Grand Canal (China)

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The Grand Canal in China (simplified Chinese: 大运河; traditional Chinese: 大運河; pinyin: Dà Yùnhé), 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.[1] 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).[2] 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).[3] The canal's size and grandeur won it the admiration of many throughout history, including the Japanese monk Ennin (794–864), the Persian historian Rashid al-Din (1247–1318), the Korean official Choe Bu (1454–1504) and the Italian missionary Matteo Ricci (1552–1610).[4][5]

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.


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