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A Stroll Along Lugou(Marco Polo) Bridge

“Over the river, there is an extremely beautiful stone bridge. Come to think of it, it is indeed the most wonderful and unique bridge in the world….” So said the famous I3th-14th century Italian tourist to China, Marco Polo, in his travel notes. The bridge is the stone Lugou Bridge spanning the Yongding River southwest of Beijing (Peking) city proper. Lugou Bridge is famous in China and abroad for its singular and exquisite architecture and beautiful setting at an important ! site on the north-south communications line. It was here that the curtain rose on the Chinese people’s great war of resistance to Japanese aggression in I937 with what is known as the Lugou Bridge Incident of July 7.

The bridge, built in the 12th century, was not exactly new even when Marco Polo visited it. It is 260 meters long, and has 11 arches. Its stone balustrades have 140 sculptured balusters on either side with a lion carved on the top of each, each lion being different in posture from the others. Intriguing are the lion cubs, from a few millimeters to a dozen millimeters in size, that play around the main lion figure, clinging to her breast, crouching at her feet, peeking from behind her ears or squatting on her shoulders. Often half hidden, they would prove difficult to count. ” As uncountable as the lions of Lugou Bridge” is a common expression aronnd Beijing. Nor were the lions ever counted so far as is known until a Beijing cultural relic work team of New China made an accurate count. They found 485 altogether, adding to the splendor of the bridge and giving some idea of the rich imagination, intiative and power of expression of ancient China’s sculpture. Recently, one more stone lion was discovered at the foot of a pier. It was believed to have fallen from some baluster years ago. This brought the total number of the stone lions to 486.

When in l937 Japanese imperialism unleashed its all-out war of aggression of aggression against China, the Chinese people rose to resist. Victory was won after eight years of struggle. Lugou Bridge bast been associated in history with the integrity and dignity of the Chinese nation. Shell damage from the war can still be seen on the walls of Lugouqiao Town at the eastern end of the bridge. Worn the wind and rain through hundreds of years and damaged by war the bridge was in bad condition at the time of liberation ln l949. The people’s government gave it priority among cultural relics to be restored and assigned specialists to study its structure and decoration. Renovation began nearly l5 years ago, with nearly a hundred masons from various is parts of the country asked to join in the work Lugou Bridge looked quite like the original after seven months of work. What is the view now from the bridge? A short distance up the river to the north stands the steel railway bridge through which passes the Beijing-Guangzhou train. It is thus the main artery between north and south China. To the south is Lugou Bridge’s younger sister, a 550-meter-long modern highway bridge of reinforced concrete built to relieve it of some of the transport load. Compact and simple in design, it contrasts fittingly to Lugou Bridge’s exquisite, ancient style.

The Yongding(Forever Fixed)River, which the bridge spans, used to be far from“fixed”. It often changed its course and overflowed its banks. Heavenly silted and overgrown with tail Reeds, the fiver banks were a scene of desolation. A folk ballad of those days says:‘‘Under Lugou Bridge the river flows muddy and cannot wash away our worries and troubles.” After liberation, the government built the large Guanting Reservoir in its upper reaches and constructed many sluice gates, five of which alone are near Lugou Bridge. Now the water of the Yongding River has been routed by mail’s will, into Beijing for industrial and civilian use. It also irrigates several thousand hectares of farmland. The Forever Fixed River ls beginning to live up to its name.

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