Speaker: Liu Shuguang Lecture location: Yangzhou China Grand Canal Museum Core Values 100 Lecture Time: October 2023
In order to thoroughly study and implement Xi Jinping’s cultural thoughts, conscientiously implement the spirit of the National Propaganda Ideological and Cultural Work Conference, and implement the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech at the symposium on cultural inheritance and development, the “Core “100 Lectures on Values” planned a series of lectures around the theme of cultural inheritance and development. This forum came to the China Grand Canal Museum in Yangzhou, focusing on the theme of “Construction and Inheritance of Grand Canal Culture”, leading everyone to experience its profound cultural implications, understand the explorations of predecessors, and appreciate the creative spirit of the Chinese nation. This presentation is the fifth event in this series.
Liu Shuguang is chairman of the China Museum Association and editor-in-chief of “Chinese Museums”. He graduated from the Department of History of Zhengzhou University in 1982, majoring in Archeology, and in 1986 he graduated from the Department of History of Peking University, majoring in Chinese History. He has worked in cultural relics management departments and universities for a long time. He has served as director of the Office (Foreign Affairs Liaison Department) of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, director of the Chinese Cultural Heritage Research Institute and director of the National Underwater Cultural Heritage Protection Center, and member of the Party Leadership Group and Deputy Director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, General Secretary Xi Jinping has issued important instructions on the protection of cultural heritage on many occasions, emphasizing that “traditional cultural resources must be systematically sorted out, so that the cultural relics collected in the Forbidden Palace, the heritage displayed on the vast land, and the heritage written on the vast land must be The words in ancient books come alive.” The Grand Canal is a veritable cultural heritage displayed on a vast land. General Secretary Xi Jinping attaches great importance to the protection of the cultural heritage of the Grand Canal, emphasizing that “the Grand Canal is a precious heritage left to us by our ancestors and a flowing culture that must be well protected, passed on, and utilized in an overall manner.”
Hangzhou Fengshan Water City Gate.Data pictures
Historical canals, realistic canals, canals that have been applied for World Heritage status
China has a vast territory, and different regions have different economic, social and cultural backgrounds; the terrain is higher in the west and lower in the east, with major rivers flowing from west to east into the sea. To maintain national unity and political stability within such a large and complex space, an efficient transportation system is needed to transport food and goods across the country. In ancient China, the Grand Canal shouldered this important task. It connected the five major water systems of the Haihe River, Yellow River, Huaihe River, Yangtze River, and Qiantang River, connected political, economic and cultural centers, and played an important role in the formation and maintenance of a unified multi-ethnic country. effect.
Historically, the Grand Canal was usually built by the central government, and its main function was water transportation. Water transportation is an important political and economic system that has been implemented in ancient China for more than a thousand years. According to documentary records, the Grand Canal can be traced back to the Wu State in the Spring and Autumn Period. It reached its peak during the Sui and Tang Dynasties, forming a pattern facing Chang’an but centered on the eastern capital Luoyang. During the Sui, Tang and Song dynasties, the grain channel was mainly in the east-west direction. Starting from the Yuan Dynasty, as China’s political center moved to Beijing, the Huitong River and Tonghui River were opened, forming the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal running all the way from north to south, which lasted until the end of the Qing Dynasty. In 1855, due to the diversion of the Yellow River, the canals north of the Yellow River today encountered problems such as water sources drying up, and water transportation basically came to an end. Later, as land and sea routes became the main modes of transportation, the channel functions of the various sections of the Grand Canal in the north were gradually abandoned, while the Grand Canal in the south still played a role in transportation and water conservancy.
From the perspective of cultural geography, the Grand Canal is a Chinese cultural coordinate as famous as the Great Wall. Especially in the broadly defined southern regions such as Jiangsu and Zhejiang, the canal is closely related to the production and life of the people along the line. The endless flowing canal water has nourished generations of canal children. There is also an image among the people: On the land of China, there is a capital “人”, one side is the Great Wall in the north, and the other side is the canal that runs through the north and south. This statement illustrates the great influence of the Grand Canal in Chinese history, and this influence has been fully recognized by the international community.
In 1996, the International Committee for the Protection of Industrial Heritage issued the “International List of Canal Monuments”, which spoke highly of the Grand Canal in ancient China, believing that it was the first canal in China to “cross mountains and ridges” and was both unique in terms of overall concept and construction. It is of great importance and is one of the most influential waterways in the world. It is also a milestone in the history of canals in the world. The Grand Canal of China was the earliest canal constructed in the world with the longest route and longest duration before the industrial revolution. From a historical perspective, a Grand Canal is a history of the rise and fall of ancient China and a history of the evolution of Chinese culture.
