China, with nearly 5,000 years of recorded history, is the cradle of one of the oldest civilizations in the world and is a fascinating land filled with rich cultural heritages and stunning natural beauty. Chinese people have long years’ experience in managing their water system and like to name their canal with the second name of the person who was in charge of building the canal at that time.
There are three famous water conservancy projects in China and the oldest one is as early as the 486 B.C. Although established long years ago, those water conservancy projects still play important roles in local peoples’ life. Let’s have a look of them:
The Grand Canal, is a marvelous irrigation project of ancient China as well as the oldest and the longest man-made canal in the world. The canal comes from Beijing in north to Hangzhou in south with stretching 1,794 kilometers long and surpasses both the Suez and Panama canals. After the canal was built, it makes 6 provinces linked together and flows to the Haihe, Yellow, Huaihe, and Qiantang and Yangtze River.
As early as the 486 B.C., the canal was first cut near Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, to make the waters of the Yangtze River and Huaihe link together. And from 7th century in the Yuan dynasty to 13th century in the Sui Dynasty, It was finally become the Grand Canal which was the major transport artery between north and south China during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The Grand Canal, like The Great Wall, is a marvelous project in the history of Chinese civilization. It not only facilitated water transport and irrigation but also helped promote the economic and cultural exchange between north and south. At present, the northern portion of the canal is now of little use as a means of communication between north and south. It is badly built, neglected and charged with the mud-laden waters of the Yellow river. The central and southern portions of the canal are very largely used while the 800 kilometers stretching from Jiangsu to Zhejiang is year-round shipping. Taking a boat trip along the canal offers tourists a panoramic view of the landscape of typical river towns, including arched stone bridges, riverside ancient buildings and breathtaking scenery.
The Dujiangyan Dam
The Dujiangyan Dam, 56 kilometres away from Chengdu City, is located by the Mingjiang River in the west of Chengdu Plain. In 250 B.C, Li Bing, garrison commander of Shujun Prefecture, and his son organized the construction of the famed Dujiangyan. It is the greatest irrigation system which is one of the oldest in the world and still in use today. The Dujiangyan Irrigation System has been bringing great benefits to agricultural production.
The system consists of three main sections: the Fish Mouth Water-Dividing Dam, the Flying Sand Fence, and the Bottle-Neck Channel.
The Water-Dividing Dam is also called Fish mouth because it looks like the thing after which it is named. The whole dam looks like a fish, and the front dam has a circular cone shaped like a fish mouth. The Fish mouth divides the water into two parts, 40 percent running into the inner river for irrigation in Chengdu areas and 60 percent running into the outer river as the main stream.
The Flying Sand Fence links the inner and outer canals. The fence helps adjust the water lever and keep the flow of the canal within safe limits. During the high water season, when the flood along the outer canal reaches the fence, the river begins to turn round fast and soon many whirlpools are formed. The volatile whirlpools sweep away sand and pebbles and, throw them into the outer canal. At present, reinforced concrete weir has replaced the ancient fence made of huge bamboo basket with stones and pebbles.
The Bottle-Neck Channel is functioned as the throat of the running water to inner canal. It was called that because the trunk canal was cut through the mountain into two parts which link up the inner canal for irrigation. The small part is later called Li Dui, which means an isolated hill. Chengdu looks like a large bottle and the trunk canal between the mountain and the hill takes shape of the bottleneck.
Due to the success of the project, the dam automatically diverts the Mingjiang River and channels it into irrigation canals. For many years the dam has continued to make the most of the water conservancy works. Two thousand years later today, the Dujiangyan is still playing a role to irrigate the western Sichuan plain as well as avoiding flooding.
The Ling Canal is located in Xingan County, 66 kilometers north of the city of Guilin. There was a Chinese saying ‘In the north there was a Great wall, in the south there was a Ling Canal’. It enjoys the same reputation as the Great Wall.
The Canal was scientifically designed more than 2,000 years ago by Chinese ancestors. In 221 B.C., Qin shi Huang (the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty) want to launch an expedition against the South for the unification of China .In 219 B.C., the emperor ordered Shi Lu to have a canal built to facilitate transport of grain.
The canal consists of two sections, the north and the south, totaling 34 kilometers. The canal system links the Xiang Jiang, a tributary of the Yangtze, with the Li River, a branch of the Pearl River, becoming a hub of communications between Central and South China. It not only facilitated water transport and irrigation but also helped promote the economic and cultural exchange among various nationalities and advance their unity.
The project consists of a plough share head, bifurcation dams, the south section, the north section, the Qin dyke, and a spill dam and lock. Each of the parts of the canal has a specific function. The complexity of the project is more easily understood when you are overlook from the top of the mountain.
The Hai Yang He in the upper reaches of the Xiang Jiang flows down from Hai Yang Shan for 43 kilometers to reach Mei Tan (now called bifurcation pool), where there is a 500-metre bifurcation dam consisting of two sections measuring 380 and 120 meters respectively. The Dam is a bit lower than the banks of the Xiang Jiang River, so that during the high water season, the flood may flow over the top of the dam and empties into the old course of the Xiang Jiang.
The highlight of the canal is its elegant designed ploughshare, also called Hua Zui, in the shape of a ploughshare. The ploughshare divides the water of the Hai Yang River into two parts, 30 percent running into the Li River through the South Channel and 70 percent into the Xiang Jiang through the North Channel. The starting point of the South Channel is 215 meters above sea level. This means a drop of 32 meters in a 30-kilometer course.
The Ling Canal was a great water conservancy project of China in ancient times and is also one of the oldest canals in the world. Everyone will be fascinated to view such a scientifically designed canal in such complicated terrain more than 2,000 years ago.
Touring the Grand Canal, Dujiangyan Dam and the Ling Canal, no visitors can help marveling at these grand ancient water conservancy projects which show the Chinese nation is a great nation and Chinese people are industrious, talented and courageous people.
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