Go to Huai’an to find the canal spirit

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The Grand Canal is so big!
Today, there are still many people who can not clearly and accurately describe the Grand Canal and its cultural heritage. In some cities, the remains of canals have been turned into scattered rivers, wharves, gates and dams that have already lost their practical functions. People often pass them by but ignore them; At the same time, great changes have taken place on both sides of the canals: river environment renovation, navigation restoration, leisure park and ecological trail construction are in the ascendant… At this time, how should we understand the cultural heritage of the Grand Canal, and how should we explain it? I went to Huai’an and looked forward to the answer from this “capital of canals”.
Re-recognize the role of canal heritage: connect the past and the present
In history, perhaps no city has been so closely bound to the Grand Canal for so long as Huai’an, influencing and achieving each other. Huai’an maintained the operation of the canal and enjoyed the wealth and culture brought by the canal; The direction and smoothness of the canal also profoundly affect the shape and development of Huai’an City.
Huai’an is very suitable to experience the value of the Grand Canal and the spirit of the heritage site.
With the mentality of “pilgrimage”, I came to the Huai’an Qingkou Junction, which is a large water conservancy complex composed of a series of river courses, gates and dams, embankments and other projects. It undertakes the functions of dredging, maintenance and hydrological observation respectively, reflecting the highest level of water conservancy and water transport engineering technology in the East during the agricultural civilization period, and can be called a large open-air water conservancy museum. During the Tongzhi period of the Qing Dynasty, the Yellow River ended its history of seizing the Huaihe River and entering the sea, and diverted its route to Shandong. The original functions of Qingkou, such as “storing clear water, brushing yellow water, and aiding transportation”, disappeared and gradually disappeared.
The imperial rebuilt Huiji Memorial Monument and the wharf Tianfei Dam Stone Relics are representative relics of the Huai’an Grand Canal heritage. The dam site has been excavated. This is the extension of the Hongze Lake levee, which was used to resist floods, but now bears the corresponding heritage display function. The imperial tablet recorded the importance that the country attached to the management of rivers and canals at that time. Both are important components of the “Grand Canal”, a world cultural heritage.
Qingjiang Gate, located in the urban area, presents a very prosperous scene: eye-catching signboards and guide signs remind people that this is the “Grand Canal National Cultural Park”; Several homeward cruise ships are moored on the river; Young people in Hanfu on Ruofei Bridge are laughing and taking photos; On the riverbank, the old man is walking leisurely… The feeling is that the canal here is “alive”. Huai’an has endowed the Grand Canal with popularity and vitality. The Grand Canal is still influencing and shaping the material and spiritual life of Huai’an people.
After more than 2500 years of continuous excavation, dredging and use, the Grand Canal has become a highly visible landmark engraved on the earth. This “visibility” is deliberately highlighted in the consciousness of people everywhere, and then becomes a public logo. Taking Huai’an as the representative, all the “Grand Canal National Cultural Park” along the canal began to use the same logo. It is a water pattern composed of the Chinese character “canal”. The water pattern is connected from the beginning to the end, which is continuous, symbolizing the continuous flow of the Grand Canal from history to the future.
The image of Huai’an as the “capital of canals”: all-embracing and overcoming difficulties
The cultural heritage of the Grand Canal is no longer a simple specimen of ancient water conservancy, but a link between ancient and modern times. This dynamic process that echoes the past and the present is very important for explaining the value of the heritage and marking the spirit of the heritage site. Huai’an has always been known as the “capital of canals”. Now, it is also the first city in Jiangsu Province to introduce the identification system project of the Grand Canal National Cultural Park.
Huai’an is ushering in new opportunities: for Chinese people, the cultural heritage of the Grand Canal has become more vivid social life and cognition, and it still appears in the corners and moments of people’s lives along the line. I believe that the true spirit of a canal heritage city must be hidden in the daily Congee, food, words and deeds of ordinary people.
Huai’an people are very good at making noodles in their diet culture. When people come to see the canal, they should try the fish noodles specially. Huai’an’s long fish noodles can be called a good combination of north and south: the bottom of the soup is essence, which needs to be cooked slowly with dozens of spices and herbs. Huaiyang Cuisine emphasizes delicacy, so the eel should be carefully washed and boned, and then served with the northern kind of generous and strong noodles and various dishes. A bowl of long fish noodles, which is different from the southern part of the Yangtze River and more refined than the northern taste, will be cooked. Eating delicious longfish noodles, you will agree with the local people’s evaluation of Huai’an folk customs: “It is appropriate to get dry and wet, with the beauty of north and south; it is neither soft nor ruddy, nor hard to vomit”. That is to say, Huai’an is in the north and south atmosphere, and each chooses its advantages and meets both sides. Today, there is still a screen wall at the Qingjiang Gate, which reads “The South Ship and the North Horse House Boat Landing”. This inclusive attitude properly and accurately describes the core functions and landscape of the Grand Canal, and also well interprets the spiritual character of this city, which is both a canal city and a heritage city.
After eating Changyumian, the local taxi driver saw that I was particularly interested in the Grand Canal, and recommended to me the “water overpass” on the North Jiangsu Irrigation Canal, which is his representative work of contemporary Huai’an water transport. The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and the Huaihe River estuary meet here horizontally and vertically. For more than 800 years in history, Huai’an has been the intersection of the Yellow River, the Huaihe River and the canal. Therefore, the hydraulic measures here not only reflect the wisdom of human beings and nature to adapt to each other, but also reflect the will of people to be more and more courageous and the sense of cooperation to overcome difficulties. After entering the 21st century, in the process of contemporary governance of the Huaihe River, Huai’an has also dealt with floods many times. In the face of the loss, the local farmers replied, “Our loss is a small matter, and the flood control of the Huaihe River is a huge matter. We will do what the state says”. In fact, from the Qingkou hub to the water overpass, from the heritage site to today’s scientific and technological projects, the inheritance from “governing the Huaihe River first” to “must repair the Huaihe River” has remained unchanged. It is this character of overcoming difficulties that makes Huai’an different from other canal cities.
If I rearrange the image of Huai’an as the “capital of canals”, I will vote for its “all-embracing” and “overcoming difficulties” of human coexistence.