Header picture. Go to bottom of page.

Getting across the water.


Getting across the water.

Bridges in Yunnan

The many rivers and mountain ranges in Yunnan have always added to the isolation of the province.

To overcome this many bridges have been constructed to cross the often wild rivers that could not safely be crossed by boat. Some of these historic bridges are still standing.

The oldest bridges were in the trade route from central China to India known as the "Southern Silk Road". Other bridges were constructed to facilitate the salt trade. Others, like the bridges at Jianshui were more to show off the wealth of the people in power.

The construction of the "Burma Road" required the replacement of footbridges by larger constructions that could carry fully loaded trucks. These bridges later on were the scenes of many battles during the Japanese infiltration into Western Yunnan from Burma.

The construction of the Yunnan–Vietnam Railway brought modern railway bridge designs to Yunnan and some spectacular bridges. Not depicted here are the many modern, often spectacular, highway bridges aiding the new motorways through the mountains and across the valleys.

Bridge across the Lancangjiang (Mekong).
Bridge spanning the Lancangjiang (Mekong) in Northern Yunnan. A lot of these bridges are just big enough for humans and horse and mule trains

In the Yunlong district (North-West of Dali) there are several ancient bridges spanning the Pi river. See our special page on the Pi River Bridges.

Crossing the Lapu river (a contributory stream to the Yangtze) in the Northwest of Yunnan, are some, lovingly maintained, roof covered wooden bridges.

Across the Longchuan river north of Tengchong there are several wooden bridges like the Chengde and Tongji bridge and the old suspension bridge at Yong'an.

The Jihong Bridge was the place where all trails of the Southern Silk-road came together in order to cross the mighty Lanciangliang (Mekong).

The Huitong Bridge across the Nujiang (Salween) and the Gongguo Bridges across the Lancangjiang (Mekong) where the vital bridges on the Burma road.

The upper Nujiang valley has a lot of interesting bridges that are the only connection between the two sides of the river.

Qingyun Bridge

The Qingyun Bridge, just outside Yunlong across the Pi River is one of the many ancient bridges spanning this river. The bridge was an important link in salt trade.

For more on these bridges see our page on the Pi River Valley.

Qingyun Bridge.
Pavilions form the bridge heads of the Qingyun Bridge. The West one contains a small altar
Lapu River bridge.
A roof covered wooden bridge crossing the Lapu River in the Northwest of Yunnan
Lapu River bridge.
Another roof covered wooden bridge crossing the Lapu River in the Northwest of Yunnan
Wooden box bridge.
A well maintained wooden box bridge on the Lapu River
Chengde Bridge near Tengchong.
The well maintained Chengde bridge with a span of 18.2 metres crossing the Longchuan River

Longchuan river bridges

The Longchuan river bridges North of Tengchong in Western Yunnan come in different forms and shapes. Some look like a heap of old planks spanning a river while others are lovingly maintained. The wooden Chengde and Tongji bridges were reconstructed in 1946, their much older predecessors were damaged on purpose during WW-II.

It is a pity that the historic value of these bridges is at the moment hardly appreciated and many are poorly or not at all maintained and fade away like the old Yong'an rope bridge.

Tongji Bridge in Tengchong.
The Tongji Bridge reconstructed in 1946 and its age shows
Chengde bridge entrance.
Chengde bridge entrance
Chengde wooden bridge interior.
Chengde wooden bridge interior
Tongji bridge north of Tengchong.
The Tongji Bridge with a span of 27.5 meters crossing the Longchuan River north of Tengchong. Graves are located at the right bridgehead
Yong'an Bridge.
The doomed Yong'an Bridge. The original construction date is unknown. The bridge was reconstructed in 1937 in a combined European and oriental stile
Damaged Yong'an Bridge.
Half of one of the bridgeheads has broken off and fallen in the water. In the background the communist area pre-stressed concrete bridge and behind that the recently constructed modern concrete bridge
Yong'an bridge on old picture.
The Yong'an Bridge some years ago with some people balancing on the wires. The communist era bridge at the background. (©1)
Yong'an communist era bridge with red stars.
The communist era Yong'an Bridge with faded red stars at the bridge heads. Now part of history as well
Yong'an bridge in its new form.
To our surprise the old Yong'an bridge got rebuild with one brand new bridgehead and a new set of cables and planks

Grand Kanglang Bridge

The Grand Kangland Bridge is crossing the Niujie stream.

