BC, attributing it to the work of the mythological Yu the Great
Yu the Great
Yu the Great , was a legendary ruler of Ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character....

; modern scholars now consider it to belong to the 6th century BC.

Grand Canal in the Sui Dynasty





The sections of the Grand Canal we see today in Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu provinces were in large part a creation of the Sui Dynasty
Sui Dynasty
The Sui Dynasty was a powerful, but short-lived Imperial Chinese dynasty. Preceded by the Southern and Northern Dynasties, it ended nearly four centuries of division between rival regimes. It was followed by the Tang Dynasty....

 (581-618), a result of the migration of China’s core economic and agricultural region away from the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

 valley in the north and toward the southern provinces. Its main role throughout its history was the transport of grain to the capital. The institution of the Grand Canal by the Sui also obviated the need for the army to become self-sufficient farmers while posted at the northern frontier, as food supplies could now easily be shipped from south to north over the pass.

By the year 600, there were major build ups of silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

 on the bottom of the Hong Gou canal, obstructing river barges whose drafts were too deep for its waters. The chief engineer of the Sui Dynasty, Yuwen Kai, advised the dredging of a new canal that would run parallel to the existing canal, diverging from it at Chenliu (Yanzhou
Yanzhou
Yanzhou is a county-level city of Jining, in the southwest of Shandong province, People's Republic of China.-Administration:The County-level city of Yanzhou administers 10 township-level divisions.-Transportation:*Beijing-Shanghai Railway...

). The new canal was to pass not Xuzhou
Xuzhou
Xuzhou , otherwise known as Pengcheng in ancient times, is a major city in and the fourth largest prefecture-level city of Jiangsu province, People's Republic of China...

 but Suzhou
Suzhou
Suzhou , previously transliterated as Su-chou, Suchow, and Soochow, is a major city located in the southeast of Jiangsu Province in Eastern China, located adjacent to Shanghai Municipality. The city is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the shores of Taihu Lake and is a part...

, to avoid connecting with the Si River, and instead make a direct connection with the Huai River
Huai River
The Huai River is a major river in China. The Huai River is located about mid-way between the Yellow River and Yangtze River, the two largest rivers in China, and like them runs from west to east...

 just west of Lake Hongze. With the recorded labor of five million men and women under the supervision of Ma Shumou, the first major section of the Grand Canal was completed in the year 605—called the Bian Qu. The Grand Canal was fully completed under the second Sui emperor, from the years 604 to 609, first by linking Luoyang to the Yangzhou
Yangzhou
Yangzhou is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China. Sitting on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the southwest, Huai'an to the north, Yancheng to the northeast, Taizhou to the east, and Zhenjiang across...

 (and the Yangzi valley), then expanding it to Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

 (south), and to Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 (north). This allowed the southern area to provide grain to the northern province, particularly to troops stationed there. Running alongside and parallel to the canal was an imperial roadway and post office
Post office
A post office is a facility forming part of a postal system for the posting, receipt, sorting, handling, transmission or delivery of mail.Post offices offer mail-related services such as post office boxes, postage and packaging supplies...

s supporting a courier
Courier
A courier is a person or a company who delivers messages, packages, and mail. Couriers are distinguished from ordinary mail services by features such as speed, security, tracking, signature, specialization and individualization of express services, and swift delivery times, which are optional for...

 system. The government also planted an enormous line of trees. The history of the canal's construction is handed down in the book Kaiheji ('Record of the Opening of the Canal').

The earlier dyke-building project in 587 along the Yellow River—overseen by engineer Liang Rui—established canal lock gates
Lock (water transport)
A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied; whereas in a caisson lock, a boat lift, or on a canal inclined plane, it is...

 to regulate water levels for the canal. Double slipways were also installed in order to haul boats over when the difference in water levels were too great for the flash lock
Flash lock
Early locks were designed with a single gate, known as a flash lock or staunch lock. The earliest European references to what were clearly flash locks were in Roman times....

 to operate.

Between 604 to 609, Emperor Yang Guang
Emperor Yang of Sui
Emperor Yang of Sui , personal name Yang Guang , alternative name Ying , nickname Amo , known as Emperor Ming during the brief reign of his grandson Yang Tong), was the second son of Emperor Wen of Sui, and the second emperor of China's Sui Dynasty.Emperor Yang's original name was Yang Ying, but...

 (or Sui Yangdi) of the Sui dynasty ordered a number of canals be dug in a ‘Y’ shape, from Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

 in the south to termini in (modern) Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 and in the capital region along the Yellow River valley. When the canal was completed it linked the river systems of the Qiantang River
Qiantang River
The Qiantang River is a southeast Chinese river that originates in the borders of Anhui and Jiangxi provinces and passes through Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, before flowing into the East China Sea through Hangzhou Bay....

, the Yangtze River, the Huai River, the Yellow River, the Wei River and the Hai River
Hai River
The Hai River , previously called Bai He , is a river in the People's Republic of China which flows through Beijing and Tianjin before emptying into the Yellow Sea at the Bohai Gulf.The Hai River at Tianjin is formed by the confluence of five rivers, the Southern Canal, Ziya...

