On an Ancient Canal, Grunge Gives Way to Grandeur

Until the early 1990s, crews on barges and boats chugging down China’s 2,400-year-old Grand Canal did not need familiar landmarks to tell them they were approaching the scenic city of Hangzhou.

They could smell it.

“The water was black,” said Zhu Jianbai, assistant director of the city government’s Grand Canal Restoration and Development Group. “There was no life in it. If you lived beside it, you had to live with the stink.”

“It was an embarrassment,” Mr. Zhu said.