Over the past several thousand years, the Beijing-Hangzhou canal has contributed to much of the city's prosperity, and created China's legendary ancient economic development. It's history as a main GDP artery has led many to coin the phrase, the silt building Hangzhou flows from the banks of Beijing? Macroscopically, the canal connects 24 cities and fosters millions of people; thus the economic contribution provided by this pass simply cannot be measured. It's China's number one historic Hercules.
Since the Han Dynasty, the land south of the Yangtze has become China's wealthiest and most developed region. Completion of the Hangzhou-Beijing canal during the Sui Dynasty invigorated agriculture and commerce, allowing the Yangzhou, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Zhenjiang, metropolitan area along its banks arise.
Located at the northern tip of the Yangtze river delta where the B-H canal crosses the Yangtze, Yangzhou, rests at the hub terminus locale of Chinese river commerce. Over the past decades, immaculate geographic positioning has literally paved Yangzhou's roads in gold and rained pennies from heaven. As such the Tang poet ,Zhang Kusheng, praised the city, roads vast and wells deep, under moonlight gods sleep. To live life well in Yangzhou one dies; under mountain gleam in Zen he lies? Tang and Song pearls, rice, tea, silk. Lumber, and medicine from the four corners of the globe mingled in Yangzhou and flowed back out in trade. As the great merchants of the era came to the large pearl markets of Yangzhou to sell their specialty goods, the area grew to become a cosmopolitan commercial capital of the world.
Located at the southern tip of the canal, before the Sui Hangzhou was only a small town of 15,000. After the canal's completion, however, the city rapidly became a commercial center of the south. Merchants converged from all over. Industry thrived. The 30,000 people and 20 commercial vessels at the middle of the Tang Dynasty ballooned to 1.2 million and over 400 by the Song, respectively, becoming the largest city in China. For this reason, Hangzhou was chosen as China's capital during the Southern Song Dynasty. Historically, Hangzhou has twice emerged as China's political center can be directly related to the economic environment and development brought via the canal. Conversely, this political supremacy further advanced the economic prosperity of the region.
Suzhou, found at the middle of the canal, also gained much historically from the canal. By the Tang, it was already one of southern China's largest cities, a stopping place for boats from the poetic city of Fengqiao. A Song carving depicts the vast bloom of Suzhou, its many districts, streets that ran with the canals, and widw array of markets.
Lastly Zhenjiang, found at the southern mouth of canal and Yangtze was as imperative northern passing point for grain during the Tang and Song. Tang Xuanzong Emperor renovated the canal allowing commerce to reach the capital from the city, which led to development of many handcraft and textile industries, which spanned the city from north to south. Additionally, Zhenjiang's proximity to the sea also contributed to it's status as a central harbor city.
In addition to the great cities along the canal, several other areas not directly connected but in the vicinity also develop, such as Wujiang, Taicang, Huangjing, Jiading, and Nanxiang.
After centuries of war, opening of the canal also brought growth to China's impoverished north.
For instance, Kaifeng, located at the Bian coast of the northern canal, was a historic capital of the Wei kingdom. Irrigation canals built duringthe Wei dried up at its end, thus also ending its prosperity. This changed at the B-H canal opening, which brought forth a new renaissance and emerged Kaifeng as China's capital during the Northern Song. Later, southern demand of northern fruit, date, and medicine specialties transformed Kaifeng into a necessary passing point.
Many other cities and industries followed the opening and growth of the canal from Song to Yuan to the modern day to bring prosperity and glory to all of China.
Each area along the course of the Beijing-Hangzhou canal adopted its own measures to tap and extend the power of the Yangtze. Irrigation tributaries opened up vast expanses for agriculture, and commerce arteries linked north south east and west for trade. Because of this, poets have called the Mother river. It is a historic testament and metaphor to the ingenuity and worth of markind.