在进行科学研究的同时，一系列旨在保护与恢复大运河的景观工程也在兴起。与单纯的研究相比，这些景观工程成为中国社会、经济和政治的力量角逐的焦点：对于唯利是图的开发商来说，运河边的房子是个时尚的卖点，运河文化可以被免费而高雅地消费，趋之如骛；对于地方领导而言，运河景观廊道是叫得响的政绩，既可以创造GDP，也可以获得广泛的民心，何乐而不为；而对于国家和人民来说，大运河遗产廊道的建立是历史记忆的修复，关乎民族认同和国家身份。在这些力量的角逐中，景观设计师被推到了大运河保护与修复的前台。如何在真实性与完整性的遗产保护与恢复原则下，创造性地重现大运河景观风采，并赋予其当代的经济、社会、生态和文化意义，是一项极富有挑战的任务。因此，功兮过兮，对纵跨中国东部的大运河的保护与修复，是中国景观设计学和景观设计行业难以推脱的一份责任。（蔡金栋 译，陈凯儿 校）
From Chinese history textbooks, the importance of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is clear: it is the world’s longest canal — it is 16 times the length of the Suez Canal and 33 times that of Panama Canal. It rivals the Great Wall as one of the two greatest man-made wonders in ancient China; it has a history of almost 2,500 years.
The 1,794-kilometer Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is also clear on the map of China: starting from Beijing (known as Zhuojun in ancient times) and ending in Hangzhou (Yuhang), the canal runs through two major cities, Beijing and Tianjin, as well as four provinces, namely, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and also connecting five major river systems of Haihe, Yellow, Huaihe, Yangtze and Qiantang.
According to history of the world’s science and technology, the importance of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is also clear: being the oldest canal in human history, China’s Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is exceptional in terms of its pioneering technology and engineering scale.
There is no doubt that the protection of the Grand Canal is paramount: because of its universal value as world cultural heritage from the technical and historical perspective.
However, when we now in fact walk close to the Grand Canal, when we now look at it through modern, scientific eyes and evaluate it with the standards of modern cultural heritage, we suddenly find it in a time warp. This engineering marvel, which is so clear and evidently of value, is now so blurred. We can just trace it from literature and folklore. When a respected UNESCO world cultural heritage specialist tried to know more about the Grand Canal, he could not even find a citable, modern sciences academic paper in the English. Even the basic information regarding the canal was unclear. Questions, such as the definition of the Grand Canal, its positions in the coordinate system, the identification of its river channels, its width and boundary, its historical relics, their distributions, quantities, values, the way to identify their values, and the way to protect them, etc., which are right in front of us. It turns out the Grand Canal, the most important cultural landscape on the Chinese territory, exists largely as a literary or even mythical motif. While in the realm of sciences, or in the field of modern cultural heritage protection, the Grand Canal is very vague, indicating that there is much work to be done.
Given this, after years of pre-study, the Graduate School of Landscape Architecture of Peking University decided to apply in 2003 for a research grant, as one of the national research projects for the protection of China’s cultural heritage, with the research project titled: the Overall Protection of China’s Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. The support from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage kicked off the analysis process of the Grand Canal. It took the professors and students 30 days to carry out a whole-course on-site survey on bicycles, and following which, nearly 10 years to conduct field investigations on key places and research on protection and planning. During these 10 years, besides having published a large number of papers and helping the State Administration of Cultural Heritage to formulate the protective planning for key places, they trained more than 40 masters and doctoral students who are devoted to the research of the Grand Canal. The work examined the most fundamental yet extremely important issues, which include:
The existing conditions of the contemporary Grand Canal: with the field survey of the whole canal, images and texts, and more than 100 cross-sections of the canal, the ecological conditions of the canal are frozen in 2004 to serve as a fundamental physical reference for future research. At the same time, spots of cultural heritage along the canal were partly collected and examined. Research of its ecological conditions indicate that, the Grand Canal, the heritage and ecological corridor that is of such importance in terms of national ecological security and cultural identity, faces grave challenges. Without timely and unified planning, protection, management and construction, regrets will be inevitable. Many precious heritages on and along the canal are disappearing or being destroyed, some parts of the canal has been reclaimed for farmland, some other parts have been turned into dump pits and pollution discharge ditches. Some world-class hydraulic structures have been severely damaged. The water and wetland systems that rely on the framework of the Grand Canal are facing degradation. In the past centuries, the artificial and natural processes had turned the canal into a continuous, holistic and living ecological landscape network. However, such network has been seriously damaged by urban development, municipal infrastructure building and the construction of hydraulic projects in recent years in the forms of pollution, cutting off, hardening and channelization, as well as landfill and covering of water systems. Without systematic planning and management, the soul of the Grand Canal will be taken away, leaving only the carcass behind. National heritage is being swallowed by urban expansion and projects eagering for quick benefits. In many places, the ecological and heritage value of the canal is not really understood, and in the pursuit of quick profits, damaging projects are allowed to proceed such as housing development and replicated objects are fabricated for tourist purposes. All this reduces the authenticity of the canal as a heritage corridor, as well as leading to a loss of its ecological service functions. The launch of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project brings both opportunity and challenge. It will be another human interference in the regional ecological network that takes the Grand Canal as the framework and main body, which could be a threat to the protection of the heritage corridor. At the same time, it could also be a historic opportunity that will, if wisely planned and utilized, be helpful for the ecological restoration for the cut-off sections and ecologically paralyzed areas of the canal, heritage protection, and the establishment of the ecological and heritage corridor.