The bridge has recently been renovated also the eastern access to the bridge has been blocked by a landslide.

Renovation in Yunnan often is done in such a way that the original character is completely destroyed.

This impressive bridge is located in the middle of nowhere.

Grand Kanglang Bridge.
The Grand Kanglang Bridge after renovation
Grand Kanglang Bridge.
The Grand Kanglang Bridge before renovation (©1)
Nuijiang foot bridge.
The upper Nujiang river after summer rains carrying large quantities of red silt in its ice-cold water. At other times, when it carries mainly ice water, it can be very blue
Nujiang river.
One of the many suspension bridges crossing the Nujiang. Note the steep sides of the river

Nujiang bridges

The Nujiang river, in the west better known as the Salween, is the most western river coming down from Tibet in China.

In the narrow upper Nujiang valley (Salween) there is only one road and bridges are needed to make it to the other side of the valley.

Nujiang river crossing.
It takes the joint effort of eight men to carry this electricity pole across. Time for a bigger bridge
Nujiang bridge.
One of the many suspension bridges crossing the Nujiang
Nujiang bridge.
For many a small bridge like this is the only way home in the upper Nujiang valley
Huitong Bridge in summer.
The Huitong Bridge spanning the Nujiang (Salween) River swollen with molten snow and summer rains. (Photo: July 2013)
Huitong Bridge in 2012.
The Huitong Bridge, now with communist star on the rebuild Eastern bridgehead and memorial stone in 2012

Huitong Bridge

This "Burma Road" bridge (Sometimes spelled as Hwei Tung), with a span of 123 metres, has been preserved as a monument because it was here that the Japanese army was stopped during World war-II. The invaders coming up the Burma road from the southwest were unable to cross the Nujiang river (Salween) after the bridge was blown up on the 5th of May 1942 by the Chinese defence.

The bridge was reconstructed to handle the supplies coming up the Ledo road after the Chinese recaptured Songshan mountian and the far Western part of Yunnan again at the end of 1944. The present form dates from 1950 and carries the communist star on the rebuild Eastern bridgehead.

Huitong Bridge 1944.
The Huitong Bridge seen from the West bank in 1944. The blown Eastern bridgehead is still missing and there are no overhead cables thus the bridge can only handle limited traffic. (©2)
Huitong Bridge 1945.
The Huitong Bridge seen from the East bank in 1945. The Eastern bridgehead has been improvised and the bridge can handle fully loaded trucks again. Note the fuel pipeline hanging under the bridge. (©2)
Overgrown eastern bridgehead of the Huitong Bridge.
The overgrown eastern bridgehead of the Huitong Bridge was once one of the busiest spots on the Burma Road
Access road to eastern bridgehead of Huitong Bridge.
The now abandoned access road to the Huitong Bridge
Huitong Bridge seen from the eastern bridgehead.
The Huitong Bridge seen from the eastern bridgehead
Huitong Bridge 2012.
Much has changed since World war-II. What ones was a vital and impressing 123 metre crossing 15 metres above the water now looks like a toy. In 1977 a whole new bridge was build just downstream that now dominates the view
Eastern Bridgehead of the Huiren Bridge.
The eastern bridgehead of the Huiren Bridge towering high above the Nujiang River
West gate of the Huiren Bridge.
This picture gives an idea about the size of the central bridge pillar. At low water the western riverbed is empty and can be crossed on foot

Huiren Bridge

The Huiren Bridge spanning the Nujiang was built in 1839 as part of the Southern Silk road connecting Baoshan and Tengchong. It was a double span chain bridge with spans of 78 and 52 metres. With six bottom chains the bridge was 2.6 metres wide but lacked the strength to carry vehicles. The bridge towers are built in the then popular European style.

