Building the World

China’s Waterway of Destiny


Emperor Wen of Sui, by artist Yan Liben. Image, Wikimedia.

Longest artificial river in the world, China’s Grand Canal may also be the longest construction project in history. Begun by Emperor Wen of Sui (pictured above) and improved by Kublai Khan, the waterway stretches 1,1118 miles (1,800 kilometers). A new program announced in 2002, to reverse the flow of water with a south-to-north diversion to bring hydration from the moist, agricultural south to the drier north, will be completed in 2050. Scholars believe the Grand Canal may have transformed a region into a nation: the inland waterway encouraged communication among diverse groups, leading to standardization of the written form of a language that came to be called Chinese; encouraged trade and exchange; and created a common culture. The destiny of a nation, or a region, may be found in the value, and use, of its water. For more on China, visit

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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