Wuxi's Grand Canal showcases cultural heritage and tourism potential in overseas promotion season

Updated: Apr 25, 2024 By Xu Haoyu chinadaily.com.cn Print
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A panoramic view of the Grand Canal scenic area, with high-rise buildings looming in the background, in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. [Photo by Yang Lei/Xinhua]

The Grand Canal Tourism Overseas Promotion Season, inaugurated on April 1 in collaboration with eight provinces and cities along the canal, presented the natural beauty, cultural legacy, and social customs of the Grand Canal to both domestic and international audiences.

The event spotlighted the potential for the ancient Wuxi segment of the Grand Canal to chart a course toward a vibrant future.

Wuxi's ancient canal, a segment of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, spans over 40 kilometers, linking the Yangtze River in the north to Taihu Lake in the south, and meandering through the urban expanse of Wuxi.

Dating back to the end of the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century-11th century BC), the history of Wuxi's canal is rooted in the ancient excavation of the Bodu River to fulfill irrigation and flood drainage needs.

The urban stretch of the Wuxi canal, approximately 6 km in length, commences from the iconic Wuqiao Bridge in the city's north, traversing significant landmarks, and culminating at Qingming Bridge in the southern reaches of the city.

Throughout history, Wuxi's prosperity has been intricately interwoven with the ancient Grand Canal, particularly through its famed rice market, which catalyzed the city's economic growth and diverse industries. By the mid-19th century, Wuxi had evolved into a prominent hub for rice, cloth, money, and silk trade, drawing merchants and scholars from far and wide.

Preserving its illustrious heritage, Wuxi has meticulously restored landmarks such as the Donglin Academy along the canal, and the historical residences of eminent figures like writer Qian Zhongshu, painter Xu Beihong, and musician Hua Yanjun (Ah Bing).

Additionally, the city has developed eight cultural theme parks, redefining the historical layout of the old city district.

Revitalized as a premier tourist and sightseeing corridor, the ancient canal now hosts amenities such as sightseeing boats, docks, and a diverse array of cultural performances, attracting a steady influx of visitors.

The sub-venue of the canal market event showcased over 20 local intangible cultural heritage projects, including fine embroidery, bamboo carving, and Yixing Zisha pottery. Artisan Qiao Yu expressed her hope for increased international visitors to partake in the immersive experience of bamboo carving, taking home not just tangible cultural heritage works, but also memories of the city.

Zhang Zheng, deputy Party secretary and vice-minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, emphasized the historical significance of the Grand Canal as a vital link in China's cultural and economic exchanges with the world. Looking ahead, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism will provide enhanced support and convenience for tourists as part of the Belt and Road Initiative's high-quality development.

The Jiangsu Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism will focus on improving tourism consultation services, enriching inbound tourism products, offering multilingual services, and ensuring service product quality.

Aldo Alvarez, the ambassador of El Salvador to China, shared during the launching ceremony: "Exploring cultures beyond our own is among the most significant experiences we can have as individuals. Travel provides a remarkable opportunity to encounter a rich tapestry of perspectives. Simply stepping outside your front door exposes you to sights and sounds that may differ greatly from your family's worldview."

He further emphasized: "Culture embodies the essence of a nation. Understanding a nation's culture can bridge the emotional distance between people. Cultural exchanges stand as the foundation and vital components of the relationship between China and El Salvador."

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