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Ancient Places / Trip Ideas

Four great ancient bridges in China

By Discover China

June 25

Bridges are an important symbol of ancient Chinese civilization, and demonstrate the skill and intelligence of the master craftsmen who first constructed them.

Bridges are an important symbol of ancient Chinese civilization, and demonstrate the skill and intelligence of the master craftsmen who first constructed them.

Chinese people have built tens of thousands of bridges over the past millennia. Bridges are an important symbol of ancient Chinese civilization, and demonstrate the skill and intelligence of the master craftsmen who first constructed them.

1. Zhaozhou Bridge 赵州桥

Zhaozhou Bridge [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn]
Zhaozhou Bridge [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn]
Claiming to be the oldest standing bridge in China and the oldest stone arch bridge in the world, Zhaozhou Bridge (赵州桥) was constructed 1,400 years ago of Sui Dynasty (581-618) and has the nickname “King of Bridges”.

What makes the Zhaozhou Bridge outstanding is that the constructor, Li Chun, innovated the spandrel-arch construction, thus saving 40 percent= in materials and making the bridge lighter in weight.

It was tested by Mao Yisheng, a 20th century bridge structure expert, to bear up to 8 tons, a capacity seldom needed in ancient times. With an arch span of 123 feet, it has stood for 14 centuries, despite 10 major floods and numerous earthquakes.

2. Luoyang Bridge 洛阳桥

Luoyang Bridge [Image Credit: qzwb.com]
Luoyang Bridge [Image Credit: qzwb.com]
Luoyang Bridge (洛阳桥) is the earliest sea-crossing stone bridge in China, crossing over the Luoyang River (洛阳河) where it meets the sea.

Why isn’t the Luoyang Bridge located in Luoyang City? Emperor Xuanzong (846-859 A.D.) of the Tang Dynasty named it Luoyang when he toured Quanzhou, a busy harbor city at that time. The local landscape reminded him of the historic Luoyang City, where former capital of many ancient dynasties.

The bridge was first begun in 1053 and was completed in 1059. The original bridge was 3,940 feet long, over 16 feet wide, and 24 feet high, earning a high reputation in ancient times. Built of granite, it has 44 boat-shaped bridge piers, 645 handrails, 104 stone lions, 1 stone pavilion, and 7 stone towers.

3. Guangji Bridge 广济桥

Guangji Bridge [Image Credit: cfp]
Guangji Bridge [Image Credit: cfp]
Guangji bridge (广济桥), also known as Xiangzi Bridge (湘子桥), is located in Chaozhou City in Guangdong Province. Famous bridge export Mao Yisheng reputed it as the first opening bridge in the world.

Guangji Bridge combines the architectural style of beam, arch bridge and floating bridges. The bridge was first built as a floating bridge in 1171, but three years later was destroyed by floods. Later construction of piers and framework started from both banks of the river on which it was moored. After 200 years renovation, a floating section of 18 supporting wooden boats in between two beamed sections supported by 24 piers was completed.

4. Lugou Bridge 卢沟桥

Lugou Bridge [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/ Zheng Yong]
Lugou Bridge [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/ Zheng Yong]
The Lugou Bridge (卢沟桥) is also known as Marco Polo Bridge (马可波罗桥) because it was highly praised by Marco Polo on his trip to China. Over 800 years old, the bridge spans 266 meters and measures 7 and a half  meters across, with 11 arches. It is famous for the countless lion sculptures with a variety of models that sit on the 485 pillars along the sides of the bridge.

Lugou Bridge became world-famous after the Japanese attacked it in 1937, seen as the start of the Anti-Japanese War.

Made of solid granite and supported by 10 piers, Lugou Bridge is also known for supporting a 400 ton flatbed truck that drove across it in 1975.

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