Beijing was built along rivers and thrived due to its waterways. Over the last 3,000 years, Beijing has been nourished by its rivers and lakes, which flow through the ancient Beijing of red walls and green tiles to the modern Beijing with high buildings and large mansions.
Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal
With a history of over 1,000 years, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is the largest and earliest canal of its kind in the world. The digging of the Grand Canal started in the late Spring and Autumn period (about the 5th century BC). And it was twice extended and widened – once during the Sui period and again in the Yuan Dynasty. The Grand Canal is a great ancient construction project and it is the major artery that connected northern and southern China in ancient times. Spanning 1,794 km, it starts from Hangzhou in South China and ends in Beijing, running almost straight through the wealthy coastal plains of eastern and southern China and the great plain of North China.
The Kunyu River waterway runs about 10 kilometers from Bayi Lake near Yuyuantan Park to Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace. The Baiyi Lake has a long history and the Summer Palace is a complex of imperial palaces and gardens once reserved for use by emperors and their retinues of the Qing Dynasty. Besides these, the Kunyu River also passes many historical sites.
The Changhe River is an ancient river with a history of over 700 years. It became an imperial waterway leading to the Summer Palace in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), by which the imperial family went westwards to the Summer Palace.
Chaobai River, located in Shunyi District, was the venue for the rowing, canoeing and kayak, whitewater slalom and marathon swimming competitions during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and rowing events of the Paralympics. After the Olympic Games, this venue became an Olympic Water Park with additional sports/recreational features, such as drifting, roller walking, and speed boating. Therefore, it gradually became a good place for spring outings, water sports, relaxing and keeping fit as well as watching water competitions.
Shichahai: A Lake in Downtown Beijing
In Shichahai Lake, you can also travel by a southern style boat with a long scull, fully enjoying the old life style. The waterway of Shichahai offers distinguishing views of Hutongs, well-kept Siheyuan, temples, former residences of the celebrities, and the former princes’ mansions.
Today you can travel around certain places by waterways in Beijing. So far, two main waterways available for tourism in Beijing: Kunyu River route and Changhe River route and. The two routes connect most of the waterways in western and northern Beijing, making them a special sightseeing item on water. The water boats are in service from April to October every year. This offers another way of sightseeing in Beijing. In addition, boats are also available in city lakes, such as Shichahai Lake.
The river cruise on Kunyu River, a 10-km ride, is one of the most popular boat tours in Beijing. The boats depart from Bayi Lake, passing China Millennium Monument, Yuyuantan Park, China Central Television Tower, Jinyuan Mall, Linglong Park, and finally arrive at the Summer Palace.
The Changhe Route starts from the Houhu in the Beijing Exhibition Hall and ends at the Ruyi Gate at the southern end of the Summer Palace after a 9-km ride. Taking a boat from Houhu, you are able to see the Beijing Zoo, Beijing Aquarium, Five-Pagoda Temple, National Library of China, Zizhuyuan Park and Wanshou Temple before arriving at the Summer Palace.