China’s Longest Ancient Bridge
- 1 year ago
Spanning the bay between Jinjiang County and Nan'an County, west of Fuzhou City, China, is the beautiful 12th century Anping Bridge, also known as Wuli bridge, built of huge stone blocks. It is more than two kilometers long, 2,070 meters to be exact, and close behind the 2437-meters-long Constantine's Bridge across Danube, which is considered to be the longest ancient bridge in the world. Until 1905, Anping Bridge was the longest bridge in China.
The bridge lies in the prefecture-level city of Quanzhou, crossing what originally was a tidal estuary of the Shijing River that separates the town of Anhai (in the county-level city of Jinjiang) east of the river, from the town of Shuitou (in the county-level city of Nan'an) west of the river. Anhai was formerly known as Anping, from which comes the bridge’s name.
The bridge was built between 1138 and 1151 during the Southern Song dynasty. It consists of 331 spans of granite beams resting on top of boat-shaped stone piers, the largest beam weighing 25 tons. The bridge has four square and two round stone pagodas standing symmetrically on each side. Built of brick, the hexagonal, five-storied pagoda is about twenty-two meters high and can be seen far away.
Originally, the bridge was about 150 meters longer, but due to silting of the estuary the bridge was made shorter. The bridge also had five pavilions where travelers could rest, but only one pavilion now exist.
The estuary of the Shijing River has mostly silted up in this area, and the remaining river channel under the bridge is fairly narrow. Consequently, the bridge now mostly crosses what amounts to a sequence of lakes or ponds, separated by wetlands. A modern public highway crosses the Shijing River a few hundred meters south of the historical Anping Bridge over a fairly short bridge.
The bridge is now a nationally protected historic site. The areas around the bridge are currently being developed into parks.