. Its southern section, running between Hangzhou and the Yangtze, was named the Jiangnan River (the river ‘South of the Yangtze’). The canal’s central portions stretched from Yangzhou to Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

; the section between the Yangtze and the Huai continued to the Shanyang River; and the next section connected the Huai to the Yellow River and was called the Tongji Channel. The northernmost portion, linking Beijing and Luoyang, was named the Yongji Channel. This portion of the canal was used to transport troops to what is now the North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

n border region during the Goguryeo-Sui Wars
Goguryeo-Sui Wars
The Goguryeo–Sui Wars were a series of campaigns launched by the Sui Dynasty of China against the Goguryeo of Korea between 598 and 614. It resulted in the defeat of Sui and contributed to the eventual downfall of the dynasty in 618.-Background:...

 (598–614). After the canal's completion in 609, Emperor Yang led a recorded 105 km (65.2 mi) long naval flotilla
Flotilla
A flotilla , or naval flotilla, is a formation of small warships that may be part of a larger fleet. A flotilla is usually composed of a homogeneous group of the same class of warship, such as frigates, destroyers, torpedo boats, submarines, gunboats, or minesweepers...

 of boats from the north down to his southern capital at Yangzhou.

It should be recognized that the Grand Canal at this time was not a continuous, man-made canal but a collection of often non-contiguous artificial cuts and canalised or natural rivers.

Grand Canal from Tang to Yuan


Although the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 (618–907) capital at Chang'an
Chang'an
Chang'an is an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an literally means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese. During the short-lived Xin Dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; yet after its fall in AD 23, the old name was restored...

 was the most thriving metropolis of China in its day, it was the city of Yangzhou
Yangzhou
Yangzhou is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China. Sitting on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the southwest, Huai'an to the north, Yancheng to the northeast, Taizhou to the east, and Zhenjiang across...

—in close proximity to the Grand Canal—that was the economic hub of the Tang era. Besides being the headquarters for the government salt monopoly and the largest pre-modern industrial production center of the empire, Yangzhou was also the geographical midpoint along the north-south trade axis, and so became the major center for southern goods shipped north. One of the greatest benefits of the canal system in the Tang Dynasty—and subsequent dynasties—was that it reduced the cost of shipping grain that had been collected in taxes from the Yangtze River Delta
Yangtze River Delta
The Yangtze River Delta, Yangtze Delta or YRD, also called Yangzi, or Chang Jiang Delta, Rive Chang Delta Tai Lake Region or the Golden Triangle of the Yangtze, generally comprises the triangular-shaped territory of Wu-speaking Shanghai, southern Jiangsu province and northern Zhejiang province of...

 to northern China
Northern and southern China
Northern China and southern China are two approximate regions within China. The exact boundary between these two regions has never been precisely defined...

. Minor additions to the canal were made after the Sui period to cut down on travel time, but overall no fundamental differences existed between the Sui Grand Canal and the Tang Grand Canal.

By the year 735, it was recorded that about 149685400 kilograms (165,000 ST) of grain were shipped annually along the canal. The Tang government oversaw canal lock efficiency and built granaries along route in case a flood or other disaster impeded the path of shipment. To ensure smooth travel of grain shipments, Transport Commissioner Liu Yan (in office from 763–779) had special river barge ships designed and constructed to fit the depths of each section of the entire canal.

After the An Shi Rebellion
An Shi Rebellion
The An Lushan Rebellion took place in China during the Tang Dynasty from CE December 16, 755 to CE February 17, 763, beginning when general An Lushan declared himself emperor, establishing the rival Yan Dynasty in Northern China...

 (755–763), the economy of northern China was greatly damaged and never recovered due to wars and to constant floodings of the Yellow River. Such a case occurred in the year 858 when an enormous flood along the Grand Canal inundated thousands of acres of farmland and killed tens of thousands of people in the North China Plain
North China Plain
The North China Plain is based on the deposits of the Yellow River and is the largest alluvial plain of eastern Asia. The plain is bordered on the north by the Yanshan Mountains and on the west by the Taihang Mountains edge of the Shanxi plateau. To the south, it merges into the Yangtze Plain...

. Such an unfortunate event could reduce the legitimacy of a ruling dynasty by causing others to perceive it as having lost the Mandate of Heaven
Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. It is similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings, in that both sought to legitimaze rule from divine approval; however, unlike the divine right of kings, the Mandate of...

; this was a good reason for dynastic authorities to maintain a smooth and efficient canal system.


The city of Kaifeng
Kaifeng
Kaifeng , known previously by several names , is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, Central China. Nearly 5 million people live in the metropolitan area...

 grew to be a major hub, later becoming the capital of the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 (960–1279). Although the Tang and Song dynasty international seaports—the greatest being Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

 and Quanzhou
Quanzhou
Quanzhou is a prefecture-level city in Fujian province, People's Republic of China. It borders all other prefecture-level cities in Fujian but two and faces the Taiwan Strait...

