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The Grand Canal, known to the
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...

Chinese
as the Jing–Hang Grand Canal (, or more commonly, as the「大运河」("Grand Canal")), a
UNESCO World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNES ...
, is the longest
canal Canals are waterways channels Channel, channels, channeling, etc., may refer to: Geography * Channel (geography), in physical geography, a landform consisting of the outline (banks) of the path of a narrow body of water. Australia * ...

canal
or artificial
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of wate ...

river
in the world. Starting in
Beijing Beijing ( ), as Peking ( ), is the of the . It is the world's , with over 21 million residents within an of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in , and is governed as a under the direct administration of the with .Figures ...

Beijing
, it passes through
Tianjin Tianjin (; ; Mandarin: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Tientsin, is a Direct-administered municipalities of China, municipality and a coastal metropolis in North China, Northern China on the shore of the Bohai Sea. It is ...

Tianjin
and the provinces of
Hebei Hebei (; alternately Hopeh) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, f ...
,
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
,
Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative regi ...

Jiangsu
, and
Zhejiang Zhejiang (, ; , Chinese postal romanization, also romanized as Chekiang) is an East China, eastern, coastal Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Its capital and largest city is Hangzhou. Zhejiang is bordered ...

Zhejiang
to the city of
Hangzhou Hangzhou (, , Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ...

Hangzhou
, linking the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
and
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century BCE, but the various sections were first connected during the
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Han Chinese, Han in the entirety of ...

Sui dynasty
(581–618 CE). Dynasties in 1271–1633 significantly restored and rebuilt the canal and altered its route to supply their capital. The Grand Canal played a huge role in reunifying north and south China. The canal was built by conscripted laborers and connected the Yellow River in the north with the Yangtze River in the south, which made it much easier to transport grain from the south to the centers of political and military power in north China. The total length of the Grand Canal is . Its greatest height is reached in the mountains of Shandong, at a summit of 42 m (138 ft). Ships in Chinese canals did not have trouble reaching higher elevations after the
pound lock A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft 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 ...
was invented in the 10th century, during the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
(960–1279), by the government official and engineer Qiao Weiyue. The canal has been admired by many throughout history including Japanese monk
Ennin , better known in Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat ...
(794–864), Persian historian (1247–1318), Korean official
Choe Bu Choe Bu (, 1454–1504) was a Korean official during the early Joseon Dynasty Joseon (also transcribed as Chosŏn, ko, 대조선국; 大朝鮮國, ) was a Korean dynastic kingdom that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was the las ...
(1454–1504), and Italian missionary
Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci (; la, Mattheus Riccius; 6 October 1552 – 11 May 1610), was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian ...
(1552–1610). Historically, periodic flooding of the Yellow River 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 and thus sweep away advancing enemy troops. This would cause disaster and prolonged economic hardships for local residents. Despite temporary periods of desolation and disuse, the Grand Canal furthered an indigenous and growing economic market in China's urban centers from the Sui period onwards to the present. It has allowed faster trading and has thus improved China's economy. The portion south of the Yellow River remains in heavy use by barges carrying bulk materials and containers. The Grand Canal played a major role during the Great Leap Forward as it provided an efficient way to transport grains.


History


Precursors

In the late
Spring and Autumn period #REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dyna ...
(770–476 BCE),
Fuchai Fuchai (reigned 495–473BC), sometimes also written Fucha, was the last king King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, queen, which title is also given to the queen cons ...
, King of the
State of Wu Wu (; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a cou ...
(whose capital was in present-day
Suzhou Suzhou (; ; , Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and c ...

Suzhou
), ventured north to attack the
State of Qi Qi was a state of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and ...
. He ordered a canal to 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 A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called s ...
and Lu.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 271–272. This canal became known as the Han Gou (邗溝, "Han Conduit").Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 271. Work began in 486 BCE, from south of
Yangzhou Yangzhou, Postal Map Romanization, postal romanization Yangchow, is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province (Suzhong), East China. Sitting on the north bank of the Yangtze, it borders the provincial capital Nanjing to the southwest, H ...

