Grand Canal in Suzhou

Grand Canal in Suzhou China - 2008

The Grand Canal is the world's longest (1,250 miles) man-made waterway, linking the Yangzi and Yellow rivers, and connecting the populous North with the rice-producing South. Northern parts of it were built as early as 486 BC, but the major construction occurred in the 7th century, when emperor Sui Yangdi brutally conscripted over 5 million people to complete it. The emperor toured its length in a flotilla of dragon boats, pulled along the shore by the most beautiful women in the empire. The cost of the work, the arrogance of the emperor, and a series of disastrous campaigns in Korea, combined to bring about a revolution; Yangdi abdicated and was strangled, and the spoils of empire fell to general Li Yuan (Gaozu), founder of the Tang dynasty.The Grand Canal was the source of Suzhou's prosperity, enabling the export of silks all the way north to Beijing. Today it is used mostly for tourist boats, as roads and railways have taken over the major hauling.

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