, respectively—and maritime foreign trade brought merchants great fortune, it was the Grand Canal within China that spurred the greatest amount of economic activity and commercial profit. During the Song and earlier periods, barge ships occasionally crashed and wrecked along the Shanyang Yundao section of the Grand Canal while passing the double slipways, and more often than not those were then robbed of the tax grain by local bandits. This prompted Qiao Weiyo, an Assistant Commissioner of Transport for Huainan
Huainan
Huainan is a prefecture-level city with 2,334,000 inhabitants in central Anhui Province, People’s Republic of China. It borders the provincial capital of Hefei to the south, Lu’an to the southwest, Fuyang to the west, Bozhou to the northwest, Bengbu to the northeast and Chuzhou to the east.Its...

, to invent a double-gate system known as the pound lock in the year 984. This allowed ships to wait within a gated space while the water could be drained to appropriate levels; the Chinese also built roofed hangars over the space to add further protection for the ships.

Much of the Grand Canal south of the Yellow River was ruined for several years after 1128, when Du Chong decided to break the dykes and dams holding back the waters of the Yellow River in order to decimate the oncoming Jurchen invaders. The Jurchen Jin Dynasty continually battled with the Song in the region between the Huai River and the Yellow River; this warfare led to the dilapidation of the canal until the Mongols
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 invaded in the 13th century and began necessary repairs.

During the Mongol Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

 (1271–1368) the capital of China was moved to Beijing, eliminating the need for the canal arm flowing west to Kaifeng or Luoyang. A summit section was dug across the foothills of the Shandong massif during the 1280s, shortening the overall length by as much as 700 km (making the total length about 1800 km) and linking Hangzhou and Beijing with a direct north-south waterway for the first time. As in the Song and Jin era, the canal fell into disuse and dilapidation during the Yuan Dynasty's decline.

Ming Dynasty restoration



The Grand Canal was renovated almost in its entirety between 1411 and 1415 during the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 (1368–1644). A magistrate of Jining, Shandong
Jining, Shandong
Jining is a prefecture-level city in southwestern Shandong province, People's Republic of China. It borders Heze to the southwest, Zaozhuang to the southeast, Tai'an to the northeast, and the provinces of Henan and Jiangsu to the northwest and south respectively...

 sent a memorandum to the throne of the Yongle Emperor
Yongle Emperor
The Yongle Emperor , born Zhu Di , was the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty of China from 1402 to 1424. His Chinese era name Yongle means "Perpetual Happiness".He was the Prince of Yan , possessing a heavy military base in Beiping...

 protesting the current inefficient means of transporting 4,000,000 dan (428,000,000 liter
Litér
- External links :*...

s) of grain a year by means of transferring it along several different rivers and canals in barge types that went from deep to shallow after the Huai River
Huai River
The Huai River is a major river in China. The Huai River is located about mid-way between the Yellow River and Yangtze River, the two largest rivers in China, and like them runs from west to east...

, and then transferred back onto deep barges once the shipment of grain reached the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

. Chinese engineers built a dam
Dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...

 to divert the Wen River to the southwest in order to feed 60% of its water north into the Grand Canal, with the remainder going south. They dug four large reservoir
Reservoir
A reservoir , artificial lake or dam is used to store water.Reservoirs may be created in river valleys by the construction of a dam or may be built by excavation in the ground or by conventional construction techniques such as brickwork or cast concrete.The term reservoir may also be used to...

s in Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

 to regulate water levels, which allowed them to avoid pumping water from local sources and water tables. Between 1411 and 1415 a total of 165,000 laborers dredged the canal bed in Shandong and built new channels, embankments, and canal locks.

The Yongle Emperor moved the Ming capital from Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

 to Beijing in 1403. This move deprived Nanjing of its status as chief political center of China. The reopening of the Grand Canal also benefited Suzhou
Suzhou
Suzhou , previously transliterated as Su-chou, Suchow, and Soochow, is a major city located in the southeast of Jiangsu Province in Eastern China, located adjacent to Shanghai Municipality. The city is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the shores of Taihu Lake and is a part...

 over Nanjing since the former was in a better position on the main artery of the Grand Canal, and so it became Ming China's greatest economic center. The only other viable contender with Suzhou in the Jiangnan
Jiangnan
Jiangnan or Jiang Nan is a geographic area in China referring to lands immediately to the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, including the southern part of the Yangtze Delta...

 region was Hangzhou, but it was located 200 km (124.3 mi) further down the Grand Canal and away from the main delta. Even the shipwrecked Korean Choe Bu
Choe Bu
Choe Bu was a Korean official during the early Joseon Dynasty . He is most well known for the account of his shipwrecked travels in China from February to July 1488, during the Ming Dynasty . He was eventually banished from the Joseon court in 1498 and executed in 1504 during two political purges...

 (1454–1504)—while traveling for five months throughout China in 1488—acknowledged that Hangzhou served not as a competitor but as an economic feeder into the greater Suzhou market. Therefore, the Grand Canal served to make or break the economic fortunes of certain cities along its route, and served as the economic lifeline of indigenous trade within China.

The scholar Gu Yanwu of the early Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 (1644–1912) estimated that the previous Ming Dynasty had to employ 47,004 full-time laborers recruited by the lijia corvée
Corvée
Corvée is unfree labour, often unpaid, that is required of people of lower social standing and imposed on them by the state or a superior . The corvée was the earliest and most widespread form of taxation, which can be traced back to the beginning of civilization...

 system in order to maintain the entire canal system. It is known that 121,500 soldiers and officers were needed simply to operate the 11,775 government grain barges in the mid 15th century.