Yangzhou
to north of
Huai'an Huai'an (), formerly called Huaiyin () until 2001, is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu province of East China, Eastern China. Huai'an is situated almost directly south of Lianyungang, southeast of Suqian, northwest of Yancheng, almos ...
in Jiangsu, and within three years the Han Gou had connected the
Yangtze The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
with the
Huai River The Huai River (), formerly romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken ...
utilizing existing
waterway A waterway is any navigable A body of water ( Lysefjord) in Norway Norway ( nb, ; nn, ; se, Norga; smj, Vuodna; sma, Nöörje), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe whose ...

waterway
s,
lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations above sea level (variable ove ...

lake
s, and
marsh A marsh is a wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes prevail ...

marsh
es. The Han Gou is known as the second oldest section of the later Grand Canal since the Hong Gou ( t s ''Hónggōu'', "Canal of the Wild Geese" or "Far-Flung Canal") most likely preceded it.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 269–270. It linked the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
near
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital seven times in history, and is best known for being the Chinese ...

Kaifeng
to the Si and Bian rivers and became the model for the shape of the Grand Canal in the north.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 269. The exact date of the Hong Gou's construction is uncertain; it is first mentioned by the diplomat
Su Qin Su Qin (380–284 BCE), was an influential political strategist during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was born in Chengxuan Village, Luoyang in present-day Henan Province. According to legend Su Qin was a disciple of Guiguzi, the ...
in 330 BCE when discussing state boundaries.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 270. The historian
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
(145–90 BCE) knew of no historical date for it, placing his discussion of it just after the legendary works of
Yu the Great Yu the Great (大禹) was a legendary king in ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was me ...
; modern scholars now consider it to belong to the 6th century BCE.


Sui dynasty

The sections of the Grand Canal today in Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu provinces were in large part a creation of the
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Han Chinese, Han in the entirety of ...

Sui dynasty
(581–618), a result of the migration of China's core economic and agricultural region away from the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
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 Qin dynasty and the Sui dynasty, mostly 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 buildups of
silt Silt is granular material A granular material is a conglomeration of discrete solid, macroscopic scale, macroscopic particles characterized by a loss of energy whenever the particles interact (the most common example would be friction when gra ...
on the bottom of the Honggou 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).Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 307. The new canal was to pass not
Xuzhou Xuzhou (徐州), also known as Pengcheng (彭城) in ancient times, is a major city in northwestern Jiangsu province, China. The city, with a recorded population of 8,577,225 at the 2010 census (2,623,066 of which lived in the built-up area), ...
but
Suzhou Suzhou (; ; , Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and c ...

Suzhou
, to avoid connecting with the Si River, and instead make a direct connection with the
Huai River The Huai River (), formerly romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken ...
just west of
Lake Hongze Hongze Lake or Lake Hungtse () is the fourth largest freshwater lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land is the solid surface of the Earth that is not permanently covered by water. The ...
. With the recorded labor of five million people under the supervision of Ma Shumou, the first major section of the Grand Canal was completed in the year 605—called the Bian Qu.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 308. The Grand Canal was fully completed under the second Sui emperor, from the years 604 to 609,Ebrey, ''Cambridge Illustrated History of China'', 114: " the Grand Canal, dug between 605 and 609 by means of enormous levies of conscripted labour." first by linking Luoyang to the
Yangzhou Yangzhou, Postal Map Romanization, postal romanization Yangchow, is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province (Suzhong), East China. Sitting on the north bank of the Yangtze, it borders the provincial capital Nanjing to the southwest, H ...

Yangzhou
(and the Yangtze valley), then expanding it to
Hangzhou Hangzhou (, , Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ...

Hangzhou
(south), and
Beijing Beijing ( ), as Peking ( ), is the of the . It is the world's , with over 21 million residents within an of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in , and is governed as a under the direct administration of the with .Figures ...

Beijing
(north).Ebrey, ''Cambridge Illustrated History of China'', p. 115 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 A post office is a public facility that provides mail The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rectangular, intended fo ...

post office
s supporting a
courier A courier is a company, an employee of that company or a person who delivers a message, package or letter from one place or person to another place or person. Duties and functions Couriers are distinguished from ordinary mail The mail or po ...

courier
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 dike-building project in 587 along the Yellow River—overseen by engineer Liang Rui—established canal lock gates to regulate water levels for the canal. Double slipways were installed to haul boats over when the difference in water levels were too great for the
flash lock Early locks Lock may refer to: *Lock and key, a mechanical device used to secure items of importance. *Lock (water navigation), a device for boats to transit between different levels of water Arts, entertainment, and media *Lock (film), ''Lo ...
to operate. Between 604 and 609, Emperor Yang Guang (or Sui Yangdi) of the Sui dynasty ordered several canals to be dug in a 'Y' shape, from
Hangzhou Hangzhou (, , Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ...

