The Grand Canal, known to the Chinese as the Jing–Hang Grand Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the longest canal or artificial river in the world. Starting in Beijing, it passes through Tianjin and the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang to the city of Hangzhou, linking the Yellow River and Yangtze River. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century BC, but the various sections were first connected during the Sui dynasty. Dynasties in 1271–1633 significantly restored and rebuilt the canal and altered its route to supply their capital.
The total length of the Grand Canal is 1,776 km. Its greatest height is reached in the mountains of Shandong, at a summit of 42 m. Ships in Chinese canals did not have trouble reaching higher elevations after the pound lock was invented in the 10th century, during the Song dynasty, by the government official and engineer Qiao Weiyue. The canal has been admired by many throughout history including Japanese monk Ennin, Persian historian Rashid al-Din, Korean official Choe Bu, and Italian missionary Matteo Ricci.
Historically, periodic flooding of the Yellow River threatened the safety and functioning of the canal.