A Complete View of the Canal from Jiangsu to Beijing


Jiangsu zhi Beijing yun he quan tu (A complete view of the canal from Jiangsu to Beijing) is made of a long continuous sheet of paper folded into accordion-like leaves. It has 21 folds, each 24.1 centimeters high and 13 centimeters wide. The title at the beginning is handwritten in ink and the calligraphy is in the official script style. The work was printed in the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), but the author and the date of publication are unknown. The three-line inscription on the left indicates that the work was acquired in the eighth month of the year of Gengxu (a continuous numbering system on the Chinese calendar in a 60-year cycle) and repaired at a shop near the city gate. There are also several seal impressions, among them a white square seal with the surname Du, a red square seal with the name Fu’an, and another white seal with the name Yang Jianxin. These seals most likely identify earlier owners of the work. The subject of the painting is the Great Beijing–Hangzhou Canal, known as the Grand Canal, the longest canal or artificial river in the world. The canal furthered a growing economic market in China's urban centers ever since the Sui period (581–618). From the Tang to the Qing dynasties, the Grand Canal served as the main artery between northern and southern China and was essential for the transport of grain and other commodities to Beijing. Convenient transport also enabled the emperors to lead inspection tours to southern China. In the Qing Dynasty, the emperors Kangxi and Qianlong made 12 trips to the south, on all occasions but one reaching Hangzhou. This painting is damaged both at the front and at the end, and lacks the section south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Shown here is the canal starting at Lingkou Zhen, near Wujin Xian, Jiangsu Province, and winding its way north until it reaches the boundary of Linqing Zhou, Shandong Province. The map shows where the canal crosses the Yellow River, but not where it reaches Beijing. The painting is executed in meticulous detail, with clear indications of tributaries, lakes, mountains, forests, cities, bridges, monasteries, pagodas, temples, canal locks, embankments, sandbanks, sluice gates, as well as distances between points. Some of the tributaries are depicted so densely that they resemble cobwebs. This kind of printed map is very rare.

Last updated: January 3, 2018