The Grand Canal of Ancient China

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In eastern China, there is a man-made waterway called the Grand Canal that travels north and south. It is the world’s longest man-made canal.

How long is it?

The canal travels more than 1,100 kilometres between Beijing and Hangzhou. The canal between Beijing and Hangzhou is another name for it. The canal also links the Yangtze River and the Yellow River, China’s two largest rivers, in addition to these two significant cities.

Why was the Grand Canal constructed?

The canal was constructed to make it simple to transport grain from the abundant farmland in southern China to Beijing, the nation’s capital. The soldiers manning the northern borders were also fed thanks to the emperors.

Early Canals

Early canals were constructed in China by the ancient Chinese to aid with trade and transportation. The Han Gou Canal, constructed by Kin Fuchai of Wu in roughly 480 BC, was one of the first sections. From the Yangtze River to the Huai River, this canal was present.

The Hong Gou Canal, which connected the Yellow River and the Bian River, was another historic canal. Over a thousand years later, the Grand Canal was built on top of these prehistoric canals.

Building the Grand Canal

The Sui Dynasty is when the Grand Canal was constructed. Emperor Yang of the Sui desired a faster and more effective method of delivering grain to Beijing, his capital city. In addition, he had to feed his army, which was defending northern China from the Mongols. He made the decision to link the already-existing canals and enlarge them so that they extended from Beijing to Hangzhou.

It took a long time to build the canal. Millions of workers put in over six years’ worth of arduous effort. Yang the Emperor was a despot. He made millions of farmers labor on the canal under duress. The construction claimed the lives of many of them. However, China got a new waterway when the canal was ultimately finished in 609 AD, which would benefit the nation for hundreds of years to come.

Later Developments

Early in the fourteenth century, the Ming Dynasty reconstructed much of the canal. To control the canal’s water level, they deepened the canal, added more locks, and built reservoirs. Grain transportation remained the canal’s primary objective. This persisted for the majority of ancient Chinese history, including the Ming Dynasty.

Grand Canal Facts that Are Interesting

The earliest part of the canal, according to historians, was constructed about the sixth century BC.

Sometimes emperors would cruise the Grand Canal to examine the locks.

Over 45,000 full-time workers were reportedly required to maintain the canal during the Ming Dynasty.

Additionally, the canal served as a courier route for delivering crucial government communications.

The Chinese government used the canal to convey food to the north using more than 11,000 grain barges in the 1400s.

For the Chinese government, the Grand Canal also proved to be a superb source of revenue.

Following the Yellow River flood in 1855, some of the canal’s sections started to deteriorate.

The pound lock was developed in the Song Dynasty in 984 AD to assist in raising and lowering the canal’s water level.

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