#200-025 Numerous canals in the city of Suzhou are constantly busy with in and outbound traffic from the city center. Note the distinctive type of head covering Suzhou women are famous for. 1981, Suzhou City was listed by the State Council as one of the four cities of historical and cultural heritage protection. Since then, the city developed into one of the most prosperous one in China.
#200-010 These barges are maneuvering in a busy section of the Suzhou canal. Suzhou is a picturesque city with a rich history going back 2,500 years. When the Grand Canal was completed in about 600 AD, Suzhou became an important trade route for silk and other important products along the waterways. The area is now heavily industrialized. Trucks and modern highways have replaced many of these barges seen in 1979.
#200-007 A long string of barges are towed around a bend in the canal town of Suzhou while two stinky barges convey night soil from the town to the outlying farms. This is part of the Grand Canal that began in 600 CE and which is now the world’s longest man-made waterway. Needing to cross many rivers of varying levels, the solution was to develop water locks many centuries before their appearance in Europe.
#124-042a These are freight barges moored beside a loading crane in a tributary in Suzhou. All along the Grand Canal there are tributaries that operate similar to mainline railroads that have spur tracks that service warehouses, factories and train stations. In most places, the banks are quite low so loading and unloading by hand over gangplanks is feasible. But here the banks are so high that a crane is needed. The canals were designed to avoid silting and were well maintained during the historical period. But in the era starting with the Opium Wars of the first half of the 1800’s, then the Taiping Rebellion, the overthrow of the dynasty, the warlord period, the Japanese invasion, the civil war and the Cultural Revolution, the canal maintenance was neglected. Water stagnated and commercial use fell away. The PRC has restored the canals and now the Grand Canal is heavily trafficked for business and tourism.
#124-041 The 2700 miles of the Grand Canal system require constant maintenance. This is muck dredged from a backwater area. It will be applied to farmland to offset erosion.
#124-040b These boats are hauling human waste collected from the honey buckets in the city. They will be used for fertilizer for farms in the outskirts of Suzhou after fermenting in pits.
#124-039a Two boys hitch a mid-summer cooling ride in the world’s longest manmade waterway. Started in the 6th century CE, the Grand Canal was built to carry goods and grain from the fertile watery south to the semi-arid north. Needing to cross many rivers of varying levels, it led to the invention of nautical locks centuries ahead of Europe.
#124-037 The construction boom that began in the 1980’s required construction materials to be brought into town by canal boats from the quarries and kilns in the countryside. The loads they carried were staggering. The materials were then were off-loaded by hand.
#124-028 In ancient times, the canal system in Suzhou was ingeniously engineered to create a constant flow of water swift enough to cleanse it and prevent silting. Over 150 years of rebellion, invasion, anarchy and revolution ruined the system. The PRC reversed the decay by dredging and repairs so that today it functions as an important transportation artery as well as an attraction for tourists. This is what it looked like in 1979.
#124-022 The Maple Bridge of Suzhou was made famous during the Tang Dynasty when poet Zhang Ji (766-830 CE) wrote about it after his boat anchored there for the night. Travel in old China was mainly by boat, especially in the south, which is crisscrossed by miles of waterways.
#124-014 These motorized boats are used to transport freight on the Grand Canal. These are moored in a tributary canal in Suzhou. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century BC. It has allowed for faster trading and has improved China’s economy. The southern portion remains in heavy use to the present day. From the Tang to Qing dynasties, the Grand Canal served as the main artery between northern and southern China and was essential for the transport of grain to Beijing. Although it was mainly used for shipping grain, it also transported other commodities and the corridor along the canal developed into an important economic belt. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the canal has been used to transport vast amounts of bulk goods such as bricks, gravel, sand, diesel and coal.
#115-010 The Grand Canal in Hangzhou was begun in the 6th century CE and designed to bring grain from the fertile, water-rich south to the semi-arid power center in the north. At 2700 miles it is the longest manmade waterway in the world. It silted up from neglect during the century and a half of China’s turmoil, but the PRC invested in dredging, repair and restoration so that it now carries considerable freight traffic.
#031-006 Boats like this one in Suzhou carry freight and produce in and out of the city. In old China, waterways were the principal transportation arteries, particularly in the south and along the eastern seaboard. Now concrete highways and heavy trucks dominate.
#031-005 These boatmen in Suzhou carry produce and passengers to the cities along the Grand Canal and its tributary canal system.
#026-099 There was a surge of new construction starting in 1979 before World Bank loans and foreign investments began to take hold. Construction materials and techniques were still primitive compared to what was coming in the following decades. Here, along a canal in Suzhou, boats full of rocks for building and road construction are unloaded by hand.
#004-015 Construction of the Grand Canal started during the Sui dynasty in 605 CE. Over five million people including women and children were conscripted into the project and an estimated two million died. The canal provided for a safe inland transportation system against storms and pirates and connected the agricultural productive south to north China where the central government is located.
#004-013 Construction of China’s Grand Canal started during the Sui dynasty in 605 CE. Over five million people including women and children were conscripted into the project and an estimated two million died. The canal provided for a safe inland transportation system against storms and pirates that connected the agricultural productive south to north China where the central government is located. Today, many houses line China’s Grand Canal and its tributaries.
#004-004 China’s ancient Grand Canal is 2700 miles long. It is eleven times longer than the Panama Canal and the longest man made waterway in the world. The Grand Canal was designed to bring the harvests from the grain rich water abundant south to the power center in the north. Construction began in the sixth century CE. The PRC government has made great efforts to restore the canal to operational use as seen here near Hangzhou. Rivers in China run from west to east. The north-south canal, needing to cross many rivers at varying levels, required the Chinese to invent water locks around 900 CE. Locks first appeared in the West 400 years later.