Hangzhou
in the south to terminate in (modern) Beijing and the capital region along the Yellow River valley. When the canal was completed it linked the systems of the
Qiantang River The Qiantang River or alternatively Tsientang River is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dr ...
, the Yangtze River, the Huai River, the Yellow River, the
Wei River The Wei River () is a major river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course ...
, and the
Hai River The Hai River (海河, lit. "Sea River"), also Also or ALSO may refer to: *Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics (ALSO) is a program that was developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). This ...
. 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 is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
; 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, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It borders China and Russia to the north, at the Yalu River, Yalu (Amnok) and Tu ...

North Korea
n border region during the Goguryeo-Sui Wars (598–614). After the canal's completion in 609, Emperor Yang led a recorded long naval
flotilla Image:Four frigates capturing Spanish treasure ships (5 October 1804) by Francis Sartorius, National Maritime Museum, UK.jpg, 300px, José de Bustamante y Guerra's flotilla is intercepted by four British frigates A flotilla (from Spanish language ...

flotilla
of boats from the north down to his southern capital at Yangzhou.Ebrey, ''Cambridge Illustrated History of China'', 116. The Grand Canal at this time was not a continuous, man-made canal, but a collection of often noncontiguous artificial channels and either canalized or natural rivers.


Tang to Yuan dynasties

Although the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
(618–907) capital at
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) is the traditional name of Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between ...
was the most thriving metropolis of China in its day, it was the city of
Yangzhou Yangzhou, Postal Map Romanization, postal romanization Yangchow, is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province (Suzhong), East China. Sitting on the north bank of the Yangtze, it borders the provincial capital Nanjing to the southwest, H ...

Yangzhou
—in proximity to the Grand Canal—that was the economic hub of the Tang era.Benn, 46. 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 The Yangtze Delta or Yangtze River Delta (YRD, or simply ) is a triangle-shaped megalopolis A megalopolis (), sometimes called a megapolis; also megaregion, city cluster or supercity, is a group of two or more roughly adjacent metropolitan a ...

Yangtze River Delta
to
northern China Northern China () and Southern China () are two approximate regions within China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is ...
. 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 of grain were shipped annually along the canal. The Tang government oversaw canal lock efficiency and built granaries along the route in case a flood or other disaster impeded the path of shipment.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 310. To ensure smooth travel of grain shipments, Transport Commissioner Liu Yan (in office from 763 to 779) had special river barge ships designed and constructed to fit the depths of each section of the entire canal.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 311. After the
An Shi Rebellion The An Lushan Rebellion was an uprising against the Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dy ...
(755–763), the economy of northern China was greatly damaged and never recovered due to wars and to constant flooding 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 The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; informally Lower Tertiary or Early Tertiary) is a geologic period and system that spans 43 ...
. 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 The Mandate of Heaven () is a Chinese political philosophy that was used in ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsKaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital seven times in history, and is best known for being the Chinese ...

Kaifeng
grew to be a major hub, later becoming the capital of the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
(960–1279). Although the Tang and Song dynasty international seaports—the greatest being
Guangzhou Guangzhou (, ; ; or ; ), also known as Canton and alternatively romanized as Kwongchow or Kwangchow, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the ...

Guangzhou
and
Quanzhou Quanzhou, alternatively known as Chinchew, is a prefecture-level port city on the north bank of the Jin River, beside the Taiwan Strait The Taiwan Strait, also known as the Formosa Strait, is a -wide strait A strait is a natural ...

Quanzhou
, 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.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 350–351. This prompted Qiao Weiyue, an Assistant Commissioner of Transport for
Huainan Huainan () is a prefecture-level city with 2,334,000 inhabitants in north-central Anhui province, China. It is named for the Han dynasty, Han-era Principality of Huainan. It borders the provincial capital of Hefei to the south, Lu'an to the so ...

Huainan
, to invent a double-gate system known as the
pound lock A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft 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 ...
in the year 984.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 351. 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
JurchenJurchen may refer to: * Jurchen people, Tungusic people who inhabited the region of Manchuria until the 17th century ** Haixi Jurchens, a grouping of the Jurchens as identified by the Chinese of the Ming Dynasty ** Jianzhou Jurchens, a grouping of t ...
invaders during the
Jin–Song wars The Jin–Song Wars were a series of conflicts between the JurchenJurchen may refer to: * Jurchen people, Tungusic people who inhabited the region of Manchuria until the 17th century ** Haixi Jurchens, a grouping of the Jurchens as identifi ...
. 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 The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an East Asian people, East Asian ethnic group indigenous peoples, native to the Inner Mongolia, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, Mongolia an ...

