Construction of the Grand Canal and Improvement in Transportation in Late Imperial China

  •  Sui-wai Cheung    


In this paper, I outline how different major segments of the Grand Canal were built in the Ming and Qing periods. It is necessary to note that the construction was extremely arduous. It was over 1,700 kilometers long, crossing the four provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Many of its segments were built on uneven slopes, which added great hardship in maintaining navigable water levels. Because of these construction difficulties, the construction of the Canal was a continuous project for three centuries, starting from the early fifteenth century and ending with the late seventeenth. I show that in this long process of the construction how the Ming and Qing governments solved the problems they met, and finally succeeded in improving the transportation between northern and central China. I also discuss whether the Grand Canal was the major factor which stimulated the growth of long-distance trade between northern and central China.

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