Besides its function as a grain shipment route and major vein of river borne indigenous trade in China, the Grand Canal had long been a government-operated courier
Courier
A courier is a person or a company who delivers messages, packages, and mail. Couriers are distinguished from ordinary mail services by features such as speed, security, tracking, signature, specialization and individualization of express services, and swift delivery times, which are optional for...

 route as well. In the Ming Dynasty, official courier stations were placed at intervals of 35 to 45 km. Each courier station was assigned a different name, all of which were popularized in travel songs of the period.

Qing Dynasty and 20th century China


The Manchus invaded China in the mid 17th century, allowed through the northern passes by the Chinese general Wu Sangui
Wu Sangui
Wu Sangui was a Ming Chinese general who was instrumental in the succession of rule to the Qing Dynasty in 1644...

 once the Ming capital at Beijing had fallen into the hands of a rebel army. The Manchus established the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 (1644–1912), and under their leadership the Grand Canal was overseen and maintained just as in earlier times.

In 1855, the Yellow River flooded and changed its course, severing the course of the canal in Shandong. This was foreseen by a Chinese official in 1447, who remarked that the flood-prone Yellow River made the Grand Canal like a throat that could be easily strangled (leading some officials to request restarting the grain shipments through the East China Sea
East China Sea
The East China Sea is a marginal sea east of China. It is a part of the Pacific Ocean and covers an area of 1,249,000 km² or 750,000 square miles.-Geography:...

). Because of various factors – the difficulty of crossing the Yellow River, the increased development of an alternative sea route for grain-ships, and the opening of the Tianjin-Pukou Railway and the Beijing-Hankou Railway
Jingguang Railway
The Beijing–Guangzhou Railway or Jingguang Railway is a major arterial railway in the China that connects Beijing in the north with Guangzhou in the south. This dual-track electrified line has a total length of 2,324 kilometres and spans five provinces through north, central and south China...

 – the canal languished and for decades the northern and southern parts remained separate. Many of the canal sections fell into disrepair, and some parts were returned to flat fields. Even today, the Grand Canal has not fully recovered from this disaster. After the founding of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 in 1949, the need for economic development led the authorities to order heavy reconstruction work.

The economic importance of the canal likely will increase because the governments of the Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces plan dredging that should increase shipping capacity by 40 percent by 2012.

Historical sections


As well as its present-day course, fourteen centuries of canal-building have left the Grand Canal with a number of historical sections. Some of these have disappeared, others are still partially extant, and others form the basis for the modern canal. The following are the most important, but do not form an exhaustive list.

Jia Canal


In 12BC, to solve the problem of the Grand Canal having to use 100 miles (160.9 km) of the perilous course of the Yellow River in Northern Jiangsu, a man named Li Hualong opened the Jia Canal. Named after the Jia River whose course it followed, it ran 90 miles (144.8 km) from Xiazhen (modern Weishan) on the shore of Shandong's Weishan Lake to Suqian in Jiangsu. The construction of the Jia Canal left only 60 miles (96.6 km) of Yellow River navigation on the Grand Canal, from Suqian to Huai'an, which by 1688 had been removed by the construction of the Middle Canal by Jin Fu.

Nanyang New Canal


In 1566, to escape the problems caused by flooding of the Yellow River around Yutai (now on the western shore of Weishan Lake), the Nanyang New Canal was opened. It ran for 47 miles (75.6 km) from Nanyang (now Nanyang Town in the centre of Weishan Lake) to the small settlement of Liucheng (in the vicinity of modern Gaolou Village, Weishan County, Shandong) north of Xuzhou City. This change in effect moved the Grand Canal from the low-lying and flood-prone land west of Weishan Lake onto the marginally higher land to its east. It was fed by rivers flowing east-west from the borders of the Shandong massif.

Huitong Canal


North of the Jizhou Canal summit section, the Huitong Canal ran downhill, fed principally by the River Wen, to join the Wei River at the city of Linqing. In 1289, a geological survey preceded its one-year construction. The Huitong Canal, built by an engineer called Ma Zhizhen, ran across sharply sloping ground and the high concentration of locks gave it the nicknames chahe or zhahe, i.e. 'the river of locks'. Its great number of feeder springs (between two and four hundred, depending on the counting method and season of the year) also led to it being called the quanhe or 'river of springs'.

Jizhou Canal


This, the grand canal's first true summit section, was engineered by the Mongol Oqruqči in 1238 to connect Jining to the southern end of the Huitong Canal. It rose to a height of 138 feet above the Yangtze, but environmental and technical factors left it with chronic water shortages until it was re-engineered in 1411 by Song Li of the Ming
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

. Song Li's improvements, recommended by a local man named Bai Ying, included damming the rivers Wen and Guang and drawing lateral canals from them to feed reservoir lakes at the very summit, at a small town called Nanwang.

Duke Huan's Conduit


In 369 AD, General Huan Wen of the Eastern Jin dynasty connected the shallow river valleys of the Huai and the Yellow. He achieved this by joining two of these rivers' tributaries, the Si and the Ji respectively, at their closest point, across a low watershed of the Shandong massif. Huan Wen’s primitive summit canal became a model for the engineers of the Jizhou Canal.