Mongols
invaded in the 13th century CE and began necessary repairs. During the Mongol
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a successor state Successor is someone who, or something which succeeds or comes after (see success and succession) Film and TV * ''The Succ ...
(1271–1368) the capital of China was moved to Beijing, eliminating the need for the canal arm flowing west to Kaifeng or Luoyang.Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 227. A summit section was dug across the foothills of the Shandong massif during the 1280s, shortening the overall length by as much as , making the total length about 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. The Grand Canal as infrastructure has had influence on other architectural works in the west. The
Erie Canal The Erie Canal is a canal Canals are waterways channels Channel, channels, channeling, etc., may refer to: Geography * Channel (geography), in physical geography, a landform consisting of the outline (banks) of the path of a nar ...

Erie Canal
in North America is designed and draws inspiration from the Chinese architecture. Many saw the canal as an economic advantage that could bring economic prosperity, like the canal and its benefits. Matteo Ricci's Journals describes the canal in great detail documenting the economic prosperity. The pound lock is one of the more notable features of the
Erie canal The Erie Canal is a canal Canals are waterways channels Channel, channels, channeling, etc., may refer to: Geography * Channel (geography), in physical geography, a landform consisting of the outline (banks) of the path of a nar ...

Erie canal
that is directly connected to the infrastructure of the Grand Canal as it is used in other similar bodies of water.


Ming dynasty restoration

The Grand Canal was renovated almost in its entirety between 1411 and 1415 during the
Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the Dynasties in Chinese history, ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynas ...

Ming dynasty
(1368–1644). A magistrate of
Jining, Shandong Jining () is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of Chi ...
sent a memorandum to the throne of the
Yongle Emperor The Yongle Emperor (pronounced , ; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424) — personal name Zhu Di (WG: Chu Ti) — was the third List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1402 to 1424. Zhu Di was the fourth son ...

Yongle Emperor
protesting the current inefficient means of transporting 4,000,000 ''dan'' (428,000,000
liter The litre (British English spelling) or liter (American English spelling) (SI symbols L and l, other symbol used: ℓ) is a metric units, metric unit of volume. It is equal to 1 cubic decimetre (dm3), 1000 cubic centimetres (cm3) or 0.001 cub ...
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 The Huai River (), formerly romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken ...
, and then transferred back onto deep barges once the shipment of grain reached the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
.Brook, 46–47. Chinese engineers built a
dam A dam is a barrier that stops or restricts the flow of surface water An example of surface water is Lake Kinney. Surface water is water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tas ...

dam
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.Brook, 47. They dug four large
reservoir A reservoir (; from French ''réservoir'' ) is most commonly an enlarged natural or artificial lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not per ...

reservoir
s in
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
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 lock A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boat A boat is a watercraft Watercraft, also known as water vessels or waterborne vessels, are vehicles A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is any physica ...

canal lock
s. The Yongle Emperor moved the Ming capital from
Nanjing Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, a sub-provincial city, a megacity and the List ...

Nanjing
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 (; ; , Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and c ...

Suzhou
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.Brook, 74–75. The only other viable contender with Suzhou in the
Jiangnan Jiangnan or Jiang Nan (; formerly romanized Kiang-nan, literally "South of the River" meaning "South of the Yangtze") is a geographic area in China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It i ...

Jiangnan
region was Hangzhou, but it was located further down the Grand Canal and away from the main delta. Even the shipwrecked Korean
Choe Bu Choe Bu (, 1454–1504) was a Korean official during the early Joseon Dynasty Joseon (also transcribed as Chosŏn, ko, 대조선국; 大朝鮮國, ) was a Korean dynastic kingdom that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was the las ...
(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.Brook, 75. 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 Gu Yanwu () (July 15, 1613 – February 15, 1682), also known as Gu Tinglin (), was a Chinese philologist, geographer, and famous scholar-official The scholar-officials, also known as literati, scholar-gentlemen or scholar-bureaucrats (), were ...

