The Three Bridges

Admission:

24 hours daily

Hours:

RMB 100 for entering Tongli old town, no additional fee for the three bridges

In water towns, bridges are second in importance only to the waterways they span. Tongli's long history has given rise to 49 bridges, three of which are famed above the other 46 (don't let that stop you from crossing them all). What sets them apart?

Perhaps it's that they best meet the ideal balance of form and function, practicality and beauty. Perhaps it's their historic value that symbolically ties contemporary China to its deep history. Perhaps it's pure aesthetics and organic symmetry: they join to form a triangle of sorts in the center of town, allowing you to walk from one to another and enjoy this classic scene from multiple vantage points. Beauty, historical significance and charm—the bridges sum up Tongli in a single elegant image.

Exquisite and simple, Taiping Qiao (Tàipíng Qiáo, 太平桥) was built in 1747 at the height of the Qing Dynasty and is named for the ever-popular Chinese concept of "Heavenly Peace." The name Changqing Qiao (Chángqìng Qiáo, 长庆桥) means "Lasting Celebration Bridge"' and it has indeed lasted—it dates from 1407 during the Ming era. The last of the three, Jili Qiao (Jílì Qiáo, 吉利桥), has a name which means means "luck," and luck is what you're promised if you cross the three (don't be surprised to see bridal parties crossing the bridges, red-clad bride perched on a sedan chair, with traditional wedding music blaring).

The oldest bridge in Tongli, however, is Sibao Qiao (Sīběn Qiáo, 思本桥), which dates all the way back to the Southern Song Dynasty.

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