China News Agency, Beijing, December 4th: How did the canal become the common language of chinadialogue?

  ——Interview with Wang Ming, Executive Director of Beijing Cultural Heritage Research Center, Capital Normal University

  China News Agency reporter Du Yan and Chen Hang

  As one of the oldest canals in the world, the Grand Canal in China has been going on for more than 2,500 years, connecting the north and the south, connecting the past and the present, and leading to the future.

On June 22, 2014, the Grand Canal of China was officially included in the "World Heritage List", becoming the sixth World Heritage Canal.

  How did the Millennium Canal become the link of political, economic and cultural connections?

How to communicate the Silk Road and connect the world?

How will the canal become a common language for dialogue between China and the world, carrying the long history of clouds and smoke to modern times?

Wang Ming, executive director of the Beijing Cultural Heritage Research Center of Capital Normal University and associate professor of the School of History of Capital Normal University, recently accepted an exclusive interview with China News Agency "East and West" to provide an in-depth analysis of this.

Video: [West Question] Wang Ming: How did the canal become the common language of chinadialogue?

Source: China News Network

The interview transcript is summarized as follows:

China News Agency reporter: The Grand Canal of China was first built in the Spring and Autumn Period. It winds for 3,200 kilometers. What is its unique value?

Wang Ming:

According to the "World Canal Dictionary" published in 2021, there are about 1,100 canals and more than 4,000 canal cities in the world.

  The Grand Canal of China is one of the oldest canals in the world and was built in the Spring and Autumn Period.

It is composed of three major parts: the Sui and Tang Dynasties Grand Canal, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, and the Eastern Zhejiang Canal, with a total length of 3,200 kilometers and spanning 8 provinces.

On June 22, 2014, the Grand Canal of China was officially included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, becoming the sixth World Heritage Canal, including 27 sections of waterways and 58 heritage sites.

Cargo ships transporting various materials on the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal (Huai'an section) shuttle back and forth, which is very busy.

Photo by Zhao Qirui

  The canal heritage projects included in the "World Heritage List" include the Canal du Midi in France, the Central Canal in Belgium, the Rideau Canal in Canada, the Ponte Swarte Waterway Bridge and Canal in the United Kingdom, and the 17th-century canal ring area in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. These canals in Europe and the United States Many of them were excavated before and after the industrial revolution, representing different periods and different stages of technological development, and they are all models of water conservancy planning and engineering technology during the industrial revolution.

  Different from canals in Europe and the United States, the Grand Canal in China is a masterpiece of water conservancy projects in the era of agricultural civilization. It is a huge water conservancy project system excavated by the state and managed by the government in history. The universal value is the crystallization of Chinese wisdom.

  The Grand Canal of China has witnessed the formation, development, decline and the resulting influence of the Chinese canal water transport system.

The canal and water transportation system undertakes the important function of grain transportation, connects the political center in the north and the economic center in the south, and deepens the unified pattern of the Chinese nation.

It can be said that the Grand Canal of China has played an important historical role in shaping the community with a shared future for the Chinese nation.

Tongzhou, Beijing, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, the sub-center section of Beijing City.

Photo by Zhang Tao

China News Agency reporter: How does the Grand Canal promote communication between China and the world?

Wang Ming:

Canals are born and live because of luck.

In my opinion, the connection between China's Grand Canal and the world is due to "inner circulation" and "outer circulation".

  The so-called internal circulation refers to the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, which has been running through the whole line since the Yuan Dynasty, connecting the five major water systems of the Haihe River, the Yellow River, the Huaihe River, the Yangtze River, and the Qiantang River from south to north.

Further, the domestic land transportation and sea transportation are connected through the five major water systems.

At the same time, the Grand Canal, as an important channel for transporting grain from the south to the north, played an important role in military and political aspects, and was the lifeblood of the dynasties.