Yilou Canal


The Shanyang Canal originally opened onto the Yangtze a short distance south of Yangzhou
Yangzhou
Yangzhou is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China. Sitting on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the southwest, Huai'an to the north, Yancheng to the northeast, Taizhou to the east, and Zhenjiang across...

. As the north shore of the Yangtze gradually silted up to create the sandbank island of Guazhou, it became necessary for boats crossing to and from the Jiangnan Canal to sail the long way around the eastern edge of that island. After a particularly rough crossing of the Yangtze from Zhenjiang, the local prefect realised that a canal dug directly across Guazhou would slash the journey time and so make the crossing safer. The Yilou Canal was opened in 738 AD and still exists, though not as part of the modern grand canal route.

Modern course


The Grand Canal nominally runs between Beijing and Hangzhou over a total length of 1794 km (1,114.7 mi), however, only the section from Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

 to Jining
Jining, Shandong
Jining is a prefecture-level city in southwestern Shandong province, People's Republic of China. It borders Heze to the southwest, Zaozhuang to the southeast, Tai'an to the northeast, and the provinces of Henan and Jiangsu to the northwest and south respectively...

 is currently navigable. Its course is today divided into seven sections. From south to north these are the Jiangnan Canal, the Li Canal, the Zhong Canal, the Lu Canal, the South Canal, the North Canal, and the Tonghui River.

Jiangnan Canal



This southernmost section of the canal runs from Hangzhou in Zhejiang, where the canal connects with the Qiantang River, to Zhenjiang
Zhenjiang
Zhenjiang is a prefecture-level city in the southwest of Jiangsu province in the eastern People's Republic of China . Sitting on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the west, Changzhou to the east, and Yangzhou across the river to the north.Once...

 in Jiangsu, where it meets the Yangtze. After leaving Hangzhou the canal passes around the eastern border of Lake Tai, through the major cities of Jiaxing
Jiaxing
Jiaxing is a prefecture-level city in northern Zhejiang province of Eastern China. Lying on the Grand Canal of China, Jiaxing borders Hangzhou to the southwest, Huzhou to the west, Shanghai to the northeast, and the province of Jiangsu to the north....

, Suzhou
Suzhou
Suzhou , previously transliterated as Su-chou, Suchow, and Soochow, is a major city located in the southeast of Jiangsu Province in Eastern China, located adjacent to Shanghai Municipality. The city is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the shores of Taihu Lake and is a part...

, Wuxi
Wuxi
Wuxi is an old city in Jiangsu province, People's Republic of China. Split in half by Lake Tai, Wuxi borders Changzhou to the west and Suzhou to the east. The northern half looks across to Taizhou across the Yangtze River, while the southern half also borders the province of Zhejiang to the south...

 and Changzhou
Changzhou
Changzhou is a prefecture-level city in southern Jiangsu province of the People's Republic of China. It was previously known as Yanling, Lanling, Jinling, and Wujin. Located on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, Changzhou borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the west, Zhenjiang to the...

 before reaching Zhenjiang
Zhenjiang
Zhenjiang is a prefecture-level city in the southwest of Jiangsu province in the eastern People's Republic of China . Sitting on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the west, Changzhou to the east, and Yangzhou across the river to the north.Once...

. The Jiangnan (or ‘South of the Yangtze’) Canal is very heavily used by barge traffic bringing coal and construction materials to the booming delta. It is generally a minimum of 100 metres wide in the congested city centres, and often two or three times this width in the countryside beyond. In recent years, broad bypass canals have been dug around the major cities to reduce ‘traffic jams’.

Li Canal


This ‘Inner Canal’ runs between the Yangtze and Huai'an
Huai'an
Huai'an , known as Huaiyin before 2001, is a prefecture-level city in northern Jiangsu province of Eastern China. It borders Suqian to the northwest, Lianyungang to the north, Yancheng to the east, Yangzhou to the southeast, and the province of Anhui to the southwest.The municipality has 4,799,889...

 in Jiangsu, skirting the Shaobo, Gaoyou and Hongze lakes of central Jiangsu. Here the land lying to the west of the canal is higher than its bed while the land to the east is lower. Traditionally the Shanghe region west of the canal has been prone to frequent flooding, while the Xiahe region to its east has been hit by less frequent but immensely damaging inundations caused by failure of the Grand Canal levees. Recent works have allowed floodwaters from Shanghe to be diverted safely out to sea.

Zhong Canal



This ‘Middle Canal’ section runs from Huai'an to Weishan Lake, passing through Luoma Lake
Luoma Lake
Luoma Lake is located in Jiangsu province of south eastern China, near the city of Suqian ....

 and following more than one course, the result of the impact of centuries of Yellow River flooding. After Pizhou
Pizhou
Pizhou City is a county-level city in northern Jiangsu province, China. As of 2006 it had a population of 163,000. Administratively, Pizhou is under the jurisdiction of the larger city of Xuzhou.-History:...

