Dragons, smoke and shattered glass: fervor behind glass bridges in China

By the end of November 2016, more than 60 such glass bridges were being built or had been completed across the country.

The glass bridge at the Marenqifeng tourist area.

Chinese tourist sites in the mountains are using glass bridges to attract visitors looking for excitement.

Last month, a glass bridge called "Flying Dragon in the Sky" was opened in Marenqifeng tourist area in Wuhu City, east china's Anhui Province. The management of the tourist area touts it as a "skyhigh" high-tech glass bridge that "combines cultural elements and a unique experience."

"There is a dragon made of fiber reinforced plastics at both ends of the bridge, and smoke can billow from their mouths," said an employee at the site.

"The bridge also has light emitting diode displays on the surface, and when visitors step on the bridge, the equipment will show images and give out the sound of glass being shattered," the employee said. "It is very exciting."

The 388-meter-long bridge hangs 180 meters above the ground, between two mountains.

Marenqifeng is a national-level tourist attraction. It is also a national forest park and a national geopark.

Similar bridges have popped up in China's tourist attractions in recent years.

Last month, a 488-meter-long glass suspension bridge opened to the public in Pingshan County in north China's Hebei Province. The glass-bottom bridge stands four meters wide and hangs between two cliffs around 218 meters above the ground, about as high as a 66-story building, at Hongyagu scenic spot in the county.

In Zhangjiajie, a famous tourist destination in central China, a 430-meter-long, six-meter-wide bridge hangs between two steep cliffs 300 meters above the ground.

According to The Earth magazine under the Geological Museum of China, by the end of November 2016, more than 60 such glass bridges were being built or had been completed across the country. In 2017, more glass bridges appeared, particularly in provinces with many mountains, such as Jiangxi, Hunan and Yunnan. These provinces boast at least five glass bridges on average.

"Walking on a transparent bridge is both exciting and nerve-racking," said Li Jinxiang, a resident of Hefei, capital of Anhui Province. Li has walked on a glass bridge once.

"You get nervous at every step you take," he added. "Hearing the sounds of glass breaking and seeing the cracks on the display is a bit scary."

The fervor for glass bridges also led to viral videos recording tourists walking on the bridges, with many of them crying, laughing and lying on the bridges, refusing to walk on.

But the phenomenon has also raised a few eyebrows.

In Anhui's Anqing City, a glass-bottomed platform was built on a giant rock, the main attraction of the tourist area Jushi Mountains. Some people say that the building of the structure can damage the natural scenery.

Yimu, a seasoned tourism expert, said that the fervor behind the glass bridges needs to cool off.

"It is understandable to add some new elements to traditional tourist attractions, but it is also important not to damage the attractions," Yimu said. "Instead of blindly following the bridge-building trend, authorities should consider spending more money to improve tourism infrastructure at the tourist attractions."

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