Taking the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties as an example, grain and materials from the south were transported to Tongzhou via the Grand Canal and sea, some grain was transported to the capital via the Tonghui River, and most of the grain was sent directly to Gonghuacheng and Juyongguan in Changping along the Wenyu River, or along the tidal Baihe was sent to Gubeikou Town in Miyun to guarantee the food and salaries of the soldiers guarding the Great Wall.

In this way, the Grand Canal connects the north and south of the river and the inside and outside of the Great Wall in China, forming a domestic cycle.

  The so-called outer circulation means that the Grand Canal connects the Land Silk Road with Luoyang and Xi’an as important nodes, connects the Maritime Silk Road with Yangzhou, Ningbo and other cities as important nodes, and connects Quanzhou, Fuzhou, Guangzhou and other important “streets” through the water and land transportation system. Sea Silk" main port, and then connect the world.

In addition, since the Yuan Dynasty, with the establishment of Beijing as the capital of the unified dynasty and the opening of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, Tongzhou, a hub city at the northern end of the canal, has become the "East Gate of the Capital".

Tongzhou goes west through Zhangjiakou to the northern grasslands, and then extends to the trade routes of Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, connecting with the northern grassland Silk Road.

As a result, the Grand Canal extends through the "Silk Road" system to form an outer circulation.

Yangzhou China Grand Canal Museum.

Photo by Yang Bo

  Through the above important trunk lines, the Grand Canal of China promotes economic, cultural and artistic exchanges between the north and the south, becomes a flowing blood vessel that influences the development of the country and nation, and also serves as a link for exchanges and mutual learning between Chinese civilization and other civilizations.

  For example, through this link, ancient Chinese, treasures, etc. arrived abroad.

The Wenfeng Pagoda in Yangzhou used to be a symbol of water and land transportation in and out of Yangzhou. In the Tang Dynasty, monk Jianzhen traveled eastward to Japan six times, and several times he set off from there to the river and sea.

The shipwreck of the Tang Dynasty "Black Stone" discovered in Indonesian waters is an important evidence of trade and cultural exchanges between China and Southeast Asia and the Middle East in the first half of the ninth century, revealing the bustling occasions of the Maritime Silk Road at that time.

  Communication is two-way.

Countless travelers, envoys and missionaries from various countries came to China through the Grand Canal.

According to the description in "Marco Polo's Journey", Marco Polo came to China as a businessman along the Silk Road with his father and uncle. Yangzhou, Suzhou, Hangzhou and other cities along the canal became important contents in the travel notes. Show the image of China with vast territory, abundant resources, prosperous culture and education to the world.

For another example, the Italian missionary Matteo Ricci and the British envoy Macartney Mission came to China through the Grand Canal, bringing astronomy, mathematics, medicine, etc., and spreading them along the Grand Canal.

The "Epic of the Earth-China Grand Canal Theme Art Exhibition" exhibited in Hangzhou attracted visitors.

Photo by Wang Gang

Reporter from China News Agency: People often say, "Without the Grand Canal, there would be no Beijing city" and "Beijing city is a floating city".

What did the Grand Canal bring to Beijing?

Wang Ming:

As the backbone of transportation between the north and the south of China, the Grand Canal has promoted the exchanges of commerce, personnel, skills and folk customs between the north and the south on the basis of water transportation.

In particular, Ming Chengzu Zhu Di moved the capital to Beijing, which made Beijing's political center more stable.

  People often say a word - "The city of Beijing is floating here", which vividly expresses the special role of the Grand Canal in supporting the capital.

Through the Grand Canal, rice, silk, tea, and fruits from the south enriched the lives of the people in the capital. Even the gold bricks, tribute bricks, and nanmu used to build the Forbidden City were transported to the capital through the Grand Canal.

Therefore, the Grand Canal became the preferred transportation channel for the capital's needs, and the city of Beijing prospered because of the canal.

