Bridging the gaps between yesterday and today

Check out these Songjiang bridges that not only tell their splendid history but also promise a bright future for the district.

Blessed with crisscrossing rivers and canals, Songjiang boasts abundant bridges, old and new, stone-paved and concrete-reinforced, which link the riverbanks, connect the suburban district with the outside world, and span over the past to today.

Check out these Songjiang bridges that not only tell their splendid history but also promise a bright future for the district.

Wangxian Bridge, at the southeastern tip of Fangta Park, is one of Shanghais oldest stone bridges. Seven meters long and 3.2 meters wide, the bridge over the Gushi River was a main thoroughfare linking old Songjiang City's south and north before the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).

Its modest appearance belies its unique architecture. The span was constructed using two giant pieces of granite and four arched Wukang tuffaceous rocks, while the piers are made of stone.

The structure cleverly shifted the load from the span to the piers on both sides. Wood was put below, functioning as a cushion to support stones that could be easily broken. Wood and stone complemented each other, allowing the bridge to carry maximum weight with minimum materials.

This wood-and-stone technique has only been found in the Wangxian Bridge so far in China. Unfortunately, the wooden planks rotted later and stone slabs were used in their place. Today, if you look closely, you can still find the tenon holes where the wooden planks fitted to the bridge's body.

The bridge got the name Wangxian (“see immortals”) from a popular local legend. In olden times, Songjiang was the hometown for red-crowned cranes because of its rich water resources. According to Taoism, the bird flew immortals on its back. As the cranes hovered around the bridge, locals claimed they saw the immortals. Thus the bridge was named Wangxian.

Kuatang Bridge at the westernmost point of Zhongshan Road W. is not the oldest yet the biggest in the district today. It was the most magnificent structure in ancient times, earning that reputation for its beautiful wooden precursor. Built in the early Song Dynasty (960-1279), the bridge was once a landmark in old Songjiang due to its grandeur. A local saying goes "as long as the Kuatang Bridge,” because of its length.

In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when the textile industry was in its heyday, Songjiang's economy boomed and the population grew. It became an annual tradition for locals to hold a dragon boat contest under the wooden bridge, which collapsed during one boat race due to the crowds gathering on it.

Between 1465 and 1487, it was reconstructed with granite and cyan stones. It is 8 meters tall and 30 meters long. The bridge was where Chen Zilong (1608-1647), a poet and writer, drowned himself during a fight with invaders who overthrew the Ming Dynasty.

Xiuye Bridge sits at the junction of Shenjingtang and Gushi rivers in Cangcheng Town. It was originally a wooden bridge in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and was rebuilt in 1863. In 1952, the local water management committee reconstructed the bridge with concrete, 29.2 meters long and 10 meters wide.

Today, the bridge sits by many restaurants and grocery stores. Standing on the bridge, you feel like shuttling back to the days of yore when street vendors were crying their wares and pedestrians elbowed their way out of the busy bazaar full of bustle and excitement.

The bridge is said to be home to Songjiang-farmed sisai bass, about 17 centimeters long and 100 grams in weight, and famous for their succulent, oily meat and lack of excess bones. The orange branchial arches near its breathing gills give the fish the appearance of having an extra set of gills — hence the name sisai, which translates as “four gills” in Chinese.

The fish swim back and forth through the cracks of the bridge's piers and have laid their eggs in the river for centuries.

It has been regarded as one of China’s “famous four freshwater fish” since the Jin Dynasty (265-420). Different dynasties recorded the delicacy and how it was served to emperors. Poets wrote tributes to the dish.

The list of notables who praised its delicious texture included the Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799), Kunqu Opera master Yu Sulu (1847-1930) and former US President Richard Nixon when he visited China.

A few steps from Xiuye Bridge is Xiunan Bridge, like twin brothers standing side by side on the river. It was originally a stone bridge but was rebuilt in concrete in 1946. The flower pattern on the span was a typical decoration in the 1930s-40s.

At the eastern end of the bridge is a small building called Guanlu Hall (“bass “observation), where people used to enjoy watching the shoals of fish in the river. Today the building is protected and listed as cultural heritage.

The old bridges survived historic twists and turns, while modern bridges offer a promising future.

Songpu Bridge, put into full operation in 1976, was the first bridge to span the Huangpu River, offering another convenient transport choice for citizens after ferries and tunnels.

The two-deck bridge, at Desheng Harbor in Chedun Town, was once a major project to link to the remote Shanghai Petrol Chemical Plant in Jinshan District.

The upper deck is for cars, with the lower deck for trains. It is 1,800 meters long and 9 meters wide with two two-way lanes and a 1.5-meter-wide pavement on each side.

As the first bridge over the Huangpu to link the city's two halves, Songpu Bridge made history. After that, more bridges such as Nanpu, Yangpu, Fengpu, Xupu and Lupu were built, making it easier for Shanghai locals to travel between the city’s east and west.

Chenta Road-Hengliaojing Bridge, the 12th bridge over the Huangpu, is Songjiang's latest, put into full operation at the end of 2015.

The concrete, cable-stayed bridge connects the Shanghai Circle Highway in the north and links to Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces in the south. It is 1,648 metes long with two-way six lanes, designed for speeds of 80 kilometers per hour. The bridge greatly shortens the travel time and lowers the transport cost for locals in Songjiang's Shihudang and Maogang towns, and also gives a strong boost to the regions' economic development. 

Ti Gong
Special Reports