The Grand Canal Hangzhou is the final section of the Grand Canal ( China ), also known as Beijing-Hangzhou (Jinghang) Grand Canal. It is oft-lauded as the earliest and longest artificial waterway in the world starting from Beijing in the north and ending at Hangzhou in the south for a total length of 1776 km.
On June 22, 2014, the Grand Canal was listed as the site of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. It is the 46th world heritage in China including 27 sections and 58 elements of the Grand Canal with a length of 1011 km. The world heritage crowned Grand Canal covers 6 provinces, 2 municipalities and 25 prefecture-level cities.
Visiting the traditional buildings along the canal or cruising on the canal does give you an opportunity to see and touch the Chinese culture and the authentic life of the ordinary people. There are many entry points for visiting the Grand Canal of China including Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, etc.
The Grand Canal Hangzhou is definitely one of the best place to have a glimpse of the world-famous waterway. Hangzhou has two UNESCO World Cultural Heritages and the other is the West Lake.
The West Lake is well-known for its elite culture – The upper-class intellectuals and government officials lived by the lake, cruising on the lake, writing about the lake and painting the lake, hence of the glorified West Lake. By contrast, the Grand Canal was all about the ordinary people – how the low-class people and vendor lived and worked. The two, both the intellectuals and labors create part of the splendid culture in Hangzhou.
So, while planning your Hangzhou tour, the West Lake and the Grand Canal Hangzhou are the two must see attractions that give you a comprehensive picture of the past and modern Hangzhou, a real showcase of the area south of Yangtze River.
Boating on the ancient 6-km waterway in Hangzhou
Basically you have two ways of boating on the Grand Canals in Hangzhou. One is to use the cheap water service bus RMB 3-5, starting from Wulinmen Pier and ends at Hongchenqiao Pier, 7:30am-8:30pm every other hour.
Tel: 0571 – 88024368.
The other is to take the night cruise of the canal – the route: Wulinmen Dock – West Lake Cultural Plaza – Imperial Dock-Fuyi Granary – Qianlongfang – Dadou Road – Xiaohezhi Street – Qiaoxizhi Street – Gongchen Bridge – Wulinmen Pier, totally a round trip of 12 km. 7:30 pam RMB 100/person
Tel: 0571 – 88024368
Visiting the traditional buildings and cultural sites along the Canal
The Grand Canal once greatly developed the local economy and enhanced the communication between the north and the south. At its prime time, the area around Gongchen Bridge, which still spans the canal, was the busiest and most commercial area in Hangzhou, a transportation hub.
Especially, during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), when the Northern Song Dynasty moved its court to Hangzhou and established Hangzhou as the capital. The canal in Gongchen Bridge suddenly got much busier, becoming a major traffic hub and distribution center.
In the time starting from the South Song Dynasty through Qing Dynasty ( 1644 – 1911 ), boats and ships from all over the country came down the Grand Canal, bringing much business to the area around Gongchen Bridge .
Various shops, snacks, restaurants were open along the river and nearby lanes and streets. Qianxizhi Historic Street Block and Xiaohezhi Historic Street Block are the two areas that have been recently renovated and restored, typical of the Chinese-Western mixed style architectures during the period.
Now follow me to have a glimpse of Qiaoxizhi Historic Street Block. “Qiaoxizhi” literally means “A straight street west of the Bridge”. Here “the Bridge” refers to Gongchen Bridge. Gongchen Bridge is the landmark of the Grand Canal Hangzhou.
“Gongchen” literally means “respect the emperor”. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) and Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) traveled six times respectively along the canal from Beijing to inspection and sightseeing. Gongchen Bridge stood there respecting and welcoming the emperor.
East of Gongchen Bridge is the Grand Canal Cultural Square where you may visit The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal Museum ( China Great Canal Museum).
The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal Museum
The Bridge was originally built 1631 in the late Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and was rebuilt 1888 in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is the largest stone arch bridge in Hangzhou, now 16 meters high, 98 meters long with the middle part narrower at 5.9 m and two ends wider at 12.2 m.
Walk across Gongchen Bridge that spans the Grand Canal, only pedestrians and cyclists allowed
On the bridge, you have a clear picture of the ships coming and going on the canal, carrying coals, sand and construction materials. Many sections of the Grand Canal are still in use.
Taking a picture of the bridge and the canal
After crossing Gongchen Bridge, turns left side ( south) and walk visit Xiqiaozhi Street. The street is lined with quite a few two-story old buildings, reproducing the past wooden structures that were both for commercial and residential use.
Usually the shops are on the first floor and bedroom on the second floor. Many of the exterior walls look old, but with modern facilities.
Xiqiaozhi Street. The street is lined with quite a few two-story old buildings,
Qiaoxi modern dwellings are a combination of Chinese and western style. Simple patterns without elaborate carvings.
The Qiaoxi Historic block includes Qiaoxizhi Street, Qianlong Street, Tianxian Alley, Tongyuanli, Jixiang Lane, former Hangzhou No.01 Cotton Mills, etc. An arrow lane branching off the main street – Qiaohe Historic Street will be changed.
China Umbrella Museum and China Scissors Museum. The two museums are housed inside the former factories.
A public Bar on along the canal and by Qiaoxizhi Street
A dock along the Grand canal at Congchen Bridge area.
The old tea house
The old and traditional houses
A two-story building in Jingshengli Hutong ares.
Huichun Tang Pharmacy
Tip: Hassle-free Hangzhou Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours, here are some options for Hangzhou Guided Tours:
Top 10 Attractions in Hangzhou
Top 10 Photography Spots in Hangzhou
Night View of West Lake in Hangzhou
The Best hiking trail in Hangzhou
The best time to visit Hangzhou
Hangzhou as a Fashionable City in China
Hangzhou East Railway Station
Hangzhou Airport Arrival Hall
How to Visit Feilai Peak Grottoes in Hangzhou
Where to stay in Hangzhou
Hangzhou Bicycle Hire
Wushan Night Market in Hangzhou
Pedestrian Streets in Hangzhou
Hangzhou’s Best Bars & Nightclubs
Best Way to Visit Hangzhou from Shanghai
How to Visit Grand Canal Hangzhou
How to Visit Xiling Seal Engravers’ Society
How to Visit Liuhe Pagoda
Hangzhou Tea Plantation
How to Visit Leifeng Pagoda
How to visit Hupao Spring (Tiger Spring) Hangzhou
How to Visit Yellow Dragon Cave in Hangzhou
The Best Place to View Sunrise over West Lake Hangzhou
Any question, just drop a line.