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The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is 1,794 kilometres (1,115 miles) long with a history of over 2,500 years.  It starts at Beijing in the north and ends at Hangzhou in the south, running through Tianjin, Hebei Province, Shandong Province, Jiangsu Province, and Zhejiang Province along its way. The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal links five great rivers, the Hai River, the Huai River, the Yangtze River, the Yellow River and the Qiantang River.

On April 28 this year the canal wasre-opened and filled with water once more. It became fully operational for the first time in a century.  This legendary waterway open again.

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The Grand Canal was started in 468 BC, and went through renovations and enlargements three times in history – the ‘Spring and Autumn Period’ (770 BC-476 BC), the Sui Dynasty (581-618) and the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) respectively.

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Connecting the Wu culture to the south of the Yangtze River, the Huaiyang culture in Caoyan Metropolis, the Jinling culture, and countless past events in the vast plain north of the Yellow River, calling it “a canal with half of the history of Chinese civilization” is by no means exaggerated.

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Perhaps soon, it will be easy to cruise all the way from Beijing to Hangzhou.  What travellers are most concerned about is, of course, what scenery exists along the way.

The lake and river are the souls of Hangzhou.  Because of the existence of the Grand Canal, Hangzhou has more ambience and beauty.  

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In Hangzhou, walking aimlessly along the canal or taking a canal water bus is a good choice to see the southern starting point of the Grand Canal.

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Looking at the cargo ships and cruise ships going to and fro in the river from the bank, you will have a sense of crossing time and space.

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If Leifeng Pagoda and Baochu Pagoda are the symbols of Hangzhou Lake, then Gongchen Bridge is perhaps the key symbol of the Grand Canal and the most recommended photo spot in the Hangzhou section of the canal.

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Gongchen Bridge is the tallest and longest stone arch bridge in Hangzhou. The bridge is 98 meters long and 16 meters high. The middle section of the bridge is slightly narrow, but it is also 5.9 meters wide.

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This is a three-hole stone arch bridge, which was built in the fourth year of Emperor Chongzhen, last Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1627–44) of the Ming dynasty.  After several ups and downs, it was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912). There is a pair of water-town mythical beasts on each side of the bridge, and the style is clumsy but charming.

The many ancient bridges constitute the most important historical landscape on the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal.  From Gongchen Bridge in Hangzhou to Baodai Bridge in Suzhou and Qingming Bridge in Wuxi, there are many ancient bridges worth visiting by travellers.

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The most famous city on the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal must be Yangzhou. Everywhere the canal is a living epic. Yangzhou is the climax of this epic.

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The Grand Canal of China was listed on the World Heritage List in 2014. It has a huge cultural heritage spanning 8 provinces and 35 cities. Yangzhou is the leading city.   In 606–607, during the reign of the Yangdi emperor (604–617/618), it became the southern terminus of the canal system built to link the Yangtze and Huai valleys with the capital cities of Luoyang and Chang’an (present-day Xi’an).

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From Dongguan Street to the end is the Grand Canal. Slender West Lake, Heyuan, Lu’s ancient house, etc. are all famous landmarks along the canal.

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In Yangzhou, we can’t miss the China Grand Canal Museum, which opened in June 2021.

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Many cities along the route have established museums displaying the history of their part of the canal.  The national museum in Yangzhou shows every detail of the whole Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal.

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The Grand Canal Museum of China has more than 10,000 ancient books, calligraphy and paintings, inscriptions, ceramics, metals, miscellaneous and other cultural relics reflecting the theme of the canal from the Spring and Autumn Period to the contemporary times.

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The first section of the Grand Canal of China began in Huai’an because of its water.  Chinese mythology recounts that Yu the Great, the Chinese leader with a legendary ability for flood control techniques, was constantly taming the Huai River here in the Huai’an area. Traces of the activities of ancient Chinese living about 5000 to 6000 years ago have been found in the area.

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Huai’an, and its canal, has a history of more than 2,500 years. Especially during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, important institutions were set up here, which also made Huai’an the capital of the Canal of China.

The reason why Jiangsu has become the province with the largest number of cultural heritage sites listed in the Grand Canal is that Huai’an has also contributed so much.

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The Li Canal, with a length of more than 30 kilometres, is the earliest section of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and the mother river of the Huai’an people.

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The local canal corridor has two world cultural heritage areas, one heritage river channel and five heritage sites. The canal is a must-do way to experience Huai’an.

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From Qingjiangpu, along the way, it passes Zhongzhou Island, Qingjiangpu Tower, Qingjiang Gate, Shimatou Bridge, Changying Bridge, Long March Bridge and other scenic spots. The whole journey takes about 40 minutes, and the buildings appear as in a dream.

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Continuing northbound, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal passes through Shandong, but the canal here presents a quite futuristic temperament.  Jining is prosperous because of water.

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The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal connected into Jining in the Yuan Dynasty. This dynasty was established by Mongol nomads that ruled portions and eventually all of China from the early 13th century to 1368.  Mongol suzerainty eventually also stretched throughout most of Asia and eastern Europe, though the Yuan emperors were rarely able to exercise much control over their more distant possessions.

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The initial river channel was also quite different from that of the present. During the Ming Dynasty, the Nanwang hub was built, and the river channel changed again.

Today, the Grand Canal still retains the river channel of the ancient canal in the main urban area of Jining. On the bank of the canal, you can also see the prosperous marks left by the canal, such as Bamboo Pole Lane, Taibai Tower, Szhakou South Street, Dongda Temple and other cultural relics.

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However, the most recognizable one at present is this Jining Art Museum.

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The art museum was designed by internationally renowned architect, Liwei Nishizawa. Overlooking the whole picture, it is not only like a lotus leaf, but it is also a little like a white cloud that originated in the river. But no matter from which perspective you know it, you can feel the ancient charm and representative oriental elements at the first time.

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If you want to visit the art gallery, you should take a tour of Taibai Lake Scenic Area.

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Every midsummer, thousands of lotus flowers bloom in Taibai Lake echoing the lotus leaf image of the art gallery. Whether you walk in it or take a speedboat or an antique boat in the park to float on the canal, you will relish the experience.

Cangzhou has the longest mileage of the 20 cities through the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, with a total length of 253 kilometres.

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On April 28, the gates at the north and south ends of the South Canal, an important section of the Canal flowing through Cangzhou, were opened. Water from the Yellow River, Yangtze River Water, Yuecheng Reservoir, Local Water, Reclaimed Water and Rainwater Converged, and the Cangzhou South Canal flowed again after a long time.


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The sphinx faces south, the head is southwest, the left feet are in front, and the two right feet are behind. It is forward. The posture is majestic and struts high. It is called the “Zhenhai Roar“. It is said that it was built to curb the tsunami flood. It is the oldest and largest cast iron lion in China.

Beijing is a city floating on the canal. The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal reaches the end of the canal transportation when it arrives in Beijing. The lighthouse standing at the northern end of the University area is a symbol guiding navigators to Beijing in ancient times.

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Living in Beijing, the imprint of the Grand Canal appears more and more frequently in the sight of ordinary people. Living in Tongzhou, Xihaizi Park, Tongzhou Grand Canal Forest Park, Canal Culture Square, etc., where the “Three Temples and One Tower” are located, are all first choice for weekend fun.

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Through the Yu River to the Shicha Sea, you will also reach another end of the Grand Canal. In summer, you can sit by the old route of the Yu River for coffee and look for the last “mythical beast” before the canal water flows into the Shicha Sea at Wanning Bridge.


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We based this post on an article in Ifeng.

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Wanlikhang

Wanlikhang