The Grand Canal, 1,764 km (about 1200 miles) in length, is the longest man-made waterway as well as being the greatest in ancient China, far surpassing the next two of the world: the Suez and Panama Canals. Running from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in the south to Beijing in the north and connecting different river systems, it contributed greatly to ensure that the Chinese primary economy thrived in past dynasties. Now more than 2000 years old, some parts of the canal are still in use, mainly functioning as a water-diversion conduit.
As a major transportation hinge in past dynasties, the Grand Canal interconnected the Yangtze, Yellow, Huaihe, Haihe, and Qiantang Rivers and flowed through Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang with Hangzhou at its southernmost end. The Grand Canal, which joined the river systems from different directions, offered much facility to transport foods and goods from south to north in past times. Just as importantly, it greatly improved the administration and defense of China as a whole and strengthened economic and cultural intercourse between north and south.
Boating on the old Canal is one of the best ways to get a panoramic view of the landscape of typical river towns in southern China, which include ancient dwellings, stone bridges of traditional designs and historical relics. Experiencing some of the local customs offers much delight to travelers. Tourists also have an opportunity to enjoy good food while appreciating the surrounding scenery.
Like the Great Wall, the Grand Canal is noted as one of the most magnificent and wondrous constructions in ancient China, which can really offer one a profound look into China's fascinating, historical past.
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