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.
Genghis Khan, portrait, 14th century. National Palace Museum, Taipei. Image: wikimedia.
Genghis Khan, responsible for an extension of the Grand Canal, is legendary for tactics used to expand the Mongol Empire. Expanse of this empire did have a lasting impact on the world. The Guardian reports that Khan may have drastically decreased the carbon levels in the atmosphere by the very destruction of civilizations for which he may be sometimes scorned. Khan may also have helped replenish that carbon. National Geographic reports (as of 2003) that there are roughly 16 million genetic descendants of Khan in the world today. That’s .05% of the world’s population.