- a Tang Dynasty bridge -

- in search for the "Precious Belt Bridge" -

In 1793 an English group of diplomats and their staff were on the way down the Grand Canal from Beijing to Hangzhou.  They had been sent out in an attempt to persuade the Chinese Emperor to open up China for trade with the Western World - - -
As history showed, their mission failed miserably, but they did indeed write some very interesting notes on their observations during their visit to the "Heavenly Kingdom" - - -

Now they were on their way back again and on November 7th. 1793, they saw something very unusual and very unique - - -

They wrote following notes about the event:
"As the darkness came, we passed very close to a stone bridge, that seemed to go on forever, with more than 90 arches!
One of our servants, who was still awake, started to count the arches, until he gave up and very exited came rushing in yelling: For God's sake, Gentlemen, - please come out on deck, and have a look at a bridge, the equal to which I have never seen before.  It never ends!"

Parallel to the Grand Canal, these arches seemed to continue indefinitely, shrouded in the darkness. They made it possible for junks to pass into a lake on the other side,- under the road that ran parallel to the canal.
Little did the Englishmen know, that this bridge had already been there for a thousand years before they saw it!

Our Englishman continues: "In spite of the darkness, we could distinguish about 45 arches after the middle one!"

This account of the first Western sighting of the "Precious Belt Bridge" really got me going again!
WoW!!!  Maybe that bridge still existed???  If it did,- I got a very strong urge to find it and to get the same thrill that our English explorers got way back in 1793!  However,- it is now more than 200 years ago, and meanwhile a lot of turmoil, wars, changes and development have taken place in China - - -

Eventually I did find the bridge exactly where it should be,- a little outside Suzhou -, and exactly as the Englishmen had described it for more than 200 years ago - - -
And it is stunning!
Just imagine,- a Tang Dynasty bridge more than 1000 years old -, and still standing, solid and strong, as it did when it was taken into use for so long time ago - - -
I am quite convinced, that the bridges constructed in our time, will not even get close to that age - - -

But here we have the old Tang bridge,- and I will not be surprised if it is still around after another 1000 years - - - -

Please enjoy my pictures from a truly unique construction.
And ,- by the way-, it is NOT on the tourist trail,- so if you ever find it, you will have it for yourself,- and you do not have to worry about buying tickets or being hassled by souvenir sellers and noise!

Tang Dynasty bridge
The "Precious Belt Bridge" , - apparently endless - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

The south access to the "Precious Belt Bridge" - -
The "Grand Canal" to the right,- the longest man-made canal in the world - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

Old, weathered stone lions guarding the bridge,- and Kit Yu - - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

A closer look at the old Tang Dynasty lions - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

The middle section of the "Precious Belt Bridge" - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

  Over the bridge, - Kit Yu halfway across - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

Almost across - -
In the background, - the Grand Canal with ships - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

At the northern end of the bridge,  - and the Grand Canal to the right - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

Kit Yu, - and a very old pagoda -, at the northern end of the bridge - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

A view to the "lake" opposite to the Grand canal.
Junks still pass underneath the bridge, - just like reported in by the English travellers in 1793.
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

- and a final view of one of the old lions.

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Updated:  June 6th. 2003
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