Xi Xuesong, Student Affiliate ASLA; Chen Lin, Student Affiliate ASLA and Xu Liyan, Student Affiliate ASLA, Peking University
Faculty Advisors: Kongjian Yu, International ASLA and Dihua Li
The Grand Canal of China is the longest and oldest man-made canal in the world. However, due to lack of identification, valuation, and preservation, the canal heritage is in crisis. Combining the application of historical literature, historical maps, GIS, and field study, we tried to develop an integrated heritage identification method of the Grand Canal taking the case of Jining section, which features the highest hydro-engineering difficulty of the canal.
The Grand Canal of China is the longest and oldest man-made canal in the world with a total length of over 1,700 km (1,100 miles). It has a history of more than 2,500 years dating back to the late Spring and Autumn Period (770-221 BC). It flows from Beijing in northern China to Hangzhou in southern China, passing through all five river systems of China. As the main artery of transportation between northern and southern China, the Grand Canal has been essential for the cross-regional economic exchange and cultural communication, and thus plays a key role in maintaining the political integration and national stability of pre-modern China.
The Grand Canal flows in an area of very complicated topography, with a great shortage of water and under constant threats by the Yellow River flooding, which brings rather difficult engineering and management problems. Despite this, the Grand Canal managed to serve continuously for more than 1400 years until today, reflecting a very high level of hydro-engineering in the ancient China. Therefore, the Grand Canal, being comparable to the Great Wall, is among the most important cultural heritage in China.
However, due to lack of identification of the main body of the canal heritage, Grand Canal today is largely neglected and thus is being destructed. Switch of transportation means has marginized the canal, watercourses abandoned, and the whole Grand Canal cultural landscape system is on the edge of collapse under the pressure of rapid urbanization. As a result, promoting the public recognition of the heritage value of the Grand Canal through identifying the main body of its heritage is in urgent need, which lead to the topic of this project.
Basically, the current heritage protection system of China has left no room for ex-large scale cultural landscape heritage such as the Grand Canal, and there lacks an appreciation of the value of heritage of such kind. Moreover, the current heritage identification method commonly used in China focuses mainly on site scale and features a fieldwork-literature verification approach. This approach is based on ambiguous understanding of the composition of canal heritage, and thus when applied in the Grand Canal, it always overemphasizes on architectural heritage sites while neglecting all kinds of hydro-engineering heritage sites. For example, in a previous study of the Grand Canal heritage identification, they only identified 164 hydro-engineering sites, compared to over 600 historic architectures and tombs. This imbalanced number cannot reflect the correct proportion in the heritage composition. What’s more, affiliate hydro-engineering structures such as dykes, weirs, culverts, reservoirs, and springs were totally ignored in such methodology.
In this project, we tried to develop a new methodology for the identification and registration of the Grand Canal heritage. This new methodology lies on the following criteria. (1)Information about the heritage site in historical records and ancient maps must coincident. (2)Information about the heritage site presented in historical method and modern method must coincident. (3)Information about the heritage site gained from historical geography research and that from fieldwork must coincident. When a certain heritage site meets the criteria, it can be identified as the Grand Canal heritage. What’s more, this new methodology takes advantage of historical records and ancient maps as well as modern spatial information technologies. And we verified these sources in fieldwork so as to establish a feedback working mode.
The Jining Section of the Grand Canal, with a total present length of 586 km and a higher canal bed than any other sections, is the water peak of the whole Grand Canal, which brings about difficult engineering problems in maintaining reliable watercourse for transportation. And moreover, historically, the areas along the Jining Section were continuously threatened by the Yellow River flooding. As a result of these, the Jining Section became the most complicated and difficult section to maintain and manage. To solve these problems, countless engineering innovations were created in the section and most of them turned into precious heritage today, making the section most heritage concentrated area of the canal and thus worth studying.
