Bridges make connections with plenty stories to tell
The word for bridge in Chinese originally means a beam on a river. Bridges built in ancient China were sturdy and durable and their shapes well-formed to be in line with the surrounding natural landscape.
A common sight in water towns at the lower reaches of the Yangtze River is a narrow bridge, a murmuring brook and several rural cottages on the banks.
Jiading is at the lower reaches of Yangtze and has bridges made of stone, bamboo or wood and in various shapes scatter all around the district.
Dreaming in the moonlight
A poem by Zhang Cijue, a Jiading native in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), says “dream a dream on a single boat when passing through 24 bridges in the moonlight.”
Every bridge has its story. They are witnesses to history and many hold precious memories. Bridges built in ancient times in Jiading were mainly made of wood and then bridges made of bamboo, bricks and stone appeared. The bridges that exist today are mainly made of stone. By the end of last century, there were 58 ancient stone bridges in the district, most of them in local parks and gardens.
Stone bridges in Jiading are usually flat or arched. Most flat bridges have just one span. There are also multi-spanned ones if the river beneath is wider. The Dengying Bridge at the east side of Jiading’s town god temple was built in 1213. It was previously a one-span bridge but was made into a flat one after 1949.
The Shijia Bridge at Beixiatang Street was built in 1610. The flat bridge on Beihengli River is now 16.4 meters long and 1.6 meters wide after a facelift in 1995.
Apart from the single-span bridges, arch bridges are fairly common in Jiading. Denglong Bridge at Zhouqiao Old Street is the oldest stone arch bridge in existence.
To the east, Puji Bridge links Dongdajie (East Street) and Dongxiatang Street. It is an arch bridge, and others include Binxing Bridge in the Confucius Temple, Defu Bridge, Yongning Bridge, Jushan Bridge, Gaoyi Bridge and Yansi Bridge.
Bridges in Jiading not only look nice but also have their own characteristics. Bridge columns are usually engraved with auspicious couplets to express people’s best wishes.
Gaoyi Bridge outside the West Gate was previously called Gaoseng Bridge. “Gaoseng” in Chinese literally means an eminent monk. The bridge was built to commemorate monks who raise charity funds. The bridge was later renamed “Gaoyi.” “Yi” in Chinese literally means righteousness. The Jushan Bridge steps away was initially named as “Women’s Bridge” when it was built in 1380 as it was mainly local women who raised funds to build it.
Many bridges in Jiading are associated with folklore and mythology. Yujia Bridge outside the Yunxiang Temple in Nanxiang is said to have been visited by Emperor Jianwen (1377-1402), the second emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). “Yujia” in Chinese literally means royal family.
The Yansi Bridge at Anting Old Street is said to have been built by Yan Song, who was notorious for being corrupt and for dominating the Ming government for two decades as grand secretary during the reign of the Emperor Jiajing (1507-1567).
Yan picked the land next to the bridge to be a burial ground for his ancestors after he was promoted to grand secretary. It was said that Yan ordered the building of four bridges in four directions to surround the grave to form the shape of a dragon’s mouth which could bless him to usurp the throne. The Yansi Bridge is the one in the north, but the truth is that when the bridge was built Yan had not yet been born.
Bridges play an important role in the development of Jiading. They are not only traffic connections but also popular spots to attract people, and around which townships gradually formed.
Towns named after qiao
Jiangqiao and Zhujiaqiao are two local towns named after qiao which is bridge in Chinese. Apart from them, three other towns in Jiading — Jianbang, Huating and Wangxin — were also previously named after qiao. Their names used to be Jianbangqiao, Yuanjiaqiao and Wangxianqiao respectively.
At present, 14 old bridges in Jiading, including Denglong, Puji, Dengying, Taiping, Binxing, Defu, Yongning, Jushan, Gaoyi and Yansi, have been listed as cultural relics and put under government protection.
Mituo Bridge, dug out from the campus of Anting High School, could be the earliest bridge in Jiading and was estimated to be built during the period of Three Kingdoms (AD220-280).
Xijiang Bridge on the Old Wusong River in Anting Town is the first cement bridge in Jiading. Cement imported from Europe was used during a major renovation in 1902.
Shequ Bridge in Qiuxiapu Garden is the shortest bridge in Jiading. The bridge built in 1621 is just 2.83 meters long and 0.8 meter wide. It is at the south rim of Taohuatan (Peach Blossom Pool) in the garden.