The Grand Canal, built on the basis of the Hangou Canal which was completed in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-403 BC), consists of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, the Sui and Tang Grand Canal and the Zhedong Canal. With a history of more than 2,500 years since its excavation, it is the world’s earliest excavated, longest flowing and largest ancient canal. It demonstrated the great creativity and infinite wisdom of the ancient Chinese sages, witnessed the important social changes in ancient China, composed a magnificent chapter in the development of Chinese civilization, and is an important symbol of Chinese excellent traditional culture. The National Museum of China, in cooperation with the Capital Museum, Tianjin Museum and Hebei Museum, jointly organized the “Paddling For a Thousand Miles: A Cultural Exhibition of the Grand Canal” exhibition to demonstrate, activate and promote the culture ingrained in the remains of the Grand Canal. It will better refine and display the essence of Chinese excellent traditional culture that has both contemporary value and global significance, and implement the coordinated cultural development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

As a great creation of the workers of ancient China, the Grand Canal condenses the outstanding achievements of ancient Chinese water conservancy technology. Together with the Great Wall and the Karez water system, it is known as one of the three great engineering projects of ancient China. It has played an important role in promoting the economic and cultural exchanges and integration between the north and the south, promoting the rise and prosperity of cities along the route, and maintaining national unity and political stability. Even to this day, although the Grand Canal no longer plays a role in connecting the north and the south, its important historical and cultural value remains intact.

This exhibition is divided into five parts, namely, “Connecting north and south for a millennium,” “Benefiting the nation through cargo transport,” “A thousand vessels drawn forth by teams of boatmen,” “An engineering feat that shocked the world,” and “Cultural prosperity born from the canal.” A total of 170 objects are exhibited across the exhibition, supplemented by multiple digital images and interactive projects, systematically displaying the excavation history, navigation functions, water transportation management, engineering technology and intangible cultural heritage of the Grand Canal.

For thousands of years, the Grand Canal has flowed day and night through the long river of history to the present day, mirroring the endless surge of Chinese culture. This strong vitality has become an important cultural gene of the Chinese nation supporting its perpetual prosperity. We sincerely hope that this exhibition can guide audiences to gain an in-depth understanding of the Grand Canal and its culture, and recognize the historical experience of the Chinese nation in creating a great civilization and a better life through diligence and wisdom.