Gu Yanwu
of the early
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
(1644–1912) estimated that the previous Ming dynasty had to employ 47,004 full-time laborers recruited by the ''lijia''
corvée Corvée () is a form of unpaid, forced labour Unfree labour, or forced labour, is any work relation, especially in modern or early modern history, in which people are employed against their will with the threat of destitution, detention, ...

corvée
system in order to maintain the entire canal system.Brook, 48. 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 A courier is a company, an employee of that company or a person who delivers a message, package or letter from one place or person to another place or person. Duties and functions Couriers are distinguished from ordinary mail The mail or po ...

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


Qing dynasty and modern China

The
Manchus The Manchu (; ) are an officially recognized ethnic minority in China and the people from whom Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym and endonym, exonym for a historical and geographic region of Russia and China in Northeast Asia (mostly in N ...
invaded China in the mid-17th century, allowed through the northern passes by the Chinese general
Wu Sangui Wu Sangui (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere, including China, Japan, K ...

Wu Sangui
once the Ming capital at Beijing had fallen into the hands of a rebel army. The Manchus established the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
(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 The East China Sea is an arm of the Western Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% o ...

East China Sea
). In 1855 the dikes of the canal were opened to flood advancing troops of the
Taiping Rebellion The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of a ...
's
Northern Expedition The Northern Expedition was a military campaign launched by the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) of the Kuomintang (KMT), also known as the "Chinese Nationalist Party", against the Beiyang government and other regional warlords in 1926. The p ...
. 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—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 China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

People's Republic of China
in 1949, the need for economic development led the authorities to order heavy reconstruction work. By the 1990s, pollution in the canal had reached the point where boat and barge crews could tell when they were nearing Hangzhou by the stench of the visibly black water. A $250 million restoration project begun in 2001 has improved water quality to the point where it no longer smells and is once again capable of supporting some fauna. The economic importance of the canal likely will continue. The governments of the Shandong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang Provinces planned dredging meant to increase shipping capacity by 40 percent by 2012. On June 22, 2014, The Grand Canal was listed as a
World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for h ...
, at the 2014 Conference on World Heritage.


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 12 BCE, in order to solve the problem of the Grand Canal having to use of the perilous course of the Yellow River in Northern Jiangsu, a man named Li Hualong created the Jia Canal. Named after the Jia River whose course it followed, it ran from Xiazhen (modern Weishan) on the shore of Shandong's Weishan Lake to Suqian in Jiangsu. The construction of the Jia Canal left only 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 from Nanyang (now Nanyang Town, located in the center 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 from east to 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 in 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 42 meters (138 ft) 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 The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an eth ...

Ming
. 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 CE, General
Huan Wen Huan Wen (桓溫) (312–373), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere, including C ...
of the
Eastern Jin dynasty Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines China Eastern Airlines Corporation Limited (), also known as China Eastern, is an airline An airline is a company that provides air transport services for traveling passenge ...
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, Postal Map Romanization, postal romanization Yangchow, is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province (Suzhong), East China. Sitting on the north bank of the Yangtze, it borders the provincial capital Nanjing to the southwest, H ...

Yangzhou
. 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 realized that a canal dug directly across Guazhou would reduce the journey time and thus make the crossing safer. The Yilou Canal was opened in 738 CE 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 , however, only the section from
Hangzhou Hangzhou (, , Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ...

Hangzhou
to
Liangshan County Liangshan County () is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), Willi ...
is currently navigable. Its course is today divided into seven sections. From south to north these are the Jiangnan Canal, the Li Canal, the Inner Canal, the Middle Canal, the Lu Canal, the South Canal, the North Canal, and the Tonghui River. Man-Made Lake Lianhu Training Lake “Lianhu” was used to feed water to the Grand Canal section near Jiangnan. Since the canal was man-made there was not enough naturally flowing water to keep the canal at proper depth so that boats could travel through it. So a man-made lake was used to feed water to the Jiangnan section of the Grand Canal. It was protected by the Government from reclamation and any use of the lake water without proper taxation was deemed illegal. It was supposed to be protected from profitable exploitation, but because the government changed over the years, lake Lianhu had been reclaimed many times and it started to become more shallow. The government changed the lake to become more profitable farmland which led to reclamations and agricultural irrigation using the lake. This began to lead to Lake Lianhu not being able to properly feed water to the Grand Canal. Loss of depth due to reclamation and maintenance costs became too high for the lake to become practical to use. Even though it was a man made lake it was still a beautiful sight. Many different people praised its beauty and various poems have been written about the lake. In recent years recreational uses for the lake have become more popular and may lead to the lake being restored.


Jiangnan Canal

This southernmost section of the canal runs from Hangzhou in Zhejiang, where the canal connects with the Qiantang River, to
Zhenjiang Zhenjiang, alternately romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken langu ...