However, until the beginning of the 21st century, there was no domestic consensus on whether the ancient Grand Canal was a cultural heritage. At the same time, the canal heritage has not been included in my country’s legally protected cultural relics system for a long time, and its historical and scientific value has not been fully recognized by law. Before the Grand Canal was declared a World Heritage Site, the canals in many areas, especially the old canals in the north, were mostly in a dirty and messy condition. Some sections of the canal became a pool of stagnant water, while other places were like a smelly ditch, which was seriously blurred. The original beautiful face of the Grand Canal. Relatively speaking, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal has more preserved ruins in reality, but the Sui-Tang Grand Canal is a completely different situation. For example, most of the Tongji Canal, which was the main trunk of the Grand Canal in the Sui and Tang Dynasties, has become visible or invisible ruins. From today’s Kaifeng in Henan to Huaibei in Anhui, the ancient channels of the Grand Canal are completely buried underground and have long been changed beyond recognition. In addition, the development and construction of urban and rural areas along the canal have had a greater impact on the canal environment. Many people live by the canal but cannot feel the existence of canal culture.
Faced with such an embarrassing situation, it was extremely difficult to apply for the Grand Canal as a World Heritage Site.
In 2002, the country launched the East Route Project of South-to-North Water Diversion. Ge Chengyong, then deputy director of the China Institute of Cultural Relics, proposed that part of the river planned to be used by the eastern route project was the old route of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, and this part should be protected as a cultural relic. In 2005, the famous “Three Canal Elders” – Mr. Zheng Xiaoxie, Mr. Luo Zhewen, and Mr. Zhu Bingren proposed to speed up the heritage protection and application of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. To this end, they wrote a letter to the mayors of 18 cities along the canal. open letter. In 2006, 58 members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, signed by Mr. Shu Yi, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, submitted a proposal to the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference that “the protection of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal should be paid great attention to and the work of applying for World Heritage status should be launched.” At that time, it was listed as a national heritage Key proposals personally supervised by the Chairman of the CPPCC. At the same time, a group of archaeologists proposed that the Grand Canal should not just be the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. The Grand Canal of the Sui and Tang Dynasties was equally important. It was an important component of the grand canals in ancient China and should also be added to the list.
Why should the Grand Canal be declared a World Heritage Site? Because world heritage is the most precious wealth of all mankind. It is a rare and irreplaceable cultural and natural property of all mankind confirmed by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO. It is also a cultural relic, historic site and natural heritage recognized by the international community as having outstanding significance and universal value. landscape. As a treasure in the treasure house of human social civilization, being included in the World Heritage List means that the value of cultural heritage has been highly and widely recognized by the international community. Therefore, the application of the Grand Canal as a World Heritage Site means that we will take the initiative to assume more responsibilities in protecting the common heritage of mankind. Application as a World Heritage Site will enable heritage sites to receive the highest level of protection in the world and have the opportunity to receive technical support and financial assistance from UNESCO, especially bringing more development opportunities to heritage sites. At the same time, applying for World Heritage status is also one of the best ways to spread Chinese civilization to the world, increase international influence, and enhance the country’s soft power.
Liyangcang ruins in Jun County, Henan.Data pictures
The Grand Canal’s World Heritage application: Starting from a “negative starting point” and heading towards success
In 2006, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal was announced as a national key cultural relic protection unit. In 2013, the state integrated the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, the Sui-Tang Grand Canal and the East Zhejiang Canal, and listed it in the seventh batch of national key cultural relics protection units in the name of the Grand Canal. The scale of the Grand Canal heritage application project is very large, involving eight provinces and dozens of cities from north to south. Due to the weak foundation work, unclear heritage status and poor preservation status, and the old canal road belongs to different management departments, it has greatly increased the difficulty of organizing, planning and implementing the application. This not only tests our wisdom and ability, but also tests the compatibility and adaptability of the global world heritage system.
As an important means to clarify the cultural heritage of the canal, archaeological work and academic research have also been put on the agenda. Identifying and distinguishing the Grand Canal in different fields and levels, such as history and reality, administration and economy, is a key task of work and research. In this regard, we firmly grasped two core issues: first, to identify and distinguish the Grand Canal in the sense of cultural relics or cultural heritage; second, to extract the characteristics of China’s Grand Canal in the context of world cultural heritage Highlight universal value.