The value of the Grand Canal in its entirety: the value of the Grand Canal in its entirety considers it from the perspective of its past, present and future. Four basic values have been identified: the value of cultural heritage in highlighting national identity and promoting cultural recognition; the practical value of water diversion, navigation and irrigation that makes the canal important safeguard for regional urban and rural productions and lives; the value of potential recreation belt that is also an important strategic resource for national physical and psychological regeneration and education. Only when the canal corridor is fully understood in this complete sense, and only when the interactive relationship between practical functions and these values are well handled, can the canal heritage and related resources be well protected and utilized, and the roles of the canal be well played in modern times. Based on this complete vision, the protection and utilization of the canal as a national strategy is proposed to take the form of building heritage corridor and combine the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, the ecological safety layout of east China and the construction of south-north ecological recreation corridor in China. Any single-purpose project (such as the single consideration of water diversion function) or single engineering measures will cause irrecoverable damage upon such unique cultural landscape on the Chinese territory, as well as the related historical culture, ecology and socio-economic system.
Definition of the Grand Canal using the concept of national heritage and ecological corridor: it is the important means of scientifically defining the heritage corridor of the Grand Canal by examining the historical processes and explaining the roles of function and interrelation the canal has played throughout the historical phases. The heritage corridor of the Grand Canal consists of natural ecosystem, cultural heritage system and corridor supporting system. The important natural ecosystem constitutes wetlands, woodlands, farmlands and other regional landscape and environmental elements that are related to the maintenance of the canal’s ecological functions and serve as the surrounding environment of the canal. The important cultural heritage system constitutes the river channels, water sources, water conservancy projects and navigation facilities that are serve the waterway transportation function, tangible cultural heritage items such as historical buildings, relics and settlements along the canal, intangible cultural heritage such as dramas, songs, dances, customs and folktales. The other system that is important to the canal, though may not be directly related to the canal but are spatially linked includes things such as leisure walkways, explanation system and public service facilities. These three systems are the fundamental to the natural, cultural and social assets, and are indispensable for the sustainable development of the region along the canal. The heritage corridor of the Grand Canal should not developed without integrating ecological and heritage protection, recreation and rest, beauty appreciation, enlightenment and education.
Methodology for protecting the Grand Canal: the fundamental methodology for protecting the canal is to establish a national cultural heritage and ecological corridor and to protect and utilize the canal as the core framework of the ecological infrastructure in China. Ecological infrastructure is the natural system which cities rely on, and the basis for cities and their residents to continuously receive natural services. It includes not only the conventional concept of urban green space system, but also the forest ecosystem, farmland system and natural reserve system that also provide natural services. Like the municipal infrastructure in cities, foresight is needed for the ecological infrastructure in regional and urban areas to break off the existing boundaries defined by the urban planning. The regional ecological network, which takes the Grand Canal as its framework as well as its main body, including its tributaries, lakes, ponds, swamps and wetlands, has long been engaged in and influencing the ecological evolution process of the river areas. It has become an important part of the regional ecology, and possesses significant importance of landscape ecology and regional ecological strategy. With fast economic growth, rapid urbanization and the construction of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, such ecological network faces enormous challenges as well as immense opportunities. Facing the huge opportunities and challenges, the construction of ecological infrastructure in the area of the Grand Canal will have a significant and strategic importance for securing healthy ecological services in the vast land of east China, the sustainable development of the city belt in east China, the protection of the heritage corridor itself, whilst fulfilling the recreational and educational demands of future residents.
This research is only just beginning, but they are essential. More in-depth and extensive scientific research is needed. What can be sure is that, when we look at the Grand Canal from the perspectives of modern science and cultural heritage protection, we see a canal that is unique in the world, true and complete.
While scientific research is being conducted, a series of landscape projects are also emerging to protect and restore the Grand Canal. Compared to research, these landscape projects will become sites of contest for China’s social, economic and political forces. For greedy developers, houses along the canal will be a fashionable selling point, and the canal culture can be elegantly and freely consumed and pursued. For the local governments, canal landscape corridor will be their remarkable political achievements, such projects can generate huge GDP, and are supported by the public. And for the country and the people, the establishment of the heritage corridor of the Grand Canal means the repair of historical memories, enhancing national identity. In the competition of these forces, landscape architects are pushed to the foreground in protecting and restoring the Grand Canal. It will be extremely challenging to, while sticking to the principle of heritage protection and restoration that focuses on authenticity and completeness, creatively restore the landscape splendor of the canal and reflect the modern economic, social, ecological and cultural significance. Therefore, whether success or failure, it is the unshakable responsibility of the science and industry of landscape architecture in China to protect and restore the Grand Canal that stretches throughout the eastern part of the country. (Translated by Jindong CAI, Proofread by Anna CHAN)
Source: Kongjian YU, Conversation and Recovery of the Grand Canal, Landscape Architecture Frontiers, 24-27