, a northerly course passes through Tai'erzhuang to enter Weishan Lake at Hanzhuang bound for Nanyang
Nanyang, Henan
Nanyang is a prefecture-level city in the southwest of Henan province, People's Republic of China. The city with the largest administrative area in Henan, Nanyang borders Xinyang to the southeast, Zhumadian to the east, Pingdingshan to the northeast, Luoyang to the north, Sanmenxia to the...

 and Jining (this course is the remnant of the New Nanyang Canal of 1566 – see below). A southerly course passes close by Xuzhou
Xuzhou
Xuzhou , otherwise known as Pengcheng in ancient times, is a major city in and the fourth largest prefecture-level city of Jiangsu province, People's Republic of China...

 and enters Weishan Lake near Peixian. This latter course is less used today.

Lu Canal


At Weishan Lake, both courses enter Shandong province. From here to Linqing
Linqing
Linqing is a county-level city within the prefecture-level city of Liaocheng in western Shandong Province, China. It is located north-northwest of the prefectural capital Liaocheng. The city proper has about residents , whereas Linqing County as a whole had inhabitants in 1999. The city is...

, the canal is called the Lu or ‘Shandong’ Canal. It crosses a series of lakes – Zhaoyang, Dushan and Nanyang – which nominally form a continuous body of water. At present, diversions of water mean that the lakes are often largely dry land. North of the northernmost Nanyang Lake is the city of Jining. Further on, about 30 km north of Jining
Jining, Shandong
Jining is a prefecture-level city in southwestern Shandong province, People's Republic of China. It borders Heze to the southwest, Zaozhuang to the southeast, Tai'an to the northeast, and the provinces of Henan and Jiangsu to the northwest and south respectively...

, the highest elevation of the canal (38.5 m above sea level) is reached at the town of Nanwang. In the 1950s a new canal was dug to the south of the old summit section. The old summit section is now dry, while the new canal holds too little water to be navigable. About 50 km further north, passing close by Dongping Lake, the canal reaches the Yellow River. By this point waterless, it no longer communicates with the river. It reappears again in Liaocheng
Liaocheng
Liaocheng , also known as the Water City, is a prefecture-level city in western Shandong province, People's Republic of China. It borders the provincial capital of Jinan to the southeast, Dezhou to the northeast, Tai'an to the south, and the province of Hebei and Henan to the west...

 City on the north bank where, intermittently flowing through a renovated stone channel, it reaches the city of Linqing on the Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

 – Hebei
Hebei
' is a province of the People's Republic of China in the North China region. Its one-character abbreviation is "" , named after Ji Province, a Han Dynasty province that included what is now southern Hebei...

 border.

Southern Canal



The fifth section of the canal extends from Linqing to Tianjin, following the course of the canalised Wei River. Though one of the northernmost sections, its name derives from its position relative to Tianjin. The Wei River at this point is very heavily polluted, and drought and industrial water extraction have left it too low to be navigable. The canal, now in Hebei province, passes through the cities of Dezhou
Dezhou
Dezhou is a prefecture-level city in northwestern Shandong province, People's Republic of China. It borders the provincial capital of Jinan to the southeast, Liaocheng to the southwest, Binzhou to the northeast, and the province of Hebei to the north....

 and Cangzhou
Cangzhou
Cangzhou is a prefecture-level city in Hebei province, People's Republic of China. Cangzhou's urban center has a population of approximately 514,074 at the 2010 census which correspond to the built up area), while the prefecture-level administrative region in total has a population of 7,134,053...

. Although visitors might see the canal as a deep waterway in these city centres, its depth is maintained by weirs and the canal is in fact all but dry where it passes through the surrounding countryside. Finally, the canal joins the Hai River in Tianjin city centre, where it turns north-westward.

Northern Canal and Tonghui River


In Tianjin the canal heads northwest, for a short time following the course of the Yongding, a tributary of the Hai River
Hai River
The Hai River , previously called Bai He , is a river in the People's Republic of China which flows through Beijing and Tianjin before emptying into the Yellow Sea at the Bohai Gulf.The Hai River at Tianjin is formed by the confluence of five rivers, the Southern Canal, Ziya...

, before branching off toward Tongzhou
Tongzhou District
Tongzhou District is a district of Beijing, the capital of People's Republic of China. It is located in southeast Beijing and considered the eastern gateway to the Chinese capital...

 on the edge of the municipality of Beijing. It is here that the modern canal stops and that a Grand Canal Cultural Park has been built. During the Yuan dynasty a further canal, the Tonghui River, connected Tongzhou with a wharf called the Houhai
Houhai
Houhai is a lake and its surrounding district in central Beijing, one of the three parts of Shichahai. In recent years it has become famous for nightlife because it is home to many popular restaurants, bars, and cafes....

 or ‘rear sea’ in central Beijing. In the Ming and Qing
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 dynasties, however, the water level in the Tonghui River dropped and it was impossible for ships to travel from Tongzhou to Beijing. Tongzhou became the northern shipping terminus of the canal. Cargoes were unloaded at Tongzhou and transported to Beijing by land. The Tonghui river still exists as a wide, concrete lined storm-channel and drain for the suburbs of Beijing.