Huiren Bridge.
The European style central and eastern bridgehead

The Bridge got destroyed in 1942 in defence of Yunnan when the Japanese army occupied the west bank. The bridge was replaced by a modern bridge more downstream in 1947.

Also the actual bridge itself is missing the remains are still impressive with its massive central tower and the eastern bridge head rising high above the water.

West gatehouse of the Huiren Bridge.
The western gatehouse of the Huiren Bridge has seen better times
The eastern span.
The eastern span of the Huiren Bridge measures a whopping 78 metres which were spanned by six bottom chains and two side chains
Huiren Bridge.
Panorama of the Nujiang at the Huiren Bridge. For the full size picture click here
Dongfeng Bailey Bridge
The by now abandoned Dongfeng Bailey Bridge from 1947 crossing the Nujiang just south of the Huiren Bridge
Shuanghong Bridge.
Panorama of the Shuanghong Bridge crossing the Nujiang. For the full size picture click here.
Walkway of the Shuanghong Bridge.
The eastern span of the Shuanghong Bridge

Shuanghong Bridge

The translation for Shuanghong is double rainbow. The Shuanghong bridge is a double span iron chain bridge.

Shuanghong Bridge West span.
The western span of the Shuanghong Bridge

The Bridge was first built in 1759 and renewed in 1923. The eastern span is 67 metres long and has 15 chains. The western span is 38 metres long and has 12 chains. For a long time it was the only bridge spanning the upper Nujiang but is now only used by local farmers. The west side has a steep cobble stone access path while the east bank only has a dirt track leading from the bridge.

Shuanghong Bridge.
Shuanghong Bridge gate.

The roof of the western bridgehead and guard tower has largely collapsed and plants are growing all over it (Photo above).

At the middle pier the iron chains are exposed for both spans (Photo two up).

The pavilion that once stood on the middle pier was struck by lightning and has burned down.

Lancangjiang River.
The Lancangjiang River. When the reservoir is empty the old Burma Road which followed the river here becomes visible again.

Lancangjiang bridges

The Lancangjiang, in the west better known as the Mekong is a formidable river with only a few bridges crossing it.

The Lancangjiang is dammed several times over its length in Yunnan and now flows through many reservoirs used for hydroelectricity. These dams caused the loss of several historic bridges like the for the Burma Road essential Gongguo Bridge and the ancient Southern Silk road Jihong Bridge and the crucial tea horse trail Qinglong Bridge. Only when the reservoirs are empty the remnants of these bridges can be seen.

Monk showing picture of the old Jihong Bridge.
Only pictures still exist of the old Jihong Bridge like this one held at the Jiang-Ding-Si temple at the pass above the bridge

Jihong Bridge

The Jihong Bridge was the oldest bridge spanning the Lancangjiang (Mekong). The bridge known formally as the Lanjin Bridge was a vital link in the Southern Silk Road and the only place where the river could be crossed by bridge.

The last Jihong Bridge was washed away by floods in 1986 and the bridge was never rebuild. The bridge heads and the stone carvings on the cliff overlooking it have disappeared under the water of the reservoir now build in this part of the river. Those following the Southern Silk Road till recently had to be ferried across by rowing boat. Now there is a new suspension bridge build to aid the construction work on two bridges one for the new railway to the west of Yunnan province, the other for the crude oil and natural gas pipelines.

Jihong bridge May 2012.
The old Jihong Bridge was located at the bottom of the valley. Recently a new, much bigger, suspension bridge has been constructed to aid the work on the two, even bigger, bridges under construction. One is a gigantic high-speed-rail bridge the other for carrying the crude oil and natural gas pipelines across the river. The bridges connect to the tunnels (at the top of the scaffolding). The picture gives a good idea about the steepness of the cliffs on both sides of the river. In the foreground the old footpath that lead to the now gone iron chain suspensions bridge. (Photo: May 2012)
Jihong Bridge February 2013.
The modern Jihong Bridges. The rail bridge is still under construction but the bridge carrying the crude oil and natural gas pipelines has been finished (The red bridge in the background). The picture gives a good idea about the remoteness of these bridges. (Photo: February 2013)
Gongguo bridge 2008.
The former "New" Gongguo Bridge across the Lancangjiang photographed in January 2008 when it was still in operation
Driving over the Gongguo bridge.
While driving over the "New" Gongguo Bridge one can imagine being a WW-II supply truck driver
Old Gongguo Bridge 1938.
The upgraded "Old" Gongguo Bridge in its 1938 form seen from the west bank (Photo: Carol Smith)
Gongguo Bridge monument.
The bridgehead of the former "Old" Gongguo Bridge has been rebuilt above the high waterline of the new reservoir as a monument
Red star on Gongguo Bridgehead.
The name Gongguo Bridge in traditional scrip and from right to left combined with the communist star on the bridgehead

