Grand Canal (China)

longest canal or artificial river in the world located in China

The Grand Canal or Dayunhe or Jing–Hang Grand Canal (Chinese: 京杭大运河; pinyin: Jīng-Háng Dà Yùnhé; literally: "Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal") is the longest and oldest canal and artificial river in the world.[1]

Grand Canal of China
Length1,794 km (1,115 miles)
Construction beganSui dynasty
Start pointBeijing
End pointHangzhou
Connects toHai River, Yellow River, Huai River, Yangzi River, Qiantang River
Official nameThe Grand Canal
Criteriai, iii, iv, vi
Designated2014 (38th session)
Reference no.1443
State PartyChina
Grand Canal
"Grand Canal" in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters
Simplified Chinese大运河
Traditional Chinese大運河
Literal meaning"Great Transport River"
Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal
Simplified Chinese京杭大运河
Traditional Chinese京杭大運河
Courses of the Grand Canal

It starts in Beijing; passes through Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang; and ends in Hangzhou.

It connects China's two longest rivers: the Yellow River and Yang zi river

The oldest parts of the canal were built during the 5th century BC.

The Sui dynasty (581–618 AD) added some other parts. Between 1271–1633, the Yuan dynasty (through Guo Shoujing and others) and the Ming dynasty improved it and built parts to direct water to Beijing.

The total length is 1,776 km (1,104 mi). Its greatest height is 42 m (138 ft) near the Shandong mountains.[2]

Song Dynasty (960–1279) engineer Qiao Weiyue invented the pound lock in the 10th century. This allowed ships to travel higher and lower through the canal.[3]

The canal amazed many people throughout history including Japanese monk Ennin (794–864), Persian historian Rashid al-Din (1247–1318), Korean official Choe Bu (1454–1504), and Italian missionary Matteo Ricci (1552–1610).[4][5]

Historically, flooding of the Yellow River threatened to break the canal. During wartime the canal was even used as a weapon: the dikes of the Yellow River were sometimes broken to flood the enemy troops. But this caused disasters and hurt the economy.

The Canal has greatly improved China's economy and increased trade between the north and south. It is still used heavily to this day.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


  1. Hutchinson's Encyclopedia Archived 2012-03-23 at the Wayback Machine, Encarta[permanent dead link]. 2009-10-31.
  2. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 307.
  3. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 350–352
  4. Needham, Volume 4, Part 3, 308 & 313.
  5. Brook, 40–51.