Chambered locks area a common feature on canals around the world. The first one, however, was located on the Grand Canal in China, dating back to 983 A.D. A lock is a mechanism for moving a boat or ship up or down an elevated portion of a river. The boat enters the first chamber of the lock, which is sealed by watertight gates at either end. The water level then rises or falls to the level of the second chamber, depending on the direction the boat is trying to go: upriver, the chamber fills; downriver, the chamber empties. Once the desired level is reached, the gate in front of the boat opens and the process is repeated. Below is an image of a modern lock from the lower elevation.
Locks on the Ottowa River, from The New York Times, at nytimes.com.
Aerial view of China’s Three Gorges Dam; photograph source, Mount Holyoke College, at mtholyoke.edu.
Water has played an important role in Chinese history and continues to be a vital resource today, as evidenced by the value placed on the Grand Canal throughout the dynasties and today. In 2011, however, a severe drought left many without water, particularly in the middle and lower Yangtze River areas. The drought reached as far east as Beijing, stranding boats along the Grand Canal with no water to travel upon. To alleviate some of the distress, water was released from the Three Gorges Dam, a hydroelectric plant in the Hubei province. for more information on the drought, its impact, and efforts to help its victims, please visit : http://www.china-sd.com/News/2011-5/24_6363.html
Composed for the Chinese government, Zhou Tian’s “The Grand Canal Symphonic Suite” is a 45-minute, 7-movement piece celebrating the oldest and longest canal in the world. In 2010 it was chosen to be the theme music for the Shanghai World Expo. Below is a clip from Tian’s work from that Expo.
The Mongol Empire, from Minneapolis Institute of Art, at artsmia.org.
Genghis Khan, responsible for an extension of the Grand Canal, is often vilified for the brutal tactics used to expand his Mongol Empire. As one might imagine, the expanse of this empire did have a lasting impact on the world, although perhaps not as violent as one might imagine. The UK newspaper, The Guardian, reports that Khan may have drastically decreased the carbon levels in the atmosphere by the very destruction of civilizations for which he is so scorned. Unfortunately for his eco-reputation, he also may have helped to replenish that carbon supply over time. National Geographic reports (as of 2003) that there are roughly 16 million male descendants of Khan living in the world today! That’s .05% of the world’s population. When one considers how much of the globe The Mongol Empire covered, it really should come as little surprise that he has so many long lost family members.