Elevations


Though the canal nominally crosses the watersheds of five river systems, in reality the variation between these is so low that it has only a single summit section. The elevation of the canal bed varies from 1 m below sea level at Hangzhou to 38.5 m above at its summit. At Beijing it reaches 27 m, fed by streams flowing downhill from the mountains to the west. The water flows from Beijing toward Tianjin, from Nanwang north toward Tianjin, and from Nanwang south toward Yangzhou. The water level in the Jiangnan Canal remains scarcely above sea level (the Zhenjiang ridge is 12 meters higher than the Yangzi River).

Transportation



From the Tang to Qing dynasties, the Grand Canal served as the main artery between northern and southern China and was essential for the transport of grain to Beijing. Although it was mainly used for shipping grain, it also transported other commodities and the corridor along the canal developed into an important economic belt. Records show that, at its height, every year more than 8,000 boats transported 4 to 6 million dan (240,000–360,000 metric tons) of grain. The convenience of transport also enabled rulers to lead inspection tours to southern China. In the Qing Dynasty, emperors Kangxi
Kangxi Emperor
The Kangxi Emperor ; Manchu: elhe taifin hūwangdi ; Mongolian: Энх-Амгалан хаан, 4 May 1654 –20 December 1722) was the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the first to be born on Chinese soil south of the Pass and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper, from 1661 to 1722.Kangxi's...

 and Qianlong
Qianlong Emperor
The Qianlong Emperor was the sixth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. The fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor, he reigned officially from 11 October 1735 to 8 February 1796...

 made twelve trips to the south, on all occasions but one reaching Hangzhou.

The Grand Canal also enabled cultural exchange and political integration to mature between the north and south of China. The canal even made a distinct impression on some of China's early European visitors. Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

 recounted the Grand Canal's arched bridges as well as the warehouses and prosperous trade of its cities in the 13th century (though doubts have been cast on Polo’s claims). The famous Roman Catholic missionary Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci, SJ was an Italian Jesuit priest, and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China Mission, as it existed in the 17th-18th centuries. His current title is Servant of God....

 travelled from Nanjing to Beijing on the canal at the end of 16th century.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the canal has been used primarily to transport vast amounts of bulk goods such as bricks, gravel, sand, diesel and coal. The Jianbi shiplocks on the Yangtze are currently handling some 75,000,000 tons each year, and the Li Canal is forecast to reach 100,000,000 tons in the next few years.

South-North Water Transfer Project



The Grand Canal is currently being upgraded to serve as the Eastern Route of the South-North Water Transfer Project
South-North Water Transfer Project
The South-North Water Transfer Project is a multi-decade infrastructure project of the People's Republic of China to better utilize water resources available to China. This is to be achieved through the South North Water Diversion Project...

. Additional amounts of water from the Yangtze will be drawn into the canal in Jiangdu
Jiangdu
Jiangdu is a county-level city in Jiangsu Province, China, under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Yangzhou. Jiangdu is the location of Yangzhou Taizhou Airport that is currently under construction and will serve Yangzhou and Taizhou when open in 2012.-References:*...

 City, where a giant 400 m3/s pumping station was already built in the 1980s, 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. However, water pollution has affected the viability of this project.

Notable Travellers


In 1169, with China divided between the Jurchen-led Jin Dynasty in the north and the Southern Song dynasty in the south, the Chinese emperor sent a delegation to the Jurchen to wish their ruler well for the New Year. A scholar-official named Lou Yue
Lou Yue
Lou Yue is a Chinese female ice hockey player. She is a member of the China women's national ice hockey team. She competed for China at the 2010 Winter Olympics. The team finished 7th out of 8 teams.-References:...

, secretary to the delegation, recorded the journey, much of which was made upon the Grand Canal, and submitted his Diary of a Journey to the North to the emperor on his return.

In 1170 the poet, politician and historian Lu You
Lu You
Lu You , was a Chinese poet of the Southern Song dynasty.-Early life and marriage:Lu You was born on a boat floating in the Wei River early on a rainy morning, October 17, 1125...

 travelled upon the Grand Canal from Shaoxing
Shaoxing
Shaoxing is a prefecture-level city in northeastern Zhejiang province, People's Republic of China. Located on the south bank of the Qiantang River estuary, it borders Ningbo to the east, Taizhou to the southeast, Jinhua to the southwest, and Hangzhou to the west. It was once known as "越"...

 to the river Yangtze, recording his progress in a diary.

In 1488, the shipwrecked Korean scholar Choe Bu
Choe Bu
Choe Bu was a Korean official during the early Joseon Dynasty . He is most well known for the account of his shipwrecked travels in China from February to July 1488, during the Ming Dynasty . He was eventually banished from the Joseon court in 1498 and executed in 1504 during two political purges...

 travelled the length of the Grand Canal on his way from Zhejiang
Zhejiang
Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of the People's Republic of China. The word Zhejiang was the old name of the Qiantang River, which passes through Hangzhou, the provincial capital...

 to Beijing (and on to Korea), and left a detailed account of his trip.

In 1793, after a largely fruitless diplomatic mission to Jehol
Jehol
Jehol could mean either a province or a city:* Jehol Province, former province in northeastern China* Chengde, the capital of above provinceNamed after the province:* Jehol Biota* Jeholodens* Jeholopterus* Jeholornis* Jeholosaurus...