Gongguo Bridges

As part of the "Burma road" the Gongguo bridges spanned the Lancangjiang (Mekong).

The "Old" Gongguo Bridge had been upgraded in 1938 in order to handle the supplies that came up the Burma road. This bridge was still too small and goods had to be hand carried across. Small trucks could then take the bridge while empty and big trucks had to take a ferry across the river.

In November 1940 the "New" Gongguo Bridge, with a span of 90 meters, was completed some 800 metres upstream in order to improve the capacity of the Burma Road to 10 tons.

Both bridges were bombed several times from the air because they played a vital role in the supply of the Chinese troops stopping the Japanese invaders at the Nujiang river (Salween).

Old Gongguo Bridge.
The "Old" Gongguo bridge before the upgrade seen from the east bank. Note the even older footbridge on the left. (©2)

Both bridges have now disappeared in the reservoir that now forms the junction of the Lancangjiang and Pi River.

One bridgehead of the "Old" Gongguo Bridge has been moved uphill and is now part of a monument commemorating the history of these bridges and the vital role they played in the war against Japan and the defence of western Yunnan. Strangely the location of these two bridges is not displayed in the model of the river that forms part of the monument.

Lanciang river bridge.
The upper Lanciang river
Yunlong Bridge in Yangbi.
The Pudu Bridge eastern bridgehead

Yunlong Bridge

The Yunlong iron chain bridge in Yangbi was part of the Southern Silk Road named the Bonan trail after the Bonan mountain on its way to the Jihong Bridge across the Lancanjiang.

The 39 meters long bridge was rebuild several times. The origins of the present form date back to 1692.

Note the ancient mosque in the background. Muslim Bai-Hui traders were frequent users of the old roads and ancient bridges.

Yunlong Bridge in Yangbi.
As this medical emergency transport shows these bridges are still in practical use
Heigui River Bridge.
Some of these rural foot bridges are serious in size like this 102 meter span bridge just north of Yangbi
Pudu bridge spanning the Pudu river.
The Pudu Bridge at Toushao village spanning the Pudu river
Pudu bridgehead.
The Pudu Bridge eastern bridgehead

Pudu Bridge

The Pudu Bridge is a rare combination of a wooden covered bridge and an iron chain bridge.

The 36 meters long bridge was reconstructed in 1928.

In April 1936 the bridge was captured, after heavy fighting, by the Red Army faction that moved up north through this remote part of Yunnan on their Long March.

Next to the bridge is a cemetery for the Red Army soldiers that lost their life in the battle.

Pudu bridge western bridgehead.
The Pudu Bridge was preserved as a monument because the Red Army captured it during the Long March. The two stone panels next to the entrance tell the story. Nowadays the bridge is rather neglected
Xingxiu bridge.

Xingxiu Bridge

The seven arch and 118 metres long Xingxiu Bridge in Lufeng is part of the ancient salt trade route. The present day bridge dates from 1832 replacing the bridge from 1612.

Fengshui wall on the west side of the bridge.
On the west side of the Xingxiu Bridge is a wall with the Fongshui function to stop the spirits from crossing the bridge. The five poems are still copied from the nine stone tablets
Gate at the east side of the Xingxiu Bridge.
The with dragons and tigers decorated ornamental gate on the east side of the Xingxiu Bridge is now the gateway to the park in which the bridge now stands
Shuanglong Bridge
The Shuanglong Bridge near Jiangshui. For the full size picture click here.
Shuanghong bridge interior
The interior of the Shuanglong Bridge

Shuanglong Bridge

The Shuanglong Bridge like the Xingxiu Bridge above is a show-off bridge accross an artificial lake.

