Part 4: Along the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal
The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal lies south of the southern curve of the old city wall. In ancient times, this canal was used as a transport route for grain to Beijing. Beginning in the Spring and Autumn period, humans overcame nature to dig the longest canal in the world, and more recently they overcame nature again to build city structures on either side of the canal. Travelling on the BRT and in coworkers’ cars, I never stopped to think if a bridge was built so cars could escape ground level traffic on the ring roads or if they were built to cross the canals. Only now looking on Baidu maps have I considered how the photographs are connected geographically.
The scenes continue from where Part 2 ended, by the old city wall south of Injoy Mall in Zhonglou district. I came here one last time during the floods of late June 2015 and finally figured out that was famous canal. The canal waters split here. Some of it flows south of Qingguo Alley described in Part 3 and the majority of it curves even further south, forming a crescent when joined with the other canal. The first bridge pictured is 廣化橋 Guanghua Bridge and from here you can see high rise apartments along a wide canal. Get off the foot of the bridge, and you see a half demolished building with a half demolished armchair in front.
Heading west on the Grand Canal, you reach another old looking bridge* and can get off at 西直街 (West Straight Street), which looks like it came straight out of 1960. I’ve seen children wash their hair with buckets outside of their houses here. A lot of elderly people also sit around, not appearing to do anything. There’s a sign in front of a teahouse that says 禁止停車 (parking not allowed) with cars that have entirely ignored the sign. There’s also a cardboard and Styrofoam recycling area here. Leaving this enclave to head back to what was once home, you can see the BRT station and Hanting Hotel, which is part of a huge chain in China. Suddenly it’s 2014 city life again.