the Grand Canal's Application for the World Cultural Heritage
Section in Jiangsu Province
2008-7-22 9:40:37ĦĦHits1739

    The Grand Canal is about 1,794 kilometres long, including 690 kilometres within Jiangsu Province, about two fifths of its total length. It could be divided into seven sections, of which three are located in Jiangsu Province, namely the Middle Canal Section north of Huai'an, Inner Canal Section from Huai'an to Yangzhou, and Jiangnan Canal Section south of Zhenjiang. The Canal traverses eight (Xuzhou, Suqian, Huai'an, Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, Changzhou, Wuxi, Suzhou) of the 3 cities directly under the jurisdiction of Jiangsu Provincial Government, whose river valley amounts to two thirds of the Province's total area. Jiangsu Province is regarded as the cradle of the Grand Canal. According to Zuozhuan, Fuchai, the king of Wu excavated Han'gou between the Yangtze River and Huaihe River in 486 BC after he defeated the kingdoms of Yue and Chu. The later generation wisely used the river course when excavating the Grand Canal. Till today, the sites of ancient Han'gou still can be seen in Yangzhou of Jiangsu Province. Accordingly, the history of using the Grand Canal can be traced back to 2,492 years ago in Jiangsu where the earliest section of the Canal can be found. In addition, the Grand Canal valley is also the key area where the historic and cultural heritages of Jiangsu Province can be found. To be more specific, five of seven noted historic and cultural cities at national level, three of six noted historic and cultural cities at provincial level, five of seven noted historic and cultural towns at national level, 11 of 13 noted historic and cultural towns at provincial level and one of three noted historic and cultural reserves at provincial level are situated along the Grand Canal. In addition, a large proportion of about 10,000 cultural heritages on the ground (of which 2,890 have been listed as the historic sites under protection by governments at all levels) are located at the Canal valley. Owing to the developed water system in Jiangsu, a large number of rivers can be connected with the Grand Canal. Accordingly, the tangible cultural heritages concerning the Grand Canal account for an absolutely high proportion in the province.

    The Grand Valley Canal is key to the economic and cultural development in Jiangsu Province. As a transportation artery connecting south and north, the Canal played an important role in economic and cultural exchanges and development between these two regions. In the Tang Dynasty, the Jianghuai Region where the Grand Canal traverses had evolved into the central area for collecting taxes, which was typically embodied in the old saying of "nine tenths of today's taxes comes from Jiangnan". Xuzhou, Huai'an, Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, Wuxi and Suzhou are all important towns and distributing centres of materials of strategic importance and various commodities. In particular, Yangzhou had become an important port of "Marine Silk Road" in ancient China, the largest metropolis in Southeast China and one of the four greatest trade ports in the Tang Dynasty, as well as the salt and grain transportation center by water in the Qing Dynasty. Huai'an area, as a strategic port along the Grand Canal, has created a record of transporting eight million Dan (unit of dry measure for grain in China, roughly equivalent to 1 hectolitre) in a year, therefore enjoying the reputation of "transport centre of nine provinces". In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Governor-General's Office of South River Course had been established in Huai'an area; the Governor's Office of Grain Transport by Water was set up in Chuzhou. The heads of the two offices were mandarins of the second rank in the court. Huai'an and Xuzhou were called "four granaries in the country" along with Linqing and Dezhou in Shandong Province. Wuxi was developed into a well-known and extremely prosperous cloth port, silk market and one of the four rice markets in China which gathered businessmen all over China. As early as in the Song Dynasty, Suzhou had been reputed as an oriental water city and was well-known for its prosperous economy, wealthy people and unique sceneries, which was best illustrated in the poem of "390 bridges with red handrail cross over green waters running from south to east and from south to north". In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Suzhou was the largest commercial centre in China and was known as "the largest metropolis east of the Yangtze River". The Grand Canal laid a solid foundation for the economic and cultural construction of the areas where the Canal traverses, and still has a significant impact on these areas.

The World Cultural Heritage Joint Bidding Office of the Grand Canal , all rights reserved (2007-2008)
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