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An even grander canal

The Grand Canal in Venice

1Most of us have heard of Venice’s Grand Canal, seen below. But perhaps fewer people are aware of the longest canal in the world, the Grand Canal in China, also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal.

The Grand Canal in Venice
The Grand Canal in Venice

On June 22, 2014, the Grand Canal in China was listed as a World Heritage Site and to celebrate that event Hongkong Post recently issued a stamp set – “World Heritage in China Series No. 5: The Grand Canal”.

The Grand Canal comprises 27 sections with a total length of around 1,800 kilometres. Running through Central and Eastern China, it embraces the Sui-Tang Grand Canal, the Beijing-Hangzhou Canal and the Zhedong Canal as well as several major heritage sites.
The Grand Canal was constructed in sections from the 5th century BC onwards. In the 7th century AD, the ruler of the Sui Dynasty conceived of the Grand Canal as a unified inland transportation system for conveying grain and strategic raw materials. Today, the Grand Canal not only serves as a major transportation route, but also plays an important role in communication, irrigation and water supply for the regions it flows through. The Grand Canal has enabled the exchange of supplies between northern China and southern China over the centuries. As the longest and oldest artificial waterway in the world, it testifies to the country’s remarkable achievements in hydraulic and monumental engineering.

Above, painting of Emperor Wen of Sui, who launched the project of the Grand Canal.
In 2014, soon after the granting of the Canal’s World Heritage Status, China issued a stamp set and first day covers in commemoration.
The stamp set consists of specially designed stamps, each with a painting of famous scenic spots along the Grand Canal, the world’s longest artificial waterway, as depicted in the works of famous painters.


Above, the Lantern Lighting Pagoda and below the Palace of the Goddess of the Sea


Above, the Shanxi Shaanxi Guild Hall and below the Qingjiang Water Gate



Wengfeng Pagoda above and below the Gongchen Bridge

And canals have been the subject of previous issues from China.


In 1998 China issued the above stamps featuring the Lingqu Canal (sometimes known as the Magic Canal).  It connects the Xiang River (flowing north into the mighty Yangtze) with the Li River (flowing south into the Gui River and Xijiang), and is part of a historical waterway between the Yangtze and the Pearl River Delta. It was the first canal in the world to connect two river valleys, thus enabling ships to travel 2,000 kilometres from Beijing to Hong Kong.
Below are stamps released in 1972 to celebrate a great achievement, the building of the Red Flag Canal. Built in the 1960s as an aid for irrigating surrounding land, the main channel was completed in 1965. It was dug entirely by hand labour. The main canal is 71 kilometers long. Including the distribution branches, the irrigation system is claimed to have a total length of 1,500 kilometers.


The canal winds around the side of a cliff, through 42 tunnels and along the side of the Taihang Mountains. It is a great tourist attraction and has been featured in many films.
With the possibility of helping to create a trans-Europe canal, the Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this year visited the Czech Republic for talks. Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative aims for infrastructure and industrial co-operation along the ancient Silk Road from China to Europe. The Czech Republic is a key location on route. With China jointly funding construction, the aim of the proposed Danube-Oder-Elbe Canal project will connect the three major central European river basins and eventually link the North Sea at Hamburg, Germany, to the Black Sea at Constanta, Romania and the Baltic Sea at Szczecin in Poland.
So, if this exciting project plan is agreed, I am certain we will see more canal stamps in the future.

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