In 2010, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage commissioned the China Cultural Heritage Research Institute to take the lead in compiling the “Grand Canal Heritage Protection and Management Master Plan”, which required the identification of the Grand Canal’s heritage elements and a clear classification and definition of the Grand Canal’s heritage. In 2012, the “Plan” was officially released and implemented, and canal heritage protection plans for various provinces and municipalities supporting the national master plan were also released one after another.
Based on the value contribution to the overall heritage, the “Plan” divides the Grand Canal heritage elements into three categories: canal hydraulic remains, canal ancillary remains, and canal-related heritage. The Grand Canal heritage is divided into 10 sections, clarifying that the total length of the Grand Canal heritage is 3,166 kilometers, and the total length of the main line is 2,681 kilometers. For the first time, the scale of the Grand Canal heritage was clarified. This achievement has become a benchmark for communication and coordination of matters related to the Grand Canal across the country and in various industries.
The preparation of the Grand Canal protection and management plan is a complex systematic project with four major highlights.
The first highlight is that the “assault” completed some special archaeological surveys and excavations. In order to cooperate with the application of the Grand Canal as a World Heritage, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage specially approved a number of related archaeological projects, which were completed by relevant agencies with concentrated manpower. A number of new discoveries and results were achieved, which was indispensable to the success of the application of the Grand Canal as a World Heritage. . For example, today’s excavation results of the Liyangcang site (Yongji Canal Section) in Junxian County, Henan Province have ensured that all ten sections of the Grand Canal have representative heritage. The excavation of three river archaeological sites in Shangqiu and Huaibei has revealed the true appearance of the canal more than a thousand years ago. A series of excavations at the Nanwang hub site in Jining, Shandong Province have allowed people to see the structure and operation of the “heart project” with the highest technological content along the Grand Canal. The Shunhuang Dam jigwork site at Qingkou Hub in Huai’an shows the true details of ancient people’s use of reeds, bamboo, straw and other simple materials to seal breaches and consolidate embankments and revetments according to local conditions. International water conservancy heritage experts were amazed by this archaeological excavation when they visited China and praised this historical relic from hundreds of years ago as a miracle in the history of canals around the world.
The second highlight is to ensure that the survey results and research results are accurate and reliable through a research method that combines literature research, map analysis and field surveys. In 2010, the Grand Canal Heritage Composition Map was completed, proving that the Grand Canal’s historical pattern from the Spring and Autumn Period to the Qing Dynasty was basically complete, and that the preservation ratio of its main river channels plus ruins was as high as 85%. Among them, the rivers and ruins along the line from Beijing to Hangzhou are basically complete. The Tongji Canal from Luoyang to Huai’an, which is the line of the ancient Bian River, only about one-third of the river channel has been preserved, and the rest is distributed in the form of ruins. The Yongji Canal and the East Zhejiang Canal are basically in the Complete usage situation. Such a canal heritage distribution map provides scientific and accurate data support for the construction of the Grand Canal National Cultural Park today.
The third highlight is that it combines the evaluation standards of world cultural heritage with the actual situation of China’s canal heritage and creatively proposes applicable standards that are realistic and seek truth from facts. We believe that, in addition to the old routes of the Grand Canal, those rivers that maintain the same direction as the historical canal, even some later renovated rivers, can be included in the composition of the Grand Canal heritage as long as they can reflect the value of the Grand Canal heritage.
The fourth highlight is the identification of a comprehensive strategy to protect the canal’s heritage and a management framework that takes into account all parties involved. The cultural resources of the Grand Canal are extensive and complex, and it can be said that “one hair affects the whole body”. Although protecting the canal’s historic sites is important, it cannot affect the management system of the water conservancy and transportation departments, let alone the production and life of the people along the Grand Canal. Therefore, we selected 364 of the thousands of Grand Canal sites as China’s Grand Canal heritage, and merged the same river sections across provinces and cities. In addition, we also determined the heritage protection plan based on the delineation principles and control scope of national river management scope, while ensuring the integrity of water conservancy and navigation planning to the greatest extent. These achievements also provide the basic basis for determining the management and control protection areas for the construction of the Grand Canal National Cultural Park today.
