The Grand Canal: the last swan song

   The Grand Canal flows through the second half of the nineteenth century in the cold, and it has witnessed the humiliation and suffering of an ancient nation in those decades, and has also seen some new things rise next to it.
  In the autumn of six years in Xianfeng, Wei Yuan, 63, left Xinghua and headed to Hangzhou along the ancient canal. This is an old man’s farewell journey to another in an old season.
  Yes, Wei Yuan is old, and so is the Grand Canal. Thirty years ago, when he was advocating ocean shipping in the Tao Shu screen, how bold was the spirit of taking the world as his own responsibility. Now, in the last autumn of his life, he is traveling on this old channel that was deserted because of the termination of water transportation. The lonely boat is cold water, the sky is low and the clouds are dark, the reed flowers are bleak, and his eyes are bleak. This situation coincides with his mood. Although a book of “Pictures of the Sea Kingdom” made him famous all over the world, his reputation is sometimes not worth eating, especially in the snobbery and officialdom.
  ”Hui Baolanhuai is only pitiful, and the beauty is far away by the blue clouds. Dongfeng will not save the old beauty, he may miss his youth for another year.” This is He Shaoji’s unfair poem for him, and he made a mistake in repeated attempts. Year after year, until Daoguang was fifty-two in 25 years old, he won a top three and ninety-three. Such a ranking is simply a shame for a famous university student. I checked Daoguang’s twenty-five years of enrollment records. That year’s champion was a Hunanese named Xiao Jinzhong. This father was a mediocre dutiful son. After winning the first prize, he worked as a complier in the Imperial Academy for two years and then went home to support him. The old mother went, until one winter night, she was accidentally burned to death by the fire because she was drunk. But it was this inconspicuous Xiao Jinzhong, who had to stand on tiptoe to see the ranking in the field that year. In fact, even if all the champions of the Qing Dynasty were added together, it would certainly not be as good as a book of “Pictures of the Sea of ​​the Country”. From this point of view alone, the rules of the imperial examination game should be changed.
  Wei Yuan spent a few years sitting on the bench in a small county in northern Jiangsu, resigning from office and retreating to Xinghua, taking Buddhist scriptures as his spiritual home. Every wise man who converts to religion has great pain. Wei Yuan’s pain may be that he has seen the incurable general trend of the Qing Dynasty. Since he is unable to return to heaven, he simply crossed the Three Realms and hoped for nothingness. Therefore, he chose the last station of his life in Hangzhou under Lingyin Temple. A few months later, Wei Yuan died of illness in Hangzhou.
  Wei Yuan feels right. Not only Suzhou, but the relatively pure canal cities in eastern China will be helplessly declining. The so-called pure canal cities are based on their dependence on the canal. Their original prosperity was the result of the canal’s nourishment. Their relationship with the canal is inseparable from the vine, and it is also a relationship between damage and prosperity. . It is very sad to associate these canal cities with decline, not only because their prosperity has shown the pride of urban development in an agricultural society, but also because of the amazingness that they have embodied after previous wars. The regenerative capacity.
  The story of Yangzhou belongs to the historical category of the Grand Canal, not the historical category of power struggles. It is the Grand Canal, not any emperor, that determines its fate. Even the most brutal generals and the most mediocre emperors cannot stop it. The phoenix-like rebirth in Yangzhou. This is not because of anything else, but because it relies on the Grand Canal, with the great view of water transport as the background of its life, from there, it has all the colors, thoughts and voices of civilization in its life. But it doesn’t work anymore. With the termination of the water transport, the Grand Canal has been left in the cold, and a long winter in its life has come.
  The stage in Beijing is beginning to decline, but the good show in Shanghai can’t wait to start.