Zhenjiang
in Jiangsu, where it meets the Yangtze. After leaving Hangzhou heading north toward Beijing, the canal passes around the eastern border of
Lake Tai Taihu (), also known as Lake Tai or Lake Taihu, is a lake in the Yangtze Delta and one of the largest freshwater lakes in China. The lake lies in Jiangsu province and significant part of its southern shore forms its border with Zhejiang. With ...

Lake Tai
, through the major cities of
Jiaxing Jiaxing (), alternately romanized as Kashing or Kiahsing, is a prefecture-level city A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply " Yangxin County from the neighboring Xianning), but still from the Huangshi m ...

Jiaxing
,
Suzhou Suzhou (; ; , Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and c ...

Suzhou
,
Wuxi Wuxi () is a city in southern Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal Provinces of the People's Republic of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of t ...

Wuxi
, and
Changzhou Changzhou ( Changzhounese: ''Zaon Tsei'', ) is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), off ...

Changzhou
before reaching
Zhenjiang Zhenjiang, alternately romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken langu ...

Zhenjiang
. The Jiangnan (or ‘South of the Yangtze’) Canal is heavily utilized by barge traffic bringing coal,
containers A container is any receptacle or enclosure for holding a product used in storage, packaging Packaging is the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, b ...
and construction materials to the booming delta. It is generally a minimum of 100 meters wide in the congested city centers, and often two or three times this width in the neighboring countryside. In recent years, broad bypass canals have been dug around the major cities to reduce ‘traffic jams’. The
Suzhou Suzhou (; ; , Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and c ...

Suzhou
section of the Jiangnan Canal flows through the western part of the city. It includes ten city gates and over 20 stone bridges of traditional design and historic areas that have been well preserved as well as temples and pavilions.


Inner Canal

The Inner Canal runs between the Yangtze and Huai rivers, skirting the Shaobo,
Gaoyou Gaoyou (), is a county-level city under the administration of Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, China, located in the Yangtze River Delta on the north side of the Yangtze River. History Recent archaeological finds at the Longqiuzhuang site in Gaoyou has ...
, and Hongze lakes of central Jiangsu. This section connects the cities of
Huai'an Huai'an (), formerly called Huaiyin () until 2001, is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu province of East China, Eastern China. Huai'an is situated almost directly south of Lianyungang, southeast of Suqian, northwest of Yancheng, almos ...
and
Yangzhou Yangzhou, Postal Map Romanization, postal romanization Yangchow, is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province (Suzhong), East China. Sitting on the north bank of the Yangtze, it borders the provincial capital Nanjing to the southwest, H ...

Yangzhou
. 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 the failure of the Grand Canal levees. Recent works have allowed floodwaters from Shanghe to be diverted safely out to sea. Like the Jiangnan Canal, the Inner Canal is heavily utilized by barge traffic bringing coal and construction materials around Jiangsu Province.


Middle Canal

This ‘Middle Canal’ section runs from Huai'an to Weishan Lake, passing through
Luoma Lake Luoma Lake () is located in central Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal Provinces of the People's Republic of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is on ...
and following more than one course, the result of the impact of centuries of Yellow River flooding. After
Pizhou Pizhou () is a county-level city A county-level municipality (), county-level city or county city, formerly known as prefecture-controlled city (1949–1970: ; 1970–1983: ), is a county-level administrative division of the Peopl ...
, a northerly course passes through
Tai'erzhuang Tai'erzhuang District ( also 臺兒莊) is the southernmost of five districts under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Zaozhuang. The district is located in the south of Shandong Province of China, Province, China, bordering Jiangs ...
to enter Weishan Lake at Hanzhuang bound for
Nanyang Nanyang is the romanization of two common Chinese place names. It may refer to: Written as 南洋 (Southern Ocean) * Nanyang (region), a Chinese term denoting the Southeast Asian lands surrounding the South China Sea ;China * Nanyang Fleet, Qing d ...
and Jining (this course is the remnant of the New Nanyang Canal of 1566 – see below). A southerly course passes close by
Xuzhou Xuzhou (徐州), also known as Pengcheng (彭城) in ancient times, is a major city in northwestern Jiangsu province, China. The city, with a recorded population of 8,577,225 at the 2010 census (2,623,066 of which lived in the built-up area), ...
and enters Weishan Lake near
Peixian Pei County, or Peixian (), is under the administration of Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, China, bordering the Shandong prefecture-level cities of Jining to the northwest and Zaozhuang to the northeast and sitting on the western shore of Nansi Lake. It h ...
. This latter course is less used today. Canal is utilized by barge traffic bringing coal and construction materials around northern Jiangsu Province.