The present form dates from 1898. The bridge was renovated in 2015.

The bridge is located in the Jianhshui valley but nor connected to any large population area. There are several other show-off bridges along the same river.

Tourist at the bridge.
The central tower of the Shuanglong Bridge
Bamboo bridge
Bamboo bridge in southwest Yunnan
Bamboo pool bridge
Or one can use bamboo poles as a bridge

Bamboo Bridges

There are still several bridges made of bamboo or made with bamboo.

Yunnan bridge.
Or one uses metal sheets
Bad bridge
This bamboo bridge needs some maintenance
Good bridge
This one is in a better condition
Bamboo bridge
Bamboo bridge in southwest Yunnan
Bamboo bridge
Bamboo bridge in southeast Yunnan

Qingyun Bridge.

Location: 25°52'54" N. 99°22'04" E.

Altitude: 1635 meters / 5364 feet.

Chengde Bridge.

Location: 25°17'50" N. 98°36'23" E.

Altitude: 1480 meters / 4856 feet.

Tongji Bridge.

Location: 25°24'39" N. 98°37'57" E.

Altitude: 1519 meters / 4984 feet.

Yong'an Bridges.

Location: 25°19'32" N. 98°36'23" E.

Altitude: 1482 meters / 4862 feet.

Grand Kanglang Bridge.

Location: 24°58'03" N. 100°42'20" E.

Altitude: 1378 meters / 4521 feet.

Jihong Bridge.

Location: 25°17'25" N. 99°21'02" E.

Altitude: 1246 meters / 4088 feet.

Gongguo Bridge (Former).

Location: 25°35'52" N. 99°19'21" E.

Altitude: 1260 meters / 4133 feet.

Huitong Bridge.

Location: 24°44'05" N. 98°58'01" E.

Altitude: 657 meters / 2155 feet.

Huiren Bridge.

Location: 24°59'56" N. 98°51'55" E.

Altitude: 669 meters / 2195 feet.

Shuanghong Bridge.

Location: 25°17'12" N. 98°50'56" E.

Altitude: 709 meters / 2326 feet.

Pudu Bridge.

Location: 25°38' N. 102°37' E.

Altitude: 1500 meters / 4920 feet.

Xingxiu Bridge.

Location: 25°09'07" N. 102°04'27" E.

Altitude: 1571 meters / 5154 feet.

Mules passing bridge in Yunnan.
Mules crossing the Nanxihe river

Reading suggestion:

Ancient Bridges in Yunnan

The two volume publication "Ancient Bridges in Yunnan" gives an excellent overview of many of these interesting bridges.

It contains good black & white pictures with text in Chinese and English.

Photographs by Chen Yunfeng. Text by Zhang Jun.

Published by: Yunnan Publishing Group Corporation & Yunnan Fine Art Publishing House. Published in 2009.

Ancient bridges in Yunnan vol 1
Volume 1 deals with the bridges in the Northwest and West of Yunnan.
Ancient bridges in Yunnan vol 2
Volume 2 deals with bridges in the Northeast, middle and the South of Yunnan.

CHINA'S COVERED BRIDES Architecture Over Water

By Ronald G. Knapp, Terry E. Miller and Liu Jie.

This is an impressive book in English on covered bridges all over China and has a chapter on the covered bridges in Yunnan.

The book has colour photographs but as well lots of old B&W pictures of these bridges including old postcards. Next to that there are diagrams of the construction of the more remarkable bridges.

Photographs by A. Chester Ong and the authors.

Published in 2019.

Covered bridges book, Chinese version.
The version published by Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press (In English)
Covered bridges book, US version.
The US version published by ART publishing, distributed by University of Hawai'i Press

Related pages:

© burma-road.com holds the copyright on all pictures, clips, text and maps used on this website unless otherwise indicated. (2007 - 2023).

(©1) Y. Chen. (©2) Copyright holder unknown.