  In November of the twelfth year of Tongzhi, the Shanghai Shipping Investment Promotion Bureau was established. China Merchants had only three ships at first, and later bought several old ships of foreign companies. Although it is not astonishing and not so ostentatious, the noisy siren on the Huangpu River has its own voice after all. This world-breaking voice immediately changed the competitive landscape in the shipping industry. In the past, Qichang in the United States, Swire and Jardines in the United Kingdom were tumbling with each other. Now they are all in one group and are working together to squeeze the investment promotion. Bureau. China Merchants is not very stage fright. Relying on the preferential policies of water transport patents and tax-free return granted by the Qing government, it has gradually become more prominent in the competition, and its wings have become plump. Moreover, a number of modern Chinese industrial giants have gradually emerged from here, including Sheng Xuanhuai, who later became famous and slandered the world. In the early westernization industry in China, the China Merchants Shipbuilding Bureau was undoubtedly more effective. Behind its huge roar, the Grand Canal was declining day by day.
  The Grand Canal flows through the second half of the nineteenth century in the cold, and it has witnessed the humiliation and suffering of an ancient nation in those decades, and has also seen some brand-new things rise next to it. If the siren of China Merchants Shipping is still quite far away from it, then another louder sound is getting closer and closer-that is the roar of the train.
  Empress Dowager Cixi came back from Xi’an with Guangxu. They were driven out of the capital by the Allied Forces of the Eight Nations last summer. When they left, they left the temple in a hurry and passed through Hebei, Shanxi, and then to Guanzhong. The old woman didn’t want to go to the sad places that she passed through last year. She returned to Luang on the South Road. The vast royal motorcade followed the ancient post road on the south bank of the Yellow River into the land of Zhongzhou, and then turned northward. When Luanjia arrived at Bao’an, Yuan Shikai, who had just succeeded Li Hongzhang as the governor of Zhili, gave the Queen Mother an unexpected surprise. He specially arranged a trip on the train for Galeries Lafayette-letting the Queen Mother and the emperor return to Beijing in a luxurious “dragon car”. Although the railway has been on the land of China for several years, this old-fashioned and vain old woman has been holding her pipa half-hidden, never willing to appreciate it. It now seems that she intends to complete this historic grand ceremony in order to wait for the moment of fleeing back to Beijing. The train started, the station was full of colorful Ling Dai Hua Ling, and the western band played the march. We can’t guess what the mother and son monarchs thought on the fast-moving train; we only know that soon after Luang drove back to Beijing, the Qing court issued an decree: abolish the governor of Donghe, and since the beginning of this year, all provinces’ river transportation will be changed. Levy color. So far, lasting for more than 2,450 years, the water transportation system based on natural economy finally withdrew from the historical stage.
  Soon, the court issued another decree: abolish the imperial examination. Thus, the last fascinating scenery on the Grand Canal disappeared.
  In the last winter of the twentieth century, a scholar carrying a suitcase inspected the Grand Canal. The Grand Canal is in decline, and it coincides with the dry season, and it becomes more and more of the sadness in the decline. Naturally, the so-called mighty and Mingli can’t be said, the shallow and narrow line naturally lost the smooth narrative style of the past. The thin ice on the water’s edge is fragile and pale, and in some places it shows a pattern similar to the “eye” on the stone inkstone. The water is very small, and it has been seized by Shazhu from time to time, which makes it a little curvy. However, the embankments on both sides of the river are very majestic and magnificent like a guard of honor. Although it seems a bit overly grand, its sluggish riverbed proves its original vastness. The river beach was covered with unnamed wormwood, one spongy and one spongy, all the way to the junction with the thin ice. There are also a few solitary willow trees, all of which have been around for a few years, it is difficult to recall the lightness and spring breeze of the willow silk. The afterglow of the setting sun diffused from the treetops, stroking everything along the ancient canal with tender sadness. It rendered a kind of tranquility where the dust had settled, and also made the sluggish river water for a moment magnificent.

  Open the map and take a look at the trajectory of the railway and the Grand Canal. It is very interesting.
  Whether from Beijing to the south or Hangzhou to the north, they were all on the road together at first, and the two parallel lines have been maintained for a long time. But the railway has always been very restless. This restlessness stems from its inherent superiority and the arrogant and disrespectful industrial civilization towards agricultural civilization. It is the pride of the new century, and its name is branded with iron and fire. It has its own set of thinking and value orientation. Why should it follow this aging “grandmother”? So it started to go its own way. From the map, the two lines of the railway and the canal are roughly entwined into an Arabic numeral “8”, but there is a small braid at the head and the tail, which is the parallel part of the two sides. At the northern end, it was from Dezhou to Beijing; at the southern end, it was from Zhenjiang to Hangzhou (in the meantime, the railway could not withstand the temptation of Shanghai and turned eastward from Suzhou for a section). The knot in the middle of the “8” is in Xuzhou.
