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China’s Grand Canal

China's lifeline

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Grand Canal China

The Great Wall is only one of many impressive projects courtesy of Chinese civilization. The lesser-known Grand Canal is a 1,794-kilometre-long waterway between Beijing and Hangzhou. Construction began in the fifth century BC. Although large parts of the canal are no longer in use, there are still many attractions along the way.

Grand Canal China

The Great Wall is only one of many impressive projects courtesy of Chinese civilization. The lesser-known Grand Canal is a 1,794-kilometre-long waterway between Beijing and Hangzhou. Construction began in the fifth century BC. Although large parts of the canal are no longer in use, there are still many attractions along the way.

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Beijing’s green patch

The north end of the canal is located in Tongzhou, eastern Beijing. In the past, the waterway brought great prosperity and economic activity to this area. Today, city residents flock to the parks along the canal to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

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Keren Su/China Span / Alamy Stock Photo
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Keren Su/China Span / Alamy Stock Photo

There are many walking and biking routes through Tongzhou Grand Canal Park, Yunhe Ecology Park and Dayuhe Forest Park. The village of Songzhuang is quite something to see. This community is home to over 2,000 artists, all who create and exhibit their work here. Nowhere else in China will you find this many artists per square kilometre.

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jeremy sutton-hibbert / Alamy Stock Photo
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Weishan’s lotus lakes

Just southwest of Qufu lies the vast Weishan Lake, birthplace of the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius. These four interconnected lakes are part of the Grand Canal and together they form the largest fresh water reserve in northern China. 

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National Geographic Creative / Alamy Stock Photo
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National Geographic Creative / Alamy Stock Photo

In summer, the region is truly magical as parts of the lake are covered with flowering lotuses. The small island of Weishan is also home to a large number of historical monuments, such as the Railway Guerrilla-Monument, in memory of an important battle in the war with Japan.

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China's Venice

To the southeast of Suzhou are a number of picturesque water villages that connect to the canal. Surrounded by water and boasting numerous canals, each claims to be the Venice of China. Zhouzhuang, the largest and most famous water village, is probably entitled to the moniker. Thanks to its excellent geographical location, the village has always been a prosperous distribution centre of silk, ceramics, art and crafts.

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The centuries-old merchant houses and bridges have been well maintained and restored. The village is located near Shanghai and gets pretty busy on weekends. A visit to the charming water village of Tongli is a quieter alternative.

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Colourful terminus

The almost four-hundred-year-old Gongchen Bridge in Hangzhou marks the end of the canal. Here the waterway is still an important economic lifeline and the huge cargo ships that sail here attest to this. In the north of the city, the water flows through Xiao He Zhi Jie, a long street full of historic homes. Like various other historical sites along the canal, this nostalgic piece of Hangzhou has been thoroughly restored in the last decade.

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