Lu Canal

At Weishan Lake, both courses enter Shandong province. From here to
Linqing Linqing () is a county-level city A county-level municipality (), county-level city or county city, formerly known as prefecture-controlled city (1949–1970: ; 1970–1983: ), is a county-level administrative division of the People ...
, 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 Jining () is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of Chi ...
. Further on, about north of Jining, the highest elevation of the canal ( 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 further north, passing close by Dongping Lake, the canal reaches the Yellow River. By this point waterless, it no longer connects to the river. It reappears again in Liaocheng City on the north bank where, intermittently flowing through a renovated stone channel, it reaches the city of Linqing on the
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
Hebei Hebei (; alternately Hopeh) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, f ...
border.
Liangshan County Liangshan County () is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), Willi ...
is the northern terminus of the canal for barge traffic.


Southern Canal

The fifth section of the canal extends for a distance of from
Linqing Linqing () is a county-level city A county-level municipality (), county-level city or county city, formerly known as prefecture-controlled city (1949–1970: ; 1970–1983: ), is a county-level administrative division of the People ...
to
Tianjin Tianjin (; ; Mandarin: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Tientsin, is a Direct-administered municipalities of China, municipality and a coastal metropolis in North China, Northern China on the shore of the Bohai Sea. It is ...

Tianjin
along the course of the canalized Wei River (Shandong), Wei River. Though one of the northernmost sections, its name derives from its position relative to Tianjin. The Wei River at this point is water pollution in China, heavily polluted while 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 and Cangzhou. Although to spectators, the canal appears to be a deep waterway in these city centers, its depth is maintained by weirs and the canal is all but dry where it passes through the surrounding countryside. At its terminus, the canal joins the Hai River in the center of Tianjin City before turning north-west.


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 The Hai River (海河, lit. "Sea River"), also Also or ALSO may refer to: *Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics (ALSO) is a program that was developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). This ...
, before branching off toward Tongzhou District, Beijing, Tongzhou 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 on the Tonghui River connected Tongzhou with a wharf called the Houhai or "rear sea" in central Beijing. In the Ming and Qing dynasty, Qing dynasties, however, the water level in the Tonghui River dropped and ships could not travel from Tongzhou to Beijing. Tongzhou then became the northern shipping terminus of the canal. Cargo was 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.


Eastern Zhejiang Canal

The Eastern Zhejiang Canal (), also known as the Hangzhou–Ningbo Canal () is located in Zhejiang. Its west end is in Xixing Street, Binjiang District, Hangzhou City, crossing Cao'e River and Shaoxing City to its east end, the Yong River estuary in Ningbo City. The canal is 239 kilometers (149 mi) long. Early canal construction took place in the Shanyin old canal in Shaoxing City, in the Spring and Autumn period (approximately 771 to 476 BC). In the third century AD, an official named He Xun supervised the construction of the Xixing Canal, establishing the complete Eastern Zhejiang Canal. In the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279), the capital was established at Linan, which meant that the Eastern Zhejiang Canal became an important shipping channel. From the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) to the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), the Eastern Zhejiang Canal lost its privilege but remained navigable. In recent years, because of newer modes of transportation, the canal has been gradually replaced. The reconstruction of the canal began in 2002, by 2007 it was partially navigable, and the renovation project finished in 2009, though the Ningbo section was not navigable until the end of 2013. In May 2013, the Eastern Zhejiang Canal was listed in the seventh group of Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level and was included in the Grand Canal. In November 2008, as an extension of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and the passage between the Grand Canal and the Maritime Silk Road, the Eastern Zhejiang Canal was placed into the nomination file in the UNESCO World Heritage program. In 2014, with Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and Sui & Tang Grand Canal, the Eastern Zhejiang Canal became one World Heritage site.


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 that of the Yangtze River).


