The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is the oldest and longest artificial waterway in the world. Constructed in 468 B.C. the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is approximately 1,794 kilometers long and passes through Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong Province, Hebei Province, Zhejiang, Jiangzu Province and Hangzhou.

It also connects five great rivers the Hai River, the Yellow River, the Huai River, the Qiantang River and the Yangtze River.

Prior to the construction of the Grand Canal, Ancient Chinese were already building canals to quicken the transportation of products and services.

As a matter of fact, Kin Fuchai of Wu developed the Han Gou Canal in 480 B.C. The Han Gou Canal passed from Yangtze River to the Huai River.

Another popular canal of Ancient China was the Hong Gou Canal which stretched from the Yellow River to the Bian River.

It is believed that the construction of the Han Gou and Hong Gou Canals served as the basis for the development of the Grand Canal.

Several historians believed that the Grand Canal was built for the sole purpose of smoothly shipping grain from Southern China to the city of Beijing.

Likewise, the Grand Canal enabled Emperors to easily feed the soldiers who are watching the northern boundaries.

In addition, it also assumed a critical role in assuring the country’s stability and economic prosperity and is currently in use as a major means of communication.

During the early 1400s, the Ming dynasty reconstructed the Grand Canal by building new canal locks and developing reservoirs to help regulate the water in the canal.

The transport of grain through the Grand Canal continued in the Ming dynasty and throughout the history of Ancient China.

Canal Lock

Interesting Facts about the Grand Canal

  • More than 40,000 full-time laborers were assigned to maintain and improve the condition of the Grand Canal during the Ming dynasty.
  • The Grand Canal went through multiple enlargements and renovations during the Sui dynasty, the Yuan dynasty, and the Spring and Autumn Period.
  • The Grand Canal was recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site in June 2014.
  • It covers industrial cities such as Yangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuxi, and Suzhou.
  • The Grand Canal is known as the second golden waterway of China after the Yangtze River.
  • It connects a wide range of famous ports which include the Hangzhou Port, Gaoyou Port, Huaiyin Port, Pizhou Port, Jining Port, Yangzhou Port, Suzhou Port, Changzhou Port, and the Zhenjiang Port among others.
  • During Ancient times, Emperors would travel along the Grand Canal to see to it that the locks are properly inspected. This was a way for Emperors to prevent Northern invaders especially the Mongols from entering the city.
  • The Grand Canal was a source of taxes for the Chinese Government. It was also a top conduit of important commodities such as grain and salt.

When was the Grand Canal completed?

The construction of the Grand Canal was completed in 609 A.D.

How long was the construction of the Grand Canal?

Numerous accounts say that it took more than six years to build the Grand Canal. It is also believed that millions of farmers were forced to work in the canals.

Course of Grand Canal

What happened to the Grand Canal after the floods at the Yellow River?

Parts of the Grand Canal suffered great damage following the floods in the Yellow River in 1855.

Who started the construction of the Grand Canal?

The construction of the Grand Canal began during the Sui dynasty through the orders of Emperor Yang.

Emperor Wen

According to Chinese scholars, Emperor Yang wanted a more efficient and quicker way of shipping grain to Beijing.

He subsequently linked the existing canals and extended them from Beijing to Hangzhou.