, a large part of Lord Macartney's embassy returned south to the Yangtze delta on the Grand Canal.

In 1995 Kevin Bishop and Annabel Roberts spent four months bicycling the entire route of the Grand Canal from Beijing to Hangzhou and on to Hong Kong from September to December of that year, taking photographs and collecting information. The whole project took him four-and-a-half years to complete before his book was published in 1997.

In 2010, the travel-writer Liam D'Arcy Brown
Liam D'Arcy Brown
Liam James D'Arcy-Brown is a British sinologist and travel writer. Born in Lewisham, London in 1970, he lives in Kenilworth, Warwickshire with his wife Becky. He studied Chinese at Oxford University and Chinese History at Fudan University, Shanghai. His first full-length book, Green Dragon, Sombre...

 went one stage further in travelling on most of the canal which is still in water from Hangzhou to Beijing using commercial barges.

See also

  • Lingqu Canal
    Lingqu Canal
    The Lingqu Canal is located in Xing'an County, near Guilin, in the northeastern corner of Guangxi Province, China. It connects the Xiang River with the Lijiang , which in its turn continues toward the Xijiang), and thus is part of a historical waterway between the Yangtze and the Pearl River...

  • Turfan water system
    Turfan water system
    The Turpan water system or Turfan water system in Turpan, located in the Turpan Depression, Xinjiang, China, is a qanat system adapted by the Turpan people. The Chinese claim the karez system as one of the three greatest water projects of China, linking it with the Dujiangyan Irrigation System...

  • Dujiangyan Irrigation System
    Dujiangyan Irrigation System
    Dujiangyan is an irrigation infrastructure built in 256 BC during the Warring States Period of China by the Kingdom of Qin. It is located in the Min River in Sichuan province, China, near the capital Chengdu. It is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 square kilometers of land in the region...

  • Economy of the People's Republic of China
    Economy of the People's Republic of China
    The People's Republic of China ranks since 2010 as the world's second largest economy after the United States. It has been the world's fastest-growing major economy, with consistent growth rates of around 10% over the past 30 years. China is also the largest exporter and second largest importer of...

  • Economic history of China (Pre-1911)
  • Economic history of China
    Economic history of China
    China's economic system before the late-1990s, with state ownership of certain industries and central control over planning and the financial system, has enabled the government to mobilize whatever surplus was available and greatly increase the proportion of the national economic output devoted to...

  • Economic history of Modern China
    Economic history of modern China
    The economic history of modern China began with the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Following the Qing, China underwent a period of instability and disrupted economic activity. Under the Nanjing decade , China advanced several industries, in particular those related to the military, in an effort...

  • Hydraulic engineering
    Hydraulic engineering
    This article is about civil engineering. For the mechanical engineering discipline see Hydraulic machineryHydraulic engineering as a sub-discipline of civil engineering is concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, principally water and sewage. One feature of these systems is the extensive...


English

  • Benn, Charles. (2002). China's Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-517665-0.
  • Bishop, Kevin (1997). China's Imperial Way. Hong Kong: Odyssey.
  • Bowman, John S. (2000). Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Brook, Timothy
    Timothy Brook (historian)
    Timothy James Brook , who writes as Timothy Brook and who has had many academic works published, is a distinguished historian specializing in the study of China...

    . (1998). The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China
    The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China
    The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China is an influential and frequently cited book which explores the economic and cultural history and the "influence of economic change on social and cultural life" in China during the Ming Dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644.The book is...

    . Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22154-0
  • Carles, W.R. (1900). The Grand Canal of China. Shanghai: Journal of the North China Branch RAS, Vol. 31, pp.102-115, 1896-1897 volume, but actually published in 1900.
  • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (1999). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-66991-X (paperback).
  • Fairbank, John King and Merle Goldman (1992). China: A New History; Second Enlarged Edition (2006). Cambridge: MA; London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01828-1
  • Gandar, Dominique (1903). Le Canal Imperial: Etude Historique et Descriptive. Shanghai: Imprimerie de la Mission Catholique. Varietes Sinologiques No. 4.
  • Garnett, J.W. (1907). Report by Mr. J.W. Garnett of a Journey through the Provinces of Shantung and Kiangsu. British Parliamentary Papers, China No.1, CD3500. London: HMSO.
  • Hinton, Harold C. (1956). The Grain Tribute System of China (1845-1911). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Liao Pin, ed. (1987). The Grand Canal: An Odyssey. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.
  • Martin, W.A.P. (1897). A Cycle of Cathay.
  • Needham, Joseph. (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 3, Civil Engineering and Nautics. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd. ISBN 0-521-07060-0
  • New China News Ltd. (1984). The Grand Canal of China. Hong Kong: South China Morning Post Ltd.
  • Staunton, George (1797). An Authentic Account of an Embassy ...to the Emperor of China.

Chinese

  • 京杭运河史, 姚汉源, 中国水利水电出版社, 北京 1998年; A History of the Grand Canal, Yao Hanyuan, Waterpub, Beijing 1998
  • 中国运河, 竞放、杜家驹 主编, 金陵书社 1997年; China's Canal, Jing Fang and Du Jiaju eds, Jinling Book Society, 1997.

External links