The Grand canal

ChinAfrica - - CHINA ABC -

the Grand Canal forms a vast in­land wa­ter­way sys­tem in the north-east­ern and cen­tral east­ern plains of China, pass­ing through eight of the coun­try’s present-day prov­inces. It runs from the cap­i­tal Bei­jing in the north to Zhe­jiang Prov­ince in the south. Con­structed in sec­tions from the fifth cen­tury B.C. on­ward, it was con­ceived as a uni­fied means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for the Chi­nese Em­pire for the first time in the sev­enth cen­tury A.D. (Sui Dy­nasty). This led to a se­ries of gi­gan­tic work­sites, cre­at­ing the world’s largest and most ex­ten­sive civil engi­neer­ing project en­sem­ble prior to the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion. Com­pleted and main­tained by suc­ces­sive dy­nas­ties, it formed the back­bone of the Em­pire’s in­land com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem.

Its man­age­ment was made pos­si­ble over a long pe­riod by means of the Caoyun sys­tem, the im­pe­rial mo­nop­oly for the trans­porta­tion of grain and strate­gic raw ma­te­ri­als, and for the tax­a­tion and con­trol of traf­fic. The sys­tem en­abled the sup­ply of rice to feed the pop­u­la­tion, the uni­fied ad­min­is­tra­tion of the ter­ri­tory and the trans­port of troops. The Grand Canal reached a new peak in the 13th cen­tury (Yuan Dy­nasty), pro­vid­ing a uni­fied in­land nav­i­ga­tion net­work con­sist­ing of more than 2,000 km of ar­ti­fi­cial wa­ter­ways, link­ing five of the most im­por­tant river basins in China, in­clud­ing the Yel­low River and the Yangtze River.

The Grand Canal is the long­est and oldest canal in the world, rep­re­sent­ing the great­est mas­ter­piece of hy­draulic engi­neer­ing in the his­tory of mankind. It con­trib­uted to the fun­da­men­tal link be­tween the peas­ant econ­omy, the im­pe­rial court and the sup­ply of food to the pop­u­la­tion and troops. Still a ma­jor means of in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion to­day, it has played an im­por­tant role in en­sur­ing the eco­nomic pros­per­ity and sta­bil­ity of China over the ages.

info Listed as a World Cul­tural Her­itage in 2014 lo­ca­tion: From Bei­jing through eight prov­inces to Zhe­jiang, east China best time to visit: Spring and au­tumn tips Visit one sec­tion at a time, prefer­ably at Tongzhou (Bei­jing), Suzhou (Jiangsu, east China) or Hangzhou (Zhe­jiang). A boat tour at night is rec­om­mended in some sec­tions (e.g. Suzhou).

Grand Canal

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