A chance hail of a cab...
...led us to an knowledgeable driver and his brand new VW, so he was engaged for a day trip south out of Liaocheng, allowing for searches for the Canal in rural settings.
It did not take long to get to open roads, line with popular trees, with their winter white leg warmers (complete with red garters) already painted on...the paint is poisonous to insects which would love to climb and bore into the trees.
Grab shots out the window of towns with new shops, and their merchandise, lining the road, with new mid-rise apartments behind. China is undertaking a massive relocation of rural populations into urban settings such as these, as well as the expansion of major urban areas, such as Liaocheng.
But some rural ways make their way into town: drying corn kernels on the nice, wide, hot hi-way pavement--which of course have to be turned over for thorough drying.
And rural people power still does basic tasks, often in groups, such as giving road markers a new coat of paint. Not many years ago these women would be moving down the road on bicycles, if not on foot pulling carts. But now they all have electric-motor bikes.
The arrival at a park, with a traditional gazebo (albeit made of concrete), indicated something usual ahead.
And coming upon this space age tourist tower (locked) clintched it:
Road end at the Yellow River. If your knowledge of its 3,395 mile location is sketchy, take a break and Google it.
First time for Zhufeng and her sister Zhuxian to see it, so worthy of a selfie.
Famous for major flooding, and lost bridges, many are of a floating pontoon design...flexible with normal rise and fall of the water level, and easily removed (or replaced) at times of catastrophic flooding.
Also known as "China's Sorrow" (due to floods) or "Mother River" (for the role it played in the development of Chinese civilization), there is a famous statute way up-river in Lanzhou, Gansu, with a supine woman, head high in the western mountains, toes touching the eastern Yellow Sea and a child at her waist. Here is a smaller, and much less visited, take on it.
Time to get serious about finding the Grand Canal, but with no expectations to find exactly where it hit the river, since the geography of the whole valley has been subjected to major land re-arranging time and again. It is said that a major earthquake in the late 19th Century altered the hydrology such that the Grand Canal never recovered and fell into disuse as a transportation artery. Of course the need for it was lessening with the expansion of railroads.
A rural scene...farm family members wish to be buried in the fields they spent their lives tilling, and where their descendents can easily visit. A new grave is marked by a substantial black monument stone. And behind human power pulls and pushes a harrow between rows of winter wheat.
These are the villages Beijing wishes do away with...single story, courtyard houses, very vaunerable to not only floods but earthquakes and violent storms.
But the people do not wish to move....home improvements continue...electricity and ...
...passive solar water heaters have been installed.
And the annual gate decorations for New Year, formerly made of paper and pasted on in January, now are here made of tile, and permanently decorate the opening.
The driver needed to ask directions a couple times, but he found this not quite ordinary rural bridge, with carved lions on all four corners. Also a major block of concrete to narrow it to one lane....
....at least for big vehicles. Many an old, narrow bridge has been damaged in the jousting for right of way. So what led to the decoration, and some protection of THIS bridge?
It is crossing the now not-so-Grand Canal.
The bridge has seen better days. Some of its finish facing blocks are gone, a secondary structure for flood control has been added on one side...
...and the lions have been left to fend for themselves.
The star on the key-stone block indicates a post-revolution construction date....the hay day of rural land reform, collectivization, and the paradoxical political shifts of "Honor Our Glorious History" and "Down with the Four Olds". Maybe the two lizard-like creatures above the star are there to ward off floods and protect the bridge?
So now the canal is just another inland waterway, bringing water to irrigate fields, and provide habitat for flocks of ducks or....
...in other spots, places for trash to accumulate, and its history of racing rice and silk from the south to the Imperial Capital of Beijing is fast disappearing....
...beneath steel bridges and ribbons of concrete roads.
Oh, remember that sweeping wide blue line on the model of Liaocheng? That is part of the new south > north water diversion project, which is sending Yellow River water from relatively wet central China to the semi-arid dry area where Beijing is located. This channel is leading a portion the river to the inlet of the first pump station, which starts the water on its journey north....
...through new, wide, fenced aqueducts. We will not be seeing Viking River Cruises on this, nor on the northern portion of the Grand Canal.
But what we are beginning to see are Chinese made RV's with families piled in, seeing the sights on their own voyages of discovery.