Qing Dynasty Bridge

Grand Canal, Suzhou

The Grand Canal is the world's longest (1,250 miles) man-made waterway, linking the Yangzi and Yellow rivers, and connecting the populous North with the rice-producing South. Northern parts of it were built as early as 486 BC, but the major construction occurred in the 7th century, when emperor Sui Yangdi brutally conscripted over 5 million people to complete it. The emperor toured its length in a flotilla of dragon boats, pulled along the shore by the most beautiful women in the empire. The cost of the work, the arrogance of the emperor, and a series of disasterous campaigns in Korea, combined to bring about a revolution; Yangdi abdicated and was strangled, and the spoils of empire fell to general Li Yuan (Gaozu), founder of the Tang dynasty.