Despite being built hundreds of years ago, there are many remarkable bridges in China that are still in use, and are living examples of traditional Chinese architecture.
Their designs are fully functional and ingenious, while still keeping their charm and character.
And they have withstood the effects of wars, and natural disasters, like silent stalwarts of a classic civilization.
China has such a long history that there are said to be millions of old bridges, large and small, dotted throughout the countryside, especially stone arch bridges.
They can be grouped into four types—beam, arch, cable suspension, and floating bridges.
Here’s a selection of some of the most well-known ones:
1. Lugou Bridge
Also known as the Marco Polo Bridge, it lies on the Yongding or Lugou River, and is nearly 900 feet long and over 24 feet wide, with 10 piers and 11 arches.
It is the oldest existing segmented stone arch bridge in Beijing, and was built in 1189 during the Jin Dynasty, and renovated in the Ming Dynasty which ended in the mid-17th century.
In 1697, during the Qing Dynasty, the bridge was destroyed by floods and rebuilt the following year. In recent times, there has been no water in the Yongding River, but it was refilled in 2008 for the Olympic Games.
The Lugou Bridge gained worldwide fame in 1937 when it was attacked at the start of Japan‘s invasion of China.
2. Guangzi Bridge
The Guangzi or Siangze Bridge was built across the Hang River, Guangdong Province, in 1170 AD during the Southern Song Dynasty, and was the world’s first opening bridge.
It was 1,700 feet long, and began as a boat bridge, but later piers were added at each bank, and a floating section was created that can be disconnected to allow large boats through.
3. Five Pavilion Bridges
Built in 1757, this bridge has five pavilions across its 180-foot-long floor. The central one is higher, with two on either side, and all have yellow glazed tiles on their roofs with green ones for the curving ridges.
4. Anping Bridge
Anping Bridge spans the bay between Jinjiang County and Nan’an County to the west of Anhai or Anping in Fujian Province.
It is China’s longest stone-beam bridge, and took 13 years to build, starting in the 8th year of the reign of Shaoxing of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).
The largest beam weighs 25 tons. There are 331 piers comprising long, narrow pieces of stone. Of several pavillions built there, only one remains—the Shuixin Pavilion—along with 13 stone tablets recording the bridge’s construction and repair history.
There are four stone towers and a round tower stand in water at both sides of the bridge. The white bridgehead at the entrance is 22 meters high and has five storeys.
5. Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge
Located in Sanjiang County of Guangxi, this is one of China’s most famous bridges, and was designed to provide shelter even when it rains. It is also called Yongji or Panlong Bridge, and was built in 1916 by the Dong people.
It is over 200 feet long, 11 feet wide, and almost 35 feet high.The main construction is of timber and stone, with wooden boards on the bridge surface, and railings.
6. Luding Bridge
It is 405 feet long, 10 feet wide, and suspended 33 feet above the river, supported by 13 iron chains, four of which form handrails. On average, each chain is 420 feet long, and weighs 1.5 to 2 tons.
It was built almost a century before the first chain suspension bridge in North America, and 36 years ahead of the first one in Europe.
7. Jade Belt Bridge
Also known as the Camel’s Back Bridge, this is an 18th-century pedestrian moon bridge at the Summer Palace in Beijing.
It was built from marble and other white stone between 1751 to 1764, during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, and the clearance allowed his dragon boat to pass through. The ornate railings were carved with cranes and other animals.
Research by Ming Yue