[Chaozhou] Guangji Bridge
History of Guangji Bridge
Guangji Bridge is located along the Han River, which is the only waterway passing through eastern Guangdong into Fujian and Jiangxi Province. The Han River has long been an important transportation route in the region and Guangji Bridge has played an important part in the development of business and trade. Guangji Bridge was first built by the procurator Zeng Jiang in the 12th century. He named it Floating Bridge as it was made by connecting eighty-six huge boats.
The Floating Bridge was shattered by a flood in 1174 but repairs were later carried out, gradually improving it over the centuries. Stone pillars were sunk to form large piers stretching out into the river. Once the two piers were built on each side of the river, the middle part was connected by floating boats.
From the late Song Dynasty to early Yuan Dynasty, Guangji Bridge underwent a number of renovations. By then, the western and eastern piers had respectively 10 and 13 pillars. The movable part of the bridge was made up by 24 floating boats and as an important center for commerce, 126 booths were set up on the boats.
With 800 years of history and still in beautiful condition, the Guangji Bridge was awarded the national title of "Key Cultural Relic" and is now a protected site.
Guangji Bridge: Popular beliefs
Such a long bridge over troubled waters was obviously a great engineering achievement, but over the centuries, technological achievements were put aside, giving way for more superstitious explanations.
The most common story explains that after Han Yu reached Chaozhou, he felt deeply bitter because he was unable to cross the river. Therefore, he invited Han Xiangzi and a monk named Guangji to build the bridge together. They had one day to succeed. Han Xiangzi would start on the east bank and the monk on the west bank. Han Xiangzi climbed Phoenix hill and with the help of the gods, transformed a herd of black pigs into stone which he then tried to roll down the hill. Unfortunately, they headed in the wrong direction and ended up on the southern side of the hill. A pregnant woman was watching the scene and shouted: "How can stone walks!" This simple sentence was full of wisdom: stones don't move and so the eastern pier would not be built yet.
As for Monk Guangji, he went to Shangpu hill to get stones for his part of the bridge. Again, with the help of the gods, he turned a flock of black sheep into stone and pushed them down the hill towards the river. This time it worked perfectly and the stones already stretched half way across the river when a local landlord appeared and said: "Where does the monk get these sheep from! They are mine." The Monk argued that his bridge was not completed, but the landlord would not give in. Finally Guangji said: "Since they are yours, drive them to your field!" When the landlord tried to drive the sheep up the hill, they turned to stone and he was incapable of pushing up the hill.
Dawn was drawing near but the bridge still wasn't completed. To allow Han Yu to cross the river the monk believed that the only way to cross was to cast lotus flower leaves and use them as stepping stones. Guangji transformed his cane into a rope and tied them together. This was how the floating bridge was built and why people to this day call it "Guangji Bridge."
(By Chen Xueru, David Keyton)