How to Visit Grand Canal Hangzhou

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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.

The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal Museum

The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand 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.

Gongchen Bridge

Gongchen Bridge

Walk across Gongchen Bridge that spans the Grand Canal, only pedestrians and cyclists allowed

Walk across Gongchen Bridge that spans the Grand Canal

Walk across Gongchen Bridge that spans the Grand Canal

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

Taking a picture of the bridge and the canal

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,

The street is lined with quite a few two-story old buildings

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.

Qiaoxi modern dwellings are a combination of Chinese and western style

Qiaoxi modern dwellings are a combination of Chinese and western style

 

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.

An arrow lane branching off the main street

An arrow lane branching off the main street

China Umbrella Museum and China Scissors Museum. The two museums are housed inside the former factories.

China Umbrella Museum and China Scissors Museum

China Umbrella Museum and China Scissors Museum

A public Bar on along the canal and by Qiaoxizhi Street

A public Bar on along the canal and by Qiaoxizhi Street

A public Bar on along the canal and by Qiaoxizhi Street

A dock along the Grand canal at Congchen Bridge area.

A dock along the Grand canal at Congchen Bridge area

A dock along the Grand canal at Congchen Bridge area

The old tea house

The old tea house

The old tea house

The old and traditional houses

The old and traditional houses

The old and traditional houses

A tw0-story building in Jingshengli Hutong ares.

A two-story building in Jingshengli Hutong ares.

A two-story building in Jingshengli Hutong ares.

Huichun Tang Pharmacy

Huichun Tang Pharmarcy

Huichun Tang Pharmarcy

 

Further Readings


1. When is the best time to visit Hangzhou? 2. Where to stay in Hangzhou
3. Hangzhou Airport Arrival Hall 4. Hangzhou airport shuttle bus
5. Hangzhou Airport Taxi 6. Hangzhou Taxi
7. Hangzhou Bicycle Hire 8. Pedestrian Streets in Hangzhou
9. Musical Fountains in Hangzhou 10. Hangzhou’s Best Bars & Nightclubs
11. Walk around West Lake in early morning Hangzhou 12. The Best Place to View Sunrise over West Lake Hangzhou
13. The Best hiking trail in Hangzhou 14. How to Visit Leifeng Pagoda
15. How to Visit Yellow Dragon Cave in Hangzhou 16. How to visit Hupao Spring (Tiger Spring) Hangzhou
17. How to Visit Liuhe Pagoda 18. Wuzhen Pictures – Wuzhen Photo Gallery
19. Guozhuang Garden Hangzhou 20. Beishan oad Hangzhou
21. The Post-Rain West Lake 22. Hanting Hangzhou
23. Hangzhou World Heritage 24. Hangzhou Trip
25. Hangzhou Group Tour 26. Best Places to See Autumn Leaves in Hangzhou

Any questions, just drop a line.

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3 Responses to “How to Visit Grand Canal Hangzhou”

  1. Neil Clifford says:

    Is it possible to follow the canal from Beijing to Hang Zhou by bicycle, that is, ride next to the canal?

  2. Daniel says:

    Dear Neil Clifford,

    Thanks for your inquiry! I’ve checked online in Chinese. I find there are some local Chinese with the same ambition like you, who have cycled along the China Grand Canal ( Beijing – Hangzhou Canal ). Most of them have some assistance from the local Chinese in the each city.

    There is no official bike path along the canal. In many places you have to cycle around the canal.

    If you cannot speak any Chinese, and don’t have any assistance from the local bicyclists, it is not easy for you to finish your mission biking along the canal.

  3. Daniel says:

    Dear Neil Clifford,

    Just a follow up tomy previous reply. Below is the link about the travel blog in Chinese biking along the Grand Canal ( see the pictures ):

    http://bbs.biketo.com/thread-471130-1-1.html

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