Starting from the actual situation of the preservation and management of the Grand Canal heritage, after repeated consultations, it was finally determined that the China Grand Canal will adopt a segment-by-section strategy for applying for heritage, that is, the most representative sections of each section of the “ancient canal” will be selected to form a series of heritage for application. . This was the preferred nomination strategy at the time that could satisfy World Heritage requirements of authenticity and integrity. As mentioned before, China’s Grand Canal heritage has a total length of 3,166 kilometers. However, the “China Grand Canal” that has been declared a world heritage site is divided into 31 components and contains 85 heritage elements, including 27 river sections and 58 heritage sites. , the total length is only 1011 kilometers. Historically, China’s Grand Canal generally refers to the Sui-Tang Grand Canal and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. However, as a world cultural heritage, the Grand Canal includes three parts: the Sui-Tang Grand Canal, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and the East Zhejiang Canal.
In a sense, the Grand Canal is a national project that has lasted for more than 2,000 years. As the lifeline connecting the north and the south in China’s history, each section of the canal was excavated and repaired for different reasons and at different times, mainly relying on administrative management. And become a whole. Moreover, the Grand Canal has always been separated by major rivers (Yellow River, Yangtze River, Huaihe River, Qiantang River) and has not formed an uninterrupted and consistent artificial waterway. Therefore, the Grand Canal’s strategy of applying for World Heritage status in selected sections is in line with historical logic.
Of course, such a heritage application strategy is not perfect. Some important relics had to be abandoned due to poor preservation or improper renovation that affected their authenticity. For example, some important ancient towns or docks do not meet the requirements for inscription on the World Heritage List because they were renovated, destroying their original historical features and losing the authenticity of their cultural relics. There is also Bianliang City in Tokyo in the Northern Song Dynasty, which is today’s Kaifeng City. Due to the long-term flooding of the Yellow River, the ruins were buried deep beneath the surface. Due to time constraints, there was no time to conduct large-scale archaeological excavation and sorting, so we could only regretfully temporarily Not included.
The Grand Canal’s application for World Heritage is not only an academic issue of archeology and heritage research, but also a huge and complicated social project that links leading agencies, local party committees and governments, all walks of life and the general public. From the time when the Grand Canal was proposed as a World Cultural Heritage topic in 2002 and 2003 to the time when the Grand Canal became a World Cultural Heritage in 2014, it took more than ten years. Party committees and governments at all levels have coordinated, financially and materially guaranteed, and along the canal The active support and enthusiastic participation of the people are the key to ensuring the success of the application. The success of the Grand Canal’s application as a World Heritage Site also benefited from the institutional advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The China Grand Canal project was successfully selected into the World Heritage List, which has effectively enhanced China’s influence in the world heritage cause. It has also pioneered and innovated in many aspects such as planning system, coordination mechanism, monitoring system, and series of applications. For example, the task of surveying resources along the Grand Canal was completed and an overall protection policy was established; under the conditions of multi-industry cross-management and multi-type heritage composition, a consensus was reached on the protection of the cultural heritage of the Grand Canal; the world’s only national-level construction-led construction project was established The world cultural heritage monitoring system breaks through the foreign practice of overall declaration of canal heritage and realizes theoretical innovation in the integrity of China’s world cultural heritage.
Yangzhou China Grand Canal Museum.Data pictures
The contemporary value of the Grand Canal and the protection and inheritance of the Grand Canal culture
The report of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China pointed out: “Intensify the protection of cultural relics and cultural heritage, strengthen the protection and inheritance of historical culture in urban and rural construction, and build and make good use of national cultural parks.” From monuments to cultural relic protection units to world heritage, the Grand Canal It has undergone a cultural revitalization and dredging. Through the application, the cultural and cultural relic resources of the Grand Canal have been confirmed, making the Grand Canal truly a cultural icon in physical form, and also laying the academic foundation, work foundation, social foundation and talents for the construction of today’s Grand Canal National Cultural Park. Base. In the post-World Heritage era, how should we protect the heritage of the canal? How should the canal culture be better studied, passed on, and used?
