The Amazing Legacy of the Short-Lived Sui Dynasty

A bridge on the Grand Canal. (Image:  oinonio via  flickr  CC BY-SA 2.0)
A bridge on the Grand Canal. (Image: oinonio via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Sui Dynasty (A.D. 581-618) lasted for only 38 years, but from it came a series of architecturally magnificent buildings and a variety of systems, including the imperial examination system, that had far-reaching effects on future generations.

Daxing City

Early in the Sui Dynasty, Chang’an was the capital. It was small and narrow, with a serious water pollution problem. Consequently, Emperor Wen of Sui built another city nearby called Daxing City. The city eventually evolved to be the world’s largest city at the time.

The Grand Canal

The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal connects several major river systems in China. The canal enhanced the prosperity of all cities located along its tributaries. Today, some parts of the original Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal are still navigable.

The Sui Dynasty (581 – 618 A.D.) existed for only 38 years but from it came a series of architecturally magnificent buildings and variety of systems. (Image: via flickr Seasonsinthesun CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Sui Dynasty (A.D 581-618) lasted for only 38 years, but from it came a series of architecturally magnificent buildings and a variety of systems. (Image: via wikimedia Seasonsinthesun CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Sui runway

The Sui Dynasty featured a straight road called a runway. Sui’s runway is equivalent to today’s highways. These roads were built mainly for military purposes. Travelling on the runways, it took just a matter of days for an army to deliver necessities and soldiers to remote areas.

Granaries

Daxing City was located in an area that made it difficult for the delivery of food supplies. Famines and riots were a constant danger and because of this, the emperor ordered the construction of a large number of food storage barns, or granaries.

Emperor Wen of Sui, who launched the project of the Grand Canal. Painting by Tang dynasty artist Yan Liben (600–673). (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Emperor Wen of Sui, who launched the project of the Grand Canal. Painting by Tang Dynasty artist Yan Liben (600-673). (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Located north of Luoyang City, a granary was built in A.D. 605 that was 612 meters long, 710 meters wide, with more than 400 round food storage pits. During an excavation, archaeologists found a pit of preserved food and millet-like particles that germinated into sprouts when planted. They admired the remarkable level of preservation of this ancient granary.

In 2013, an excavation was carried out on the remnants of the Huiluo granary located in Xiaoli in the present day Luoyang City. It measured 1000 meters by 355 meters, which is equivalent to about 50 international standard size football fields. The inner diameter of each food storage pit was 10 meters and there were approximately 700 pits.

Translated by Chua BC and edited by Stef Cox.

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Stories From Ancient China: Food Is to Relieve Hunger