  If the comparison between the Grand Canal and the Great Wall shows a kind of spatiality, then the comparison with the railway is more of time. One is 2,400 years and the other is a hundred years. The power of time is absolute power. When the smoke of the steam locomotive was scattered on the ancient canal, the latter fell helplessly.
  This decline is so shocking. In every canal city from Zhenjiang to Dezhou, you can see the traces of this decline and feel the long sighs of old people in history. Just look at their names: Yangzhou, Gaoyou, Huai’an (Qingjiangpu), Jining, Liaocheng (Dongchangfu), Linqing. Those with a little historical knowledge will think of their uniqueness in the Ming and Qing Dynasties and even earlier. Aesthetic style and cultural personality. Now, almost all of these cities are building up the ancient canal park and the ancient canal museum, and many cities have also established ancient canal research associations. This sort of tidying up itself reveals the taste of a declining aristocracy. The Grand Canal has become their former glory and dream. They were once alive and bright because of the canal, and they have become important commercial centers for farming China. Whether it is literati, businessmen, women, emperors, bureaucrats, and servants, they have experienced the wind and heat of life here. But the decline seemed to be only overnight. They seemed to have some magic of a wizard. When they woke up, they suddenly realized that they were ashamed and lonely, and they became a third-class city that was not influential, and only a few left by the ancient canal. The names of the streets and alleys shyly told of the prosperity of the merchants. Of course, the poetic life also declined with it. And all of this, just because in the “8” between the Grand Canal and the railway, they became a group abandoned by the railway.
  At first, they didn’t pay much attention to the railway. They thought it was enough to own the canal. They spoke very high-sounding, but it was only high-sounding. By the time of the early years of the Republic of China, the railway had become the “sweet and pastry” in the eyes of people of insight. Who wouldn’t want to hold it in his arms?
  But most sections of the Grand Canal process are without railways. In the vast hinterland of northern Jiangsu and Shandong, the sound of trains and the Grand Canal are actually felt. This feeling is saturated with helpless loss and loneliness. There seems to be no change in the world, but there are fewer and fewer ships on the canal—especially the big ships coming from afar. As a result, the piers were cold day by day, and the towns were also depressed day by day. Even the beautiful place in Yangzhou was like an abandoned woman, silently pitying himself by the ancient canal. The Grand Canal gradually lost its commercial function and returned more to its original form of agricultural society. The farmers fished the silt in the canal, but it was not for dredging the river, but for fertilizing the fields. The silt that had settled through the ages was covered in the crops, giving birth to crops of wheat, rape, and corn. The boat rang unhurriedly all the way, and the ancient canal became more and more cold…The
  Grand Canal is old, and an aging life always prefers to choose silence. It either grows old in this way until it dies, and is obliterated in the dust of the years like most of the great medieval constructions in the world, and becomes an eternal memory and tribute to future generations; or it waits in the cold-waiting for a stronger one This new era will not only bring new life to the Grand Canal, but also an unprecedented take-off for the Chinese nation. Then just wait. For a great life that has gone through more than 2,400 years, the wait will probably not be too long.
  Another evening arrived, Konoha was bleak, decayed like a complaint, and the ancient canal was filled with beautiful sadness. Fan Ying came from a distance, and a group of swallows chased the mast diligently. Thousands of years ago they chased like this, chasing from Jiangnan to Jibei, and from Jibei to Jiangnan. In the afterglow of the setting sun, you gradually see every detail of the ship: the shiny and black shipboard, the tiller that has been polished out of metal texture, and the tall sail is covered with patches, like a wandering ship. A lone traveler, the shabby clothes are full of autumn wind. On this ancient waterway, it has sailed through thousands of years of myths and legends, philosophies and epics, and now it comes to you without complaint…