In order to deeply explore the profound cultural value and spiritual connotation carried by the Grand Canal and vividly present the unique creation, value concepts and distinctive characteristics of the Grand Canal culture, the protection, inheritance and utilization of the Grand Canal culture and the construction of the Grand Canal National Cultural Park came into being. In order to integrate the cultural relics and cultural resources of the eight provinces and cities along the Grand Canal, optimize the overall functional layout in accordance with the idea of ”rivers are lines, cities are beads, beads string lines, and lines bring surfaces”, deeply interpret the cultural value of the Grand Canal, and vigorously promote the Grand Canal era spirit, increase management, control and protection, strengthen thematic display functions, promote the integration of culture and tourism, improve the level of utilization of traditional culture, and promote the implementation of key projects, in order to build the Grand Canal National Cultural Park into a new era to promote the image of China and display Chinese civilization. , a bright business card that demonstrates cultural confidence. To put it simply and simply, the goal of cultural protection, inheritance and utilization of the Grand Canal is to build a splendid cultural belt, a green ecological belt and a characteristic tourism belt.
We realize that the Grand Canal is first and foremost a long historical river with Chinese characteristics. As a mobile cultural heritage, it spans a large geographical space, has been used for a long time, has many cultural heritage resources, and has a good foundation for economic and social development. It is a living heritage with a history of more than 2,500 years and has special affinity and cohesion. It is the key to the prosperity of the Chinese nation. It is a historical witness of prosperity and a high-quality carrier of the cultural genes of the Chinese nation and the socialist culture with Chinese characteristics.
The Grand Canal is a contemporary inheritance of a historical geographical indication. It is a slowly unfolding scroll of Chinese cultural geography and a carrier of social and cultural exchanges. Today we are talking about the Grand Canal, not only the ancient Grand Canal, but also the canal system formed in New China. Through the Grand Canal, we can see the spirit and achievements of the Chinese people in adapting to space and geography, making use of natural landscapes, and constantly seeking knowledge, exploration and creation. As an engineering masterpiece that connects geographical space, the Grand Canal reflects the wisdom of the Chinese people from ancient times to the present.
We realize that the Grand Canal in history is a river accompanied by ecology and a natural ecological landscape. Today’s construction of the Grand Canal ecological belt should be based on the ecological protection and restoration of the Grand Canal, and be committed to the gradual restoration of ecosystem functions, turning it into a beautiful canal, and building a harmonious, clean, healthy, beautiful, and safe Grand Canal green ecology. The beautiful canal landscape will be created and maintained in a modern way. With the promotion of the construction of the Grand Canal National Cultural Park, it will greatly improve the ecological environment quality of the areas along the line, closely integrate ecological environmental protection and cultural heritage, and promote coordinated regional development and green development. and high-quality development. The protection and restoration of the ecological environment of the Grand Canal must benefit the people along the canal, make it visible and tangible to the people, and make the ecological civilization of the Grand Canal truly a landscape that belongs to the people and belongs to life.
What best reflects the advanced nature of the construction of the Grand Canal National Cultural Park are the many museums located along the canal. The Grand Canal is located in the economically and socially developed eastern region of our country. Long before it was applied for World Heritage status, museum construction in the cities along the line had a long history. With the construction of the Grand Canal National Cultural Park, a number of new museums and exhibitions have been launched one after another, such as the Beijing Grand Canal Museum that is about to open, the Luoyang Sui and Tang Dynasty Grand Canal Culture Museum that has become popular since its opening, and the reorganized China Canal Culture Museum in Liaocheng. wait. There is also the China Grand Canal Museum in Yangzhou, which we are currently in. As a high-quality destination integrating culture and tourism, it has brought us a steady stream of surprises since its completion and opening, and it has quickly become a favorite website among the audience, especially young people. Red check-in point.
The construction of a national cultural park including the Grand Canal is a vivid practice of implementing Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, promoting the creative transformation and innovative development of China’s excellent traditional culture, and building a modern civilization of the Chinese nation. The Grand Canal National Cultural Park relies on historical culture, but highlights contemporary culture and contemporary Chinese people. For thousands of years, the flowing Grand Canal has nourished the cities and people on both sides of the strait. It is a living heritage with great affinity and cohesion. We need this long historical river to learn from the past and the long ecological river to nourish and nourish the earth. Through this long river of tourism, sightseeing inspires the mind, and through this long river of culture, tradition promotes innovation. Such a great practice not only has great practical significance, but also has far-reaching historical significance. It will not only provide rich nourishment for the good life of the Chinese people, but also provide Chinese wisdom, Chinese experience, and Chinese solutions for the civilization and progress of all mankind and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
(Compiled by Guangming.com reporter Liu Bingya)
“Guangming Daily” (November 04, 2023, page 10)