January 5, 2009

Ancient Bridges of China

The four ancient Chinese bridges shown on the maxicards are all arch bridges. They are located in Suzhou of Jiangsu, Linying County of Henan, Beijing, and Jianshui County of Yunnan respectively.

The Maple Bridge in Suzhou,(1st constructed between the 6th-9th c.). The bridge viewed from alongside the watchtower. Hanshan Temple was built to the west of Suzhou where three canals intersect; one being the famous Grand Canal. At this junction, there is a bridge called the Maple Bridge (Fengqiao), which dates back at least to the Tang dynasty, as there is a well-known poem by the Tang poet, Zhang Ji, entitled, 'Mooring to the Maple Bridge at Night'. On Chinese New Years Eve, people gather at the bridge to hear the bells of Hanshan Temple, as described in the poem.

XiaoShang  Bridge, a stone arch bridge,is the oldest stone arch bridge in the world, called 'the most beautiful ancient bridge', and prior to Zhaozhou Bridge. It once was identified by famous experts, such as Mao YiSheng, Luo  Zhewen.  The bridge has highly research value and is in fit for sightseeing.

The Lugou Bridge, also known as the Marco Polo Bridge, is a famous stone bridge located 15 km outside of the Beijing city center across the Yongding River a main tributary of Hai River.
Construction of the original bridge on this site commenced in 1189 and was completed in 1192 and was later reconstructed in 1698. The Lugou Bridge is 266.5 m (874 ft) in length and 9.3 m (30.5 ft) in width, supported on 10 piers and 11 segmental arches. Hundreds of artistically unique stone lions from different eras line both sides of the bridge. The most intriguing feature of these beasts is the fact that there are more lions hiding on the head, back or under the belly or on paws of each of the big lions. Investigations to determine the total number of animals have been carried out on several occasions but the results have proved inconsistent, ranging anywhere from 482 to 496. However, record has it that there were originally a total of 627 lions. The posture of each lion varies, as do their ages. Most date from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, some are from the earlier Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368); while the few lions dating from as long ago as the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) are now quite rare.

Shuanglong (Double Dragon) Bridge is five kilometers west of Jianshui, its arches across the confluence of the Lujiang River and the Tachong River. A combination of science and art, the stone bridge ranks first in Yunnan Province in terms of size and artistic value. When the bridge was built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing dynasty, it had only three arches on the north end. Later on, as the Tachong River changed its course, fourteen new bridge arches were added to the original ones and thus got the name 'the Seventeen - Arch Bridge'. A pavilion of three stories was built in the middle, and two others at the two ends of the bridge. With seventeen arches, the pavilion-style Double Dragon Bridge is a Qing Dynasty masterpiece and one of the best examples of its type in China. It is also, by the by, surrounded by some fairly butt-ugly buildings and required some degree of mucking about in the fields to get this shot. Shuanglong Bridge is a masterpiece among ancient bridges in China. It is considered one of the beautifully built ancient bridge of the nation, and has been classified as an important cultural relic under provincial protection. Shuanglong Bridge is a nice surprise on the road. Under the lingering caress of the setting sun, the ancient stone bridge spans over 140 meters and was constructed with over ten thousand huge rocks boulders. A continuous fourteen arches helps the bridge to alleviate pressures brought by occasional floods.

Stamp Issue: 2003-03-29

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