Scattered throughout China’s countryside are some of the most breathtaking examples of ancient Chinese architecture. Not only that, many of them are steeped in history, dating back centuries, with a story to tell. From stone arch bridges, to suspension bridges, many smaller Chinese towns and villages have bridges that will appeal to both the casual traveler and the architectural enthusiast.
The Anji Bridge, commonly known as the Zhaozhou bridge, is the oldest known bridge in China, with a history dating back to the Sui dynasty. Built between 595 and 606 C.E, this stone bridge is one of the oldest arch bridges in the world. The bridge is located in Zhao county, Hebei province, and spans the Xiao River.
Luding Bridge, in Sichuan province, is a spectacular chain suspension bridge that crosses the Dadu River. The bridge is the oldest chain suspension bridge in China and was built in 1706, during China’s Qing dynasty. The chains of this bridge are over 400 feet long and weigh nearly 2 tons each. This bridge became famous during China’s revolution when the Red Army crossed it, having no other available route, to escape the approaching enemy army, an incident which was commemorated by a poem written by Mao Zedong himself.
This bridge, located on the outskirts of Beijing, in what was once a small town, but which has now been officially incorporated into Beijing proper, makes an excellent day trip from the city. The Lugou Bridge is most famous as the site where Japan officially invaded China, thus beginning China’s involvement in World War II. Lugou Bridge actually has a history of over 800 years and was built during the period when Beijing was a part of the Jin Kindom, in the 12th century C.E. Carved lions line both sides of the bridge, which has a remarkable load bearing capacity of over 400 tons, making it the strongest of all the ancient bridges in China.
Yujin Bridge is one of the most beautiful sights in the ancient town of Shaxi, which is located in Jianchuan county, Yunnan (about an hour and a half away from Dali). The bridge is an aesthetically pleasing stone arch “moon” bridge crossing the Heihui River. Looking from the banks of the river, the bridge cuts an attractive figure set against the mountains in the distance, and from the top of the bridge the view of the surrounding countryside is breathtaking. Yujin bridge was built in the Qing dynasty, damaged during years of war and turmoil, and repaired in 1931.
The Rainbow Bridge, built in the southern Song dynasty, is over 800 years old. With four strong piers connecting five apertures, the Rainbow Bridge spans the river running through Qinghua town in Wuyuan County, Jiangxi province. The bridge, which is passable by pedestrians and bicycles but not by cars, is covered, with pavilions offering respite from the heat and shelter from rain. The bridge is named because, when the villagers of Qinghua were trying to come up with a name for their newly completed bridge, a rainbow suddenly appeared in the sky as a good omen, and thus the bridge was from that point known as “Rainbow Bridge.”
The Bishui Bridge is a small stone arch bridge in Qufu, Shandong province, a small town mostly known for being the birthplace of Confucius. The Bishui bridge was constructed during the Ming Dynasty, and is located inside of the Confucius temple, which is even older, having been built during the 5th century C.E. Although Qufu is a small town, the presence of the Confucius temple makes it a popular tourist destination, and this bridge, with the small stream flowing underneath and carvings along the sides, is a highlight of the temple.
Dragon bridge is located in Yulong Village in Yangshuo country, and an easy bicycle ride from the town of Yangshuo. Dragon bridge was built during the Ming dynasty and spans the Yulong river. Like many ancient Chinese bridges, the Dragon Bridge is a stone arch moon bridge, and set against the backdrop of Yangshuo’s beautiful karst peaks, the Dragon Bridge cuts a stunning, picture postcard silhouette.