Relationships Investigated & Methods of Inquiry Used
We have developed a new methodology in the identification and registration of the Grand Canal heritage. This new methodology lies on the following criteria. When a certain heritage site meets the 3 coincidence principle criteria, it can be identified as the Grand Canal heritage.
- Information about the heritage site in historical records and ancient maps must coincident.
- Information about the heritage site presented in historical method and modern method must coincident.
- Information about the heritage site gained from historical geography research and that from fieldwork must coincident.
And the methodology includes five major steps.
- Find historical records of heritage site in old records and ancient maps
To find and verify records about the Grand Canal heritage site in historical records and ancient maps is the basis of heritage identification. Examine literatures from major historical stages, and try to make clear the location function of those heritage sites.
- Establish a GIS-based working platform for heritage identification
Taking advantage of the spatial overlay and analysis functions of GIS, we collected survey maps, aero-images, and satellite images of variance stages to establish a working platform. Historical geography information of potential heritage sites was symbolized in the GIS map, and dynamic refreshment, inquiry, searching, and symbology to the database are made available.
- Reconstruction of historical scenes and pre-determination of potential heritage sites
Using the historical geography data we have reconstructed the historical scenes of crucial heritage sites in major stages, including the reconstruction of ancient hydrological system, ancient hydro-engineering facilities, and the affiliate structures. According to the reconstructed scenes, we pre-determined a series of potential heritage sites. Their possible location and function information were marked on the GIS map.
- Fieldwork verification of the pre-determined heritage sites
By in-field interviews, surveys, and questionnaires, we were able to verify the information of the pre-determined heritage sites. This is a feedback procedure. Possible mistakes in the previous steps can be rectified, and previously omitted heritage sites can be added to the database.
- Heritage registration
After the verification of the previous step, pre-determined heritage sites which meet the “Three coincidence principle” were eventually identified and registered as the Grand Canal heritage site.
Results of Research
The new five-step methodology is a practical approach in identifying heritage site of cultural landscapes as the Grand Canal, which features a long history, long linear shape, and complex composition. It turned out to be an effective alternative of traditional three-step method of “fieldwork — literature verification — heritage registration”, significantly improving the rationality and organization in the work.
Out of about 130 pre-determined heritage sites, 62 sites and 30 potential sites were identified with the new method. Among them hydro-engineering heritage constitutes 70 percent. Compared to the 30% conclusion in previous researches, this percentage reflected the true proportion of heritage of such category.
Those in the hydro-engineering facilities category including aqueducts, reservoirs, dykes, dams, and ship locks help the Grand Canal overcome the “water peak” successfully, reflecting very high creativity and technological achievements. However, the preservation status quo is not very good.
Among a total length of 675.76 km of the identified watercourses heritage, four categories can be recognized: excellent — 228.42 km or 34% of the total length, good — 317.33 km or 47% of the total length, ordinary — 113.89 km or 17% of the total length, and very bad — 16.13 km or 2% of the total length. Out of 24 hydro-engineering sites, 3 were identified as excellently preserved, constituting 13% of the total number. 8 were good, or 33%. 12 were ordinary, or 50%. 1 were very bad, or 4%.
Conclusions Concerning the Significance of the Results and Comparisons with
This project makes two significant contributions to the existing body of knowledge: a new methodology, and a list of canal heritage. The new methodology, featuring a holistic understanding of the heritage value of the Grand Canal, has widened the scope of Chinese heritage protection. And the list of the Grand Canal heritage can be applied in the making of protection planning of the Grand Canal.
Applicability to landscape architecture practice
This new methodology can not only be applied in the identification of the Grand Canal heritage, but also that of similar ex-large scale cultural landscape heritage like the Silk Road and the Ancient Tea-Horse Trading Path across Han and minor ethnic group boarders. Besides, the spatial information technology based working platform can also be applied in general heritage protection and landscape architecture projects.
Additional Project Credits
China Academy of Cultural Heritage
Administration of Cultural Heritage, Shandong Province
Administration of Cultural Heritage, Jining