and economic activity slowly began to move to the south. By the twelfth century, Jiangsu arid Zhejiang Provinces had become the heart of China, and the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279) established a capital at Hangzhou in 1138. In 1282, under the Mongols, another canal was built between the Huang Ho and the Ta-ch’ing River in northern Shantung, but several attempts to join it to the sea proved unsuccessful. Eventually the Hui-t’ung Canal was built to join the Huang Ho and the Wei Rivers. The Ming dynasty (1368–1644) reigned from Yingtian until 1421, after which the capital was returned to Beijing. The whole Grand Canal, comprising six main sections, was dredged and repaired. Since then it has been widened repeatedly, the last changes being made at the beginning of the Ch’ing dynasty in the middle of the seventeenth century.

Early in the twentieth century the Grand Canal began to fall into disuse for reasons that included the frequent flooding of the Huang Ho; the move to coastal shipping; the construction of major north-south railroads; and not least, general neglect as a result of political turmoil. However, the Communist regime started rehabilitation in 1958, and over the next eight years the canal was dredged, straightened, and widened, and a new 40-mile (64-kilometer) section was built. But it was not until the late 1980s that plans were put in hand to dredge the entire Grand Canal, reinstating it as an important highway for local and medium-distance freight vessels, especially in the south. Shallow-draft vessels—mostly barges and tourist boats—can now navigate the stretch south of the Yangtze all year-round. The section north of the Yangtze is seasonably navigable, and major works are in progress to allow bulk carriers to reach Xuzhou; beyond that, the canal remains impassable.

Further reading

Bishop, Kevin, and Annabel Roberts. 1997. China’s Imperial Way: Retracing an Historical Trade and Communications Route from Beijing to Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Odyssey.

The Grand Canal: An Odyssey. 1987. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

Harrington, Lyn. 1974. The Grand Canal of China. Folkestone, UK: Bailey and Swinfen.

Borobudur Temple


Borobudur Temple stands on the plain of Kedu, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of the modern city of Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java. Its name is derived from Hhumtcambharabudara (“the mountain of the accumulation of virtue in the ten stages of Bodhisatva”). Crowning a 150-foot (46-meter) hill, this largest of all Buddhist buildings is a masterpiece of religious architecture. One of the world’s best-preserved ancient monuments, it was built about 300 years before many of the great Christian cathedrals of western Europe and the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia, some of whose temples are thought to have been influenced by it.

Sometime before the fifth century a.d., Hinduism and Buddhism spread along maritime trade routes between the Asian mainland and Java, Sumatra, and Bali. By about the seventh century Mahayana teachings dominated Buddhist thought in East Asia, and Java eventually became an important center of monastic scholarship. Mahayana Buddhist precepts constrained the form of such edifices as Borobudur.

Built from more than 1 million carved blocks of gray andesite lava quarried at nearby Mount Merapi, Borobudur was initiated as a Hindu precinct, probably a Siva temple, around a.d. 775. The lower two terraces had been completed when a shift in power to the Buddhist Sailendra dynasty brought the project to a halt. Naturally, the finished stages were unsuited to the liturgical needs of Buddhism; on the other hand, such a huge structure—its several levels are 17,800 square yards (15,000 square meters) in total area—was a powerful evocation of Hinduism, so after about fifteen years work resumed to convert the building into the largest stupa ever built. The stupa as a building type is almost exclusive to Buddhism: in essence it is a square base surmounted by an inverted circular bowl and capped with a spire. It was almost complete in 832 when the Hindu Sanjaya dynasty set out to reunify central Java and took over all religious buildings. Because most of the population was Buddhist, Borobudur remained a focus of that religion.

Influenced by the Gupta architecture of fourth-century India, the Borobudur Temple modeled the