The Lingqu Canal connects the Xiang River and the Li River with the Yangtze and the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong. The saying goes that north China has the Great Wall, while south China has the Lingqu Canal. The Lingqu is located in the northern part of Guilin in the county of Xing’an, built in the Qing dynasty, the Lingqu canal is the most complete existing ancient canal in the world, together with the Dujiangyan Irrigation System in Sichuan and Zhengguo Canal in Shaanxi. Built by Emperor Qin Shi Huang from218BC to 214BC, the over 2217-year-old Lingqu Canal is one of the most ancient canals on earth. Guo Moruo, one renowned contemporary literature master once exclaimed that it can rival the Great Wall. With genius design and layout, Lingqu Canal is honored as one of the Three Great Hydraulic Engineering Projects of the Qin Dynasty, just like Dujiangyan Irritation System in Sichuan and Zhengguo Cananl in Shangxi Province.
The construction history of Lingqu Canal
Over 2000 years ago, to subdue the Baiyue tribes in south China was the priority for Emperor Qin Shihuang, whose greatest contribution is a unified China, for the first time in history. However, the Wuling Mountain Range, a formidable natural barrier, has isolated Xiang River (one tributary of Yangtze River) from Lijiang River (one upstream of Pearl River). Shi Lu, the most talented architect at that time, accomplished this seemingly impossible task by taking advantage of the most favorable geological topography in Xing’an County where Xiang River and Lijiang River are only 1.5km away and is blocked by one hill no more than 500m high and 30m wide. Under the supervision of Shi Lu and three generals, 100,000 soldiers were dispatched to dig this canal. Four years’ painstaking work turned out to be cheerful, but the cost was huge also, with 70,000 soldiers sacrificed their lives. Without Lingqu Canal, it was impossible for Emperor Qin Shi Huang to unify China. During Han dynasty (220BC-220AD), Lingqu Canal shouldered the responsibility again by aiding Emperor Han Wudi to pacify the unrest in south China. Through this canal, trade and cultural exchange between middle and south China prospered.
Lingqu Canal has undergone 23 large-scale restorations during the following dynasties. In Tang dynasty, 18 flash locks surfaced, while in Song, the number doubled. Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties rulers had attached great importance to this magic canal, thus its glory, though a little faded, has been preserved till nowadays. With the opening of Yuehan Railway and Xianggui Railway, people depend less and less on this canal, which resulted in its gradual abandonment. After the establishing of the Republic of China in 1949, large-scale restorations were done to revive this artery. By now, Lingqu Canal still plays a part in Guilin people’s life by supplying fresh water to city dwellers and irrigate about 2700 hectare of agricultural lands.
The Lingqu canal is not only home to amazing structural engineering and design but also of picturesque scenery with both banks of the canal teeming with animal and bird life as well as being rich in vegetation. The Shuijie Pagoda, the numerous ancient bridges spanning the river and the bustling market town of Xing’an are all enjoyable highlights. The Lingqu canal is already well renown in Guilin and represents one of the pearls in in the Guilin traveling experience.