The Ancient Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is the world’s longest and oldest canal. As one of the symbols of Chinese culture, it is well-known as one of the “The Three Greatest Engineering Projects”, along with the Great Wall of China and Karez (a subterranean water system) in ancient China.
In ancient China, the canal contributed a lot to the development and communication of culture and economy, especially the agriculture economy between south and north area. In 2002, the canal was listed into the south-to-north water diversion engineering of the three-line project.
The 1,797 km canal starts in Hangzhou and crosses through four provinces including Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong and Hebei, two cities including Tianjing and Beijing and five main water systems including the Haihe River, Yellow River, Huai River, Yangtze River and Qiantang River.
Suzhou and Hangzhou section of Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is the start section of the whole canal. travelersAlong this section, the typical style of south of Yangtze River with a plenty of ancient buildings on both sides of the canal and old bridges are true gems.
What to Do
Gongchen Bridge (拱宸桥) is the very start of the canal. Under the bridge, there are four mysterious carved creatures on four blocks of stones. The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal Museum is just near the bridge and the canal Square, which is a good place to know about the history and culture of the canal.
On the other side of the bridge, there are China Fan Museum, China Knife and Scissors and Sword Museum and China Umbrella Museum.
The Fan Museum and the Umbrella Museum show many different kinds of fans and umbrellas. Hangzhou is also famous for the nice quality and beautiful style of umbrellas. In ancient China, paper is an important material to make fan and umbrella. To decorate them, they were all well painted with beautiful paintings.
In China Knife and Scissors and Sword Museum, travelers interested in the tools of ancient people’s life and the cold weapon age will find some interesting details. Varies designs of scissors and cold weapons will pull you back to the old age.
Streets and Buildings
The old streets and buildings are highlights along the canal. Go along the river, there stands the Xiaohezhi Street (小河直街) , which is a historical culture street. It preserves the traditional living and commercial function with many small shops nearby.
It is a good place for travelers to have a rest. Just sit relaxed in a traditional style bar and have a cup of tea while watching the ships rowing or sailing on the canal.
Dadou Road (大兜路) is also a historical culture section in Hangzhouand the well-known Xiangji Temple (香积寺) is there. It is the first temple and also the last one that visitors travelerswill see when visiting and leaving Hangzhou. A variety of special restaurants on Dadou Road in traditional styles are provided.
Jiangshu Railway Heritage Park nearby tells the rare-know history that once the steam trains were ran on the canal through the first railway in Zhejiang.
When the night falls on the city, the place shows a totally different side. Travelers In the daytime, the old streets and buildings are in modern style. While at night, the place brings the visitors back to the past. The lanterns hanging on the buildings are not just for decoration, they are also used for lighting. The red and yellow light giving out from the red lanterns shine the old streets, adding to ancient China ambience.
From the river side, the colorful lights are decorated on the trees, bridges and buildings. Travelers will see the reflections in the water. It seems that there is another same world in the water.
Suzhou is known as “Oriental Venice” in China. Compared to “the water village or water town of the south of Yangtze River”, it is more appropriate to describe it as “the water city of the south of Yangtze River”. It is the second stop of Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal.
Scenic and Historical Boat Ride
As a water city, it is a good way to enjoy the beautiful sight by boat. The houses on both sides are preserved well and the traditional lifestyle is still remained. It is interesting to see the locals washing clothes and vegetables in the river, which is a big different from what are saw in the city.
As the night scene in Hangzhou, Suzhou also boasts a colorful night. Compared to the traditional night scene in Hangzhou, Suzhou is more modern.
Delicious local food plays an important role when visiting a city. Hairy crab of Yangcheng Lake (阳澄湖) is very famous. The best season to eat the crab is from September to December when the crabs mature at that time.
Besides, silverfish of Taihu Lake (太湖) , waxberry of Dongting Lake (洞庭湖) , spiced salt steak and a variety of steamed stuffed buns are also very tasty.
Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is an important way of transportation. Visitors also can take a water-bus to travel in Hangzhou and Suzhou.