Grand Canal (大运河)
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|Short Description:||The Grand Canal in China (大运河 or 大運河), also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal (simplified Chinese: 京杭大运河; traditional Chinese: 京杭大運河; pinyin: Jīng Háng Dà Yùnhé) is the longest canal or artificial river in the world. (source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Canal_%28China%29)|
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The Han Gou (邗沟, "Han-country Conduit") and Hong Gou ('Canal of the Flying Geese', or 'Far-Flung Canal') are the oldest sections of the Grand Canal, with the Hong Gou likely being built before the Han Gou. The Han Gou linked the Yellow River near Kaifeng to the Si and Bian 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 in 330 BC when discussing state boundaries. The historian Sima Qian (145–90 BC) dated the Hong Gou much earlier than the 4th century BC, attributing it to the work of the mythological Yu the Great; modern scholars now consider it to belong to the 6th century BC.
In the late Spring and Autumn Period (722–481 BC), King Fuchai of Wu, ruler of the State of Wu (present-day Suzhou), ventured north to conquer the neighboring State of Qi. 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 and Lu. This canal became known as the Han Gou (邗沟 "Han-country Conduit"). Work began in 486 BC, south of Yangzhou in Jiangsu, and within three years the Han Gou had connected the Yangtze River to the Huai River by means of existing waterways, lakes, and marshes.
The Grand Canal as we see it today was in large part a creation of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), a result of the migration of China’s core economic and agricultural region away from the Yellow River valley and toward what are now Jiangsu and Zhejiang 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.
 Tang, Song, Jin, and Yuan dynasties
Although the Tang Dynasty (618–907) capital at Chang'an was the most thriving metropolis of China in its day, it was the city of Yangzhou—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 to northern China. 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.
After the An Shi Rebellion (755–763), the economy of northern China was greatly damaged 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.
The city of Kaifeng grew to be a major hub, later becoming the capital of the Song Dynasty (960–1279). Although the Tang and Song dynasty international seaports—the greatest being Guangzhou and 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. This prompted Qiao Weiyo, an Assistant Commissioner of Transport for Huainan, 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 shelters 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 invaded in the 13th century and began necessary repairs.
During the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (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, Qing, and post-imperial eras
The Grand Canal was renovated almost in its entirety between 1411 and 1415 during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). A magistrate of Jining, Shandong sent a memorandum to the throne of the Yongle Emperor protesting the current inefficient means of transporting 4,000,000 dan (428,000,000 liters) 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, and then transferred back onto deep barges once the shipment of grain reached the Yellow River. Chinese engineers built a 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. They dug four large reservoirs in 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 locks.
The Yongle Emperor moved the Ming capital from 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 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 region was Hangzhou, but it was located 200 km (124 miles) further down the Grand Canal and away from the main delta. 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.
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 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.
The Manchus invaded China in the mid 17th century and established the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912). 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). Because of various factors – the difficulty of crossing the Yellow River, the increased development of an alternative sea route for grain-ships, and the openings 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 eroded into flat fields. Even today, the Grand Canal has not fully recovered from this disaster. After the founding of the People's Republic of China 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. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Canal_%28China%29</ref>
Starting at Beijing, it passes through Tianjin and the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the city of Hangzhou. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century BC, although the various sections were finally combined during the Sui Dynasty (581–618 CE).
The total length of the Grand Canal is 1,776 km (1,103 miles). 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 was invented in the 10th century (during the Song Dynasty). Historically, periodic flooding of the adjacent 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 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. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Canal_%28China%29 </ref>
 Main course (present-day Grand Canal)
The Grand Canal nominally runs between Beijing and Hangzhou over a total length of 1,794 km (1,115 miles), however, only the section from Hangzhou to Jining 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.
This southernmost section of the canal runs from Hangzhou in Zhejiang, where the canal connects with the Qiantang River, to Zhenjiang 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, Suzhou, Wuxi and Changzhou before reaching Zhenjiang. 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’.
This ‘Inner Canal’ runs between the Yangtze and Huai'an 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.
This ‘Middle Canal’ section runs from Huai'an to Weishan Lake, passing through Luoma Lake and following more than one course, the result of the impact of centuries of Yellow River flooding. After Pizhou, a northerly course passes through Tai'erzhuang to enter Weishan Lake at Hanzhuang bound for Nanyang and Jining (this course is the remnant of the New Nanyang Canal of 1566 – see below). A southerly course passes close by Xuzhou and enters Weishan Lake near Peixian. This latter course is less used today.
At Weishan Lake, both courses enter Shandong province. From here to Linqing, 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, 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 City on the north bank where, intermittently flowing through a renovated stone channel, it reaches the city of Linqing on the Shandong – Hebei border.
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 in a heavily industrialized zone. Thus, the water 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 and Cangzhou. 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, before branching off toward 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, the Tonghui River, connected Tongzhou with a wharf called the Houhai or ‘rear sea’ in central Beijing. In the Ming and Qing 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.
 Old, obsolete, or off-the-main-course 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.
In 12BC, to solve the problem of the Grand Canal having to use 100 miles (160 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 (140 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 (97 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 (76 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.
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'.
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. 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.
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.
The Shanyang Canal originally opened onto the Yangtze a short distance south of 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 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. <ref> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Canal_%28China%29 </ref>
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