China Focus: Ancient Grand Canal boosts modern business

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BEIJING, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- As a whistle sounded, the cruise ship left the canal harbor. Liu Shizhao, a photographer from Beijing, pressed the shutter skillfully, just like 41 years ago.

In June, a Grand Canal stretch linking Beijing with neighboring Hebei Province resumed navigation.

In 1981, Liu, who worked for a Chinese magazine then, rode a bicycle from Beijing with three Leica cameras and it took him more than 400 days to arrive in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, some 1,600 km away from the Chinese capital. With nearly 200 rolls of film and 5,000 photos, he recorded the scene and social life along the Grand Canal.

The Grand Canal connects Beijing and Hangzhou with a history of over 2,500 years. It served as a significant transportation artery in ancient China. The world's longest artificial waterway was declared a world heritage site in 2014.

Along the canal section in Beijing, all seems to have changed. High-rise buildings watch the canal as ancient bridges have been renovated. Through Liu's lens, people see vibrant Beijing.

Beijing's Tongzhou District, located in the northernmost area of the canal, has welcomed its new role as Beijing municipal administrative center in line with the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. Such development manifests in various aspects, including the improved environment.

"In the past, factories were set up, and pigs were raised in the village. There was a bad smell in the air, and the sewage was discharged directly," said Zhang Shuming, a local of Tongzhou's Lyujiawan Village.

But in the past 10 years, the canal's water quality has improved, and wild waterfowl such as egrets are often spotted. The river banks have become an ideal destination for urbanites to relax, and some stay in the homestays in the village.

Chen Wei, a homestay owner, has been busy during the National Day holiday. "No one wanted to come before, and now everyone is rushing to live in the homestays," said Chen, adding that the clear water along the canal allows her to pursue the dream of starting a business in her hometown.

The area where the Tongzhou canal business district sits used to be a significant business town in ancient times. Now, it has become the business center in Tongzhou District. With the implementation of a series of policies, the canal is flourishing.

"Up to now, the business district has attracted more than 17,000 enterprises. Compared with 2019, the total number of enterprises has increased by 75 percent," said Lin Zhenghang, director of the business district's management committee.

Before the National Day holiday, a repaired ancient tower reopened to the public, and a bazaar featuring traditional Chinese culture was held here. Young people dressed in traditional clothing Hanfu added glamor to the site.

An outline issued by the central authorities in 2019, required efforts to advance the protection, inheritance and utilization of the Grand Canal and coordinate the economic and social development of areas along the waterway to explore a new path of high-quality development.

Liu has donated thousands of films he shot to the Capital Museum, hoping to introduce more people to the development and changes of the Grand Canal. He said he hopes to continue to record China's development through his lens. Enditem

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