  In Beijing, taking Tongzhou as an example, the material cultural heritage related to the Grand Canal is very rich, including wharf ruins, ancient city ruins, river course ruins, granary ruins, sluice dam ruins, and bridges, guild halls, post stations and other ancient buildings related to water transportation remains.

At the same time, the intangible cultural heritage related to the Grand Canal is also brilliant.

The "Four Great Masterpieces" of Chinese classical novels and the birth of Peking Opera are inextricably linked with the canal.

The Tongzhou canal boatman's chant, which has been passed down to the present, is characterized by "the water is stable, the words are not in a hurry, the words have a Tongzhou flavor, the northern tune contains the southern tune, and the idle number is unique", becoming a folk music form with Beijing characteristics.

  A Grand Canal also brings out different flavors in the fusion of northern and southern cuisines.

Take the famous "Beijing Roast Duck" as an example. According to legend, the skill of southern roast duck was to enter Beijing along the canal when Emperor Chengzu Zhu Di moved the capital.

Today, the "roast duck for the imperial court" not only flies into the homes of ordinary people, but also "flies" to all parts of the world.

  Therefore, the Grand Canal, a river of transportation, is also known as a river of politics, economy, and culture, and has had a huge and long-lasting impact on the development of Beijing.

The cruise ship sets sail from the Xianghe Central Wharf in the northern section of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, and sails upstream to the Yangwa Ship Lock in Beijing.

Photo by An Qingsong

China News Agency reporter: How to polish the cultural "golden business card" of the Grand Canal, and tell the story of China's Grand Canal to the world?

Wang Ming:

The Grand Canal is a witness to China's historical development and a corridor for displaying Chinese civilization.

The flowing canal connects the exchanges and mutual learning between the Chinese nation and different civilizations in the world.

  The Grand Canal has been flowing for thousands of years.

Today, some functions of the Grand Canal have gradually withdrawn from the stage of history, but the functions of shipping, water conservancy, and irrigation are still continuing, and they are full of vitality in the new era.

  Taking Beijing as an example, the water environment of the Grand Canal has continued to improve, the river basin has regained its vitality, and many new histories have been created.

This year, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal achieved the first full-line water flow in a century, and the 62-kilometer Beijing-Hebei section of the Grand Canal realized interconnection. It will also be basically completed within the year.

Beijing will continue to promote the construction of a river of culture, ecology, development, people's livelihood, and integration, so that more people can experience the timeless cultural charm of the Grand Canal immersively.

  According to statistics, there are about 1,100 canals running in hundreds of countries around the world.

The demand for canal culture exchanges between different regions and countries is increasing day by day. How to inherit and carry forward the canal culture has become an international consensus, and the canal will become a common language for international exchanges and dialogues.

  Canal culture is a fluid and living civilization, and an important carrier of communication between the past and the future.

In my opinion, to inherit the canal culture well, it is necessary to protect the cultural landscape formed by people and nature along the river, to excavate the ancient villages and buildings along the river, and to leave the oral history and traditional skills along the river. All are vivid and fresh, and can be integrated into modern life.

We need to allow more people, especially young people, to have an in-depth understanding of the heritage and connotation of the canal culture, to attract them to join the ranks of protecting and inheriting the canal culture, to carry forward and continue the canal culture spontaneously, and to confidently tell the world about China. canal story.


Respondent profile:

  Wang Ming, associate professor and master supervisor of the School of History, Capital Normal University.

Head of Cultural Heritage Department of Capital Normal University, Executive Director of Beijing Cultural Heritage Research Center, Director of Beijing History Research Association.

Mainly engaged in the research of ancient Chinese ritual history, medieval tomb archeology, Beijing cultural heritage, especially the Grand Canal heritage, intangible cultural heritage and other fields.

Published more than 40 papers in "Chinese History Research", "Archaeology", "Chinese Literature and History Essays", presided over 2 National Social Science Fund projects, 2 provincial and ministerial projects, and co-edited 6 volumes.