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The Pi River in Yunnan.

Fascinating valley with fascinating old bridges.

The Pi River in Yunnan.

Fascinating valley with fascinating old bridges.

The Pi River Valley

The Pi River, also known as the Bijiang or Bi River (沘 江) is a tributary river to the Lancangjiang (Mekong) and is located northwest of Dali in Western Yunnan.

The river is crossed by a multitude of old bridges of which some are lovingly maintained while others get more and more neglected.

Nuodeng, the ancient capital of the area, is as well located in this valley.

The Pi River makes a perfect "Taiji Symbol" which can be viewed from up on the mountain.

Bai Village.
Bai hamlet in the Pi River valley. A lot of the buildings are still made using the rammed earth technique or adobe bricks.

Taiji shaped river

Just north of Yunlong the Pi River makes a double bend and makes a perfect Taiji symbol ( 太 极 图 ).

Taiji symbol.

From the mountain on the west at a point 375 metres above the symbol one has the best view of the symbol.

Pi River Taiji Symbol.
The naturally formed Taiji symbol
Nuodeng.
The ancient village of Nuodeng just north of Yunlong

Nuodeng

One easily can spend a day in the ancient village of Nuodeng. Sample the local ham and watch how salt is made.

For more on Nuodeng see our special Nuodeng Page.

Huiming Bridge.
The Huiming Bridge south of Yunlong
Huiming bridge with cows crossing.
Not only humans take the bridge

Huiming Bridge

The Huiming Bridge, south of Yunlong, is one of the few double span chain bridges. The present form dates from 1886. The largest span is 26 metres.

Bridge head of the Huiming Bridge.
The pavilion at the eastern bridge head

The pavilion on the east bank carries the text