Decoding China: The Grand Canal Experience

The canal was a pillar for the economy, social stability and government functions in ancient China. The canal also worked to nourish the evolution of Chinese culture by enhancing communication between the south and the north.
— Zhang Shuheng, Archeological Institute of Zhejiang Province

The Grand Canal with a history of more than 2,400 years was recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2014. Not only is it the oldest and longest man-made canal in the world, it was “the world’s largest and most extensive civil engineering project prior to the Industrial Revolution” according to UNESCO. It also has one of the most beautiful sceneries running through Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang. It was first built in 468 BC and went through three major expansions in 770 BC to 476 BC (Spring and Autumn Period), 581 to 618 (Sui Dynasty), and 1271 to 1368 (Yuan Dynasty). The entire length is 1,794 kilometers connecting five major rivers: Hai, Huai, Yantze, Yellow, and Qiantang. Given its long history and its historical significance, it is one of the most important routes with lasting impact to both culture and history of China. If you want to truly understand China, there is no better place to start than the Grand Canal, where we are going to travel back in time to the distant past and then connecting back to modern China.



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  • Duration: 10 Days

  • Time: March to May

  • Cities: Beijing-Suzhou-Hangzhou-Shanghai

  • Key destinations: Beijing, Mount Tai, Temple of Confucius, Kong Family Mansion, West Lake (Hangzhou), Humble Administrator’s Garden (Suzhou), and Shanghai

  • Focus: Food, History, Culture, Arts & Architecture, and People


Day 1 - Fly into Beijing and stay near Tongzhou District

Day 2 - High speed railway to Tai’an and visit Confucius hometown

Day 3 - Climb up Taishan

Day 4 - Bullet train to Suzhou (3.5 hours) - Venice of the East

Day 5 - Travel to one of the best water towns (Zhouzhuang, WuZhen, Tongli, or XiTang)

Day 6 -



1: Beijing - Tongzhou District

When it comes to Beijing, most people think of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, or Tiananmen Square. But, yet, the Grand Canal is the most consequential to Beijing’s history. Without it, Beijing would not be China’s capital today.

3: Taishan - Tai’an/ Shandong

Tiashan is the most famous sacred mountain of China. According to UNESCO, “On the mountain there are 12 historically recorded imperial ceremonies in homage to Heaven and Earth, about 1,800 stone tablets and inscriptions, and 22 temples, which together make Mount Taishan the most important monument in China, a world-renowned treasure house of history and culture.”

5. Local Water Town

We will explore of the local water towns on the way to Hangzhou.

Zhouzhuang - Established over 900 years ago. The most famous and yet the most commercialized.

WuZhen - Established over 1300 years ago. Well preserved late Qing Dynasty style architectures.

Tongli - Established over 1000 years ago. Well-preserved Ming and Qing style architectures.

XiTang - Well-preserved Ming and Qing stye architectures.


2: Confucius Hometown - Qufu/Shandong

Temple of Confucius is the largest and most renowned temple of Confucius in East Asia. Since 1994, the Temple of Confucius has been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4: Suzhou

According to BBC Travel, “The city of classical charms.” Known as the Venice of the East, Suzhou’s stunning backdrop of flowing rivers and canals has earned its reputation as one of the most picturesque cities in China.

We will also explore Humble Administrator’s Garden (aka Zhuo Zheng Yuan), built in 1509 during the Ming Dynasty. It is one of the four most famous gardens in China due to its unique design and beauty. It is also the largest and the most renowned garden in Suzhou. It is listed as a World Cultural Heritage site and has also been designated as one of the Cultural Relics of National Importance under the Protection of the State.