the Grand Canal's Application for the World Cultural Heritage
Section in Zhejiang Province
2008-7-22 9:43:03ĦĦHits2026

    The main riverway of the Grand Canal section in Zhejiang Province has a full length of over 00 kilometres, and extends along two lines (northern line and southern line, which both ends at Gongchen Bridge in Hangzhou. Before the ancient Yuan Dynasty, the Grand Canal ran along its Southern Line, via Hangzhou, Linping, Chang'an, Xucun, Tongxiang, and Jiaxing before entering Jiangsu Province. In the late years of the Yuan Dynasty, Zhang Shicheng had the northern line of the Grand Canal extended, thus the Grand Canal traverses Tangqi of Yuhang, Deqing, Tongxiang, and Jiaxing before entering Jiangsu Province.

    The Grand Canal section in Zhejiang Province had gained a considerable size as early as the Times of King Goujian of the State Yue in the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period. It is recorded in historical documents that, the Grand Canal section in the State Yue ran from Huiji and Qiantang River to reach the State Wu; and the Grand Canal section in the State Wu, in the northern part of Zhejiang Province, ran from Suzhou to Shimen in Jiaxing via Lingshuidao of Baichi Ditch. In that period when the State Wu fought against the State Yue, both states had relied on the Grand Canal to convey both their corps and military supplies. In the Qin Dynasty, the Jiangnan Canel linked Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province. In the Sui Dynasty, there has formed a canal-based water transportation network, which was cantered at Jiaxing. Thanks to the uninterrupted construction in the Tang and Song dynasties, the Grand Canal section in Zhejiang Province has no longer been a man-made river which remained the line type, instead, it formed a crisscross riverway system, in which the Grand Canal section in Jiang-nan Region played a leader role, and up to eight branch waterways were connected. This huge riverway system connected the Jiangnan Region, and was furnished with stronger functions in terms of water conservancy and transportation. Thanks to the great help offered by the Grand Canal, the Taihu Drainage Area become the best developed part of the then country in economic and cultural terms, hence an old saying that "the whole country gets rich once the Taihu Drainage Area embraces a heavy harvest", and another saying that "the best places on earth to live in is Suzhou and Hangzhou".

    The Grand Canal section in Zhejiang Province is endued with enviable geographical conditions, rich water resources, a widespread riverway network, and peaceful waterways. An old saying goes that "the section of the Grand Canal in Zhejiang Province has clear water and a bed that requires no dredging at all". Even now, this section is still playing a significant role in terms of water transportation. The cultural heritages along the Grand Canal section in Zhejiang Province include banks, revetments, wharfs, piers, narrow riverways, mounds, dykes, sluice valves, water separating frusta, bridges, villages, towns, city walls, mansions, monuments, personages' graves, various kinds of architectural establishments, customs building of modern times, churches, industrial and mining enterprises, and public infrastructure facilities, etc. In particular, the main riverway winds for hundreds of kilometers, and is flanked with piers, wharfs, bridges, dams, sluice valves, villages, towns and city walls. Sha-qing Valve and Luofan Ting have been important water conservancy facilities from the Sui to the Qing Dynasty, and were administered by officers sent by the then Imperial Palace; besides, mansions were built up to receive business travellers and individual tourists. Along the Grand Canal, there were originally myriad bridges, only over 100 of which still exist today. Among them, the three major representatives are Gongchen Bridge, Guangji Bridge and Changhong Bridge. Furthermore, the thin-pier and thin-arch bridges are unique in Taihu Drainage Area, where the soil is softer than that elsewhere, and demonstrate the great craftsmanship and wisdom of local labourers and technicians, by virtue of their outstanding economical efficiency and impressive beauty. Besides, there have formed a galaxy of towns and cities along the banks of the Grand Canal, which ever housed the largest density of population nationwide. Even nowadays, there have existed a number of towns and cities each with a history of hundreds/thousands of years, such as Hangzhou, Huzhou and Jiaxing, which are famous historic and cultural cities; and Xitang, Wuzhen and Xinshi, which are historic and cultural reserves. In fact, you could enjoy the almost intact production and living scenes in these splendid towns along the banks of the Grand Canal, plus their rich farm produces and nice handicrafts, such as embroidery, brush pen, paper fan and many others. Furthermore, there has been a time-honoured Dragon Boat Contest, which is held annually to salute immortals, whose existence is long believed by locals, and another customary event "Naocanhua", which are deemed now intangible cultural heritages of great value. To sum up, the Grand Canal is a world-renowned project of significance, and a symbol of the country's overall strength, as well as a great wonder in proof of the humankind's recreation of the natures; meanwhile, it has propelled the reunification, social and economic development of the country, the advancement of science and technology, and cultural prosperity.

    The section in Zhejiang Province conforms to criterion (i) through (v). As for criterion (i), the Grand Canal is a masterpiece showing the humankind's spirit of creation, and has ever had a huge influence on the development of water conservancy and transportation technologies. When it comes to criterion (ii), the Grand Canal, and its related water conservancy facilities, bridges and architectures, have demonstrated the systematic, multi-disciplinary, scientific and technological accomplishments made by the Chinese people in terms of history, art, science and technology, and also had a profound and long-lasting impact on these fields. It conforms to criterion (iii) while the building of the Grand Canal has exercised a huge and profound influence on the security and reunification of the Chinese nation, economic development and growth, innovation and advancement in science and technology, cultural fusion and prosperity, and in particular on the positive evolution of civilization in China. Thus, it has been a cultural heritage of enormous value and an emblem of the Chinese nation. As for criterion (iv), the Grand Canal is an outstanding architectural establishment or an exemplary project with its own characteristics, and a symbol of important engineering achievements of the human being during a certain period of time (from 486 B.C to 611 A.D.). Finally, the Grand Canal holds a rather high universal value in terms of social and economic factors that have outstanding universal value, which conforms to criterion (v).

    The section within Zhejiang Province has been recorded in detail in documentation since the Han Dynasty, and also preserved in good conditions, thus being still in use nowadays. Besides, a galaxy of river banks, revetments, dams, sluice valves, wharfs, and bridges have been preserved in good conditions, so have large ancient street blocks in Wuzhen, Xitang and Nanxun Towns. Moreover, a lot of cultural heritages and historical buildings have been well preserved in Hangzhou, Jiaxing and Huzhou. Along the banks of the Grand Canal, there have been excavated a large number of cultural heritages, which provide strong evidences for scientists, sociologists, historians and many other scholars to engage in the research into water conservancy, architectures, bridges, settlements, economic history, cultural history and technical history, etc. This section in Zhejiang Province has its main riverway preserved in its entirety; and a number of auxiliary water conservancy facilities are well preserved and still in operations. Besides, those settlements, towns and villages, and cultural heritages emerging along the banks of the Grand Canal have been preserved in part, thus forming a cluster of cultural heritages of great values.

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