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Definition: Grand Canal from Philip's Encyclopedia

Ancient inland waterway in NE China, between Beijing and Hangzhou. The first part, between the Yangtze and Huai Ho rivers, was built in the 6th century bc. It was extended to Hangzhou in the 6th century ad and to Beijing by Kublai Khan in the 13th century. Total length: c.1,600km (1,000mi).


Summary Article: Grand Canal from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

The world's longest canal, running north from Hangzhou to near Beijing, China; 1,600 km/1,000 mi long and 30–61 m/100–200 ft wide. The earliest section was completed in 486 BC; the central section linking the Chang Jiang and Huang He rivers was built from AD 605 to 610; and the northern section was built between 1282 and 1292 during the reign of Kublai Khan.

History The Grand Canal was once one of the most important means of communication in China. It was originally devised to supplement the deficiencies of the road system; the Chinese Da Yunhe means ‘great transport river’. The section of the canal from the Chang Jiang to the Huai River was opened in about 500 BC. It was extended from the Chang Jiang to Hangzhou, capital of the Southern Song dynastic period, early in the 7th century; and to the north in the 13th century, linking the fertile agricultural areas of the Chang Jiang basin to Beijing and the north of China, after Kublai Khan made Beijing capital of the Yuan dynasty.

In the 18th century the canal required protection from sudden flooding, and a double series of lakes was created on its western side to enable surplus waters to discharge and flood the land beyond. The main body of the canal empties its waters into the Chang Jiang.

In the latter part of the 19th century major portions of the canal fell into disuse, although between 1958 and 1964 the section south of the Chang Jiang was repaired and modernized. In the 1980s pumping stations were built to lift water from the Chang Jiang into the section north of the river to improve navigation in the stretch crossing northern Jiangsu province. Today it is used for transport and tourism, although only half of the canal is seasonally navigable.

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