Construction of the Grand Canal and Improvement in Transportation in Late Imperial China
About the author:
Cheung Sui Wai is the director of the Research Centre for Ming-Qing Studies at the Research Institute for the Humanities, and an associate professor at the Department of History of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Dr. Cheung’s educational background bridges two academic environments: Asia and Europe. He graduated as a history major from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and continued his study on Sinology at the University of Oxford. Now, his research mainly focuses on agricultural history, financial history, land history and local societies in Shandong in late imperial China.
Abstract of the article:
This paper outlines how different segments of the Grand Canal were built in the Ming and Qing periods. The Ming government decided to rebuild the canal because of the complications of long-distance trade between northern and central China during the 14th century. The construction of the canal was extremely difficult. It was over 1700 kilometres long, crossing four provinces and built on uneven slopes, which created a greater challenge to maintain navigable water levels. Because of these difficulties, the construction of the canal was a continuous project for three centuries, from the early 15th century until the late 17th. This paper shows how the Ming and Qing governments solved the many problems they met, and finally succeeded in improving the transportation between northern and central China and reduce its cost. However, this improvement should not be overstated. In the 18th century, canal transportation was still risky and inconvenient. The paper examines the history of the Grand Canal and later developments of sea transportation in late Imperial China.