Location [Stds. 1, 3]
Place [Stds. 4, 7, 9, 10]
Human-Environment Interaction [Stds. 8, 12, 14-18]
Movement [Stds. 11, 13]
Regions [Stds. 2, 5, 6]


 Standard 17: Applying Geography to Interpret the Past

TABLE OF CONTENTS
CASE STUDY: CHINA'S WATER ROUTES
// THE GRAND CANAL

From the Asia for Educators teaching unit, China's Geography:

Since China's major rivers — the Huang He (Yellow River) and Chang Jiang (Yangzi or Yangtze River)— flow from west to east, and there is no natural communication north to south except by way of a coastal route, the Chinese dug the Grand Canal as a safe, inland water route between the two major rivers, in the process connecting a number of minor regional rivers.

Constructed around 605 AD to serve commercial as well as military considerations, the canal was extended several times, most notably to the Hangzhou in 610 and eventually in 1279 to Dadu, the great Mongol (Yuan dynasty) capital. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, which followed the Mongol dynasty, the Grand Canal ensured that Beijing, the great successor imperial capital to Dadu, had sufficient grain from the southern rice bowl areas.

The Grand Canal is the longest artificial waterway in the world and has a long history of barge traffic along its course. Although many parts of it fell into disrepair over the years, today it is still possible to traverse the manmade Grand Canal from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, northward 1,801 km to Beijing.

WEBSITES FOR BACKGROUND ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE GRAND CANAL:

ADDITIONAL READING: Arteries of Empire [Asia for Educators] This reading for students discusses China's hydraulic (water control) system and important improvements over time in canal transport. The reading can be used to enlarge the discussion of the Grand Canal and China's use of waterways.

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.. MAP AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  1. Why do you think the Chinese built the Grand Canal?
  2. Looking at a map of China (below), take into consideration the following:
      • Was it easy to move goods over roads in early history?
      • Which directions do the rivers flow in China?
      • How big an area was involved in "China" of early history?
      • What are the pros and cons of shipping and moving by sea?
      • Can the Grand Canal still be used today?
CASE STUDY: CHANG'AN (XI'AN) AND THE SILK ROAD

Chang'an (or Xi'an, as it is known today) was the capital city of early Chinese dynasties. Chang'an was also a "terminus" of the trading routes between China and points to the west of China. These trading routes were collectively called “the Silk Road.”

  1. Looking at the map of eastern Asia's topography (below, 1), can you give two reasons why Chang'an was both a capital city and the terminus of the Silk Road?
  2. Looking at the map of downtown Xi'an today (below, 2), you will see both a "great mosque" and a Buddhist pagoda. How do these reflect the geographic position of Xi'an/Chang'an as a terminus for trade routes to areas west of China?

Also see Standard 5 for more about the Silk Road.

READING: Xi'an [University of Maine] A reading about Xi'an and its history. Includes discussion of the city, of the neolithic village of Banpo, the tomb warriors, the Silk Road, Buddhism, the Ming walls, bell and drum tower, and Xi'an today. With photographs.

MAPS: 1) Topography of Eastern Asia [Silk Road Atlas, University of Washington]; 2) Map of Downtown Xi'an [TravelChinaGuide.com]

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