Golden Water River

Golden Water River. Despite measuring only 510 meters in length, during the 14th to 20th century the Changpu was one of Beijing’s two most important rivers, the other being the Golden Water River by the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City. As the Changpu runs outside the imperial compound, it is also known as the Outer Golden Water River. In the Ming Dynasty, the city of Beijing was divided into three concentric rings, with the downtown area at the periphery, the Forbidden City at the center, and the imperial city between the two. As domicile to the royal family, the Forbidden City was surrounded by water, with the Golden Water River to the south and the Tongzi River to the east, west and north. Both still exist. The downtown area was also encircled by moats. Moats extant in Beijing were constructed during the Ming Dynasty, when they performed the multiple functions of water supply, sewage treatment, transportation, and defense.

The Inner Golden Water River inside the Forbidden City.
Originating as they did in south China, the Ming emperors had a strong affinity for water. Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of the dynasty, selected Nanjing, on the Yangtze River, as capital of his empire, but after a coup by his son Zhu Di and his subsequent ascension to the throne, the capital was moved to Beijing. The reasons for this were that Beijing had long been Zhu Di’s sphere of influence, and that it had mighty economic and military strength. Its location was also strategically significant as regards defense against the enemy states in the north. After Zhu Di died in 1424, his son Zhu Gaochi succeeded the throne, and soon took the decision to move the capital back to Nanjing. He died, however, only two months later. Otherwise, the history of Beijing would have taken a completely different course.

Since ruling Beijing as Prince Yan, Zhu Di had stressed the need for the construction of its water works. In 1371 he gave the order to shift the Yuan (previous dynasty) city wall to the south, and make the Broomcorn River and Jishuitan its northern moats. In 1419 a new moat, Qiansanmen, was dug south of the imperial city, and the eastern and western Yuan moats were dredged and expanded to link with it. Later the external city moat was also excavated after a city wall had been built, and all these moats were channeled into the Tonghui River. Beijing was thereafter circumfused with rings of green waters. (Source China Today).

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