Uses


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 four to six million Chinese units of measurement#Mass, 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, the Kangxi Emperor, Kangxi and Qianlong Emperor, Qianlong emperors made twelve trips to the south, on all occasions but one reaching Hangzhou. The Grand Canal also enabled cultural exchange and political integration to occur between the north and south of China. The canal even made a distinct impression on some of China's early European visitors. Marco Polo recounted the Grand Canal's arched bridges as well as the warehouses and prosperous trade of its cities in the 13th century. The famous Roman Catholic missionary
Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci (; la, Mattheus Riccius; 6 October 1552 – 11 May 1610), was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian ...
traveled from Nanjing to Beijing along the canal at the end of the 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 ship locks 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. When first constructed, the canal served as a major source of transportation, linking northern and southern China. With the invention of the High-speed rail, high-speed train, however, travelling on the canal became far less common. Currently, ships can only travel up to Jining. The section from Jining to Beijing is not available for transport due to the silt deposit buildup from the Yellow River and lack of water sources. There are plans for restoring transportation up to Tai'an.


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. Additional amounts of water from the Yangtze will be drawn into the canal in Jiangdu City, where a giant 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 was supposed to reach Tianjin by 2012. However, water pollution has affected the viability of this project.


Notable travelers

In 1169, with China divided between the
JurchenJurchen may refer to: * Jurchen people, Tungusic people who inhabited the region of Manchuria until the 17th century ** Haixi Jurchens, a grouping of the Jurchens as identified by the Chinese of the Ming Dynasty ** Jianzhou Jurchens, a grouping of t ...
-led Jin dynasty in the north and the Southern Song dynasty in the south, the Southern Song Emperor Emperor Xiaozong of Song, Xiaozong sent a delegation to the Jurchen to wish their ruler well for the New Year. A scholar-official named Lou Yue, 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 traveled along the Grand Canal from Shaoxing to the river
Yangtze The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
, recording his progress in a diary. In the late 1200s, Marco Polo traveled extensively through China and his trips included time on the Grand Canal, then a major artery for shipping silk, porcelain, and wine. In 1345, Arab traveler Ibn Battuta traveled China and journeyed through the Abe Hayat river (Grand Canal) up to the capital Khanbalik (Beijing). In 1488, the shipwrecked Korean scholar
Choe Bu Choe Bu (, 1454–1504) was a Korean official during the early Joseon Dynasty Joseon (also transcribed as Chosŏn, ko, 대조선국; 大朝鮮國, ) was a Korean dynastic kingdom that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was the las ...
traveled the entire length of the Grand Canal on his way from
Zhejiang Zhejiang (, ; , Chinese postal romanization, also romanized as Chekiang) is an East China, eastern, coastal Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Its capital and largest city is Hangzhou. Zhejiang is bordered ...

Zhejiang
to Beijing (and on to Korea) and left a detailed account of his trip. In 1600,
Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci (; la, Mattheus Riccius; 6 October 1552 – 11 May 1610), was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian ...
traveled to Beijing from Nanjing via the Grand Canal waterway to gain the support of the Wanli Emperor of the Ming dynasty with the help of Wang Zhongde, the Director of the Board of Rites in the central government of China at the time. In 1793, after a largely fruitless diplomatic mission to Chengde, Jehol, a large part of George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney, Lord Macartney's embassy returned south to the Yangtze delta via the Grand Canal. In 1848, Robert Fortune reached Hangzhou, Hang Chow Foo by the Grand Canal in his quest for tea plants.


See also

* History of canals in China * Lingqu Canal * Turpan water system * Dujiangyan irrigation system * Economy of China * Economic history of China (1912–49) * Economic history of China before 1912 * Economic history of China * Hydraulic engineering * History of Beijing


References


Citations


Sources

* * Benn, Charles. (2002). ''China's Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty''. Oxford University Press. . * 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. * Timothy Brook (historian), Brook, Timothy. (1998). ''The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China''. Berkeley: University of California Press. * 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. (paperback). * John K. Fairbank, 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. * Gandar, Dominique (1903). ''Le Canal Imperial: Etude Historique et Descriptive''. Shanghai: Imprimerie de la Mission Catholique. Variétés 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''. * Joseph Needham, Needham, Joseph. (1986). ''Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 3, Civil Engineering and Nautics''. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd. * 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''. *
China’s Ancient Lifeline
' published May 2013 National Geographic magazine * ; ''China's Canal'', Jing Fang and Du Jiaju eds, Jinling Book Society, 1997.


External links


The Reinvigoration of the Grand Canal


{{Coord, 30, 15, 41, N, 120, 13, 26, E, region:CN-33_type:waterbody_source:kolossus-dewiki, display=title Canals in China Sui dynasty Naval history of China Economic history of China Ship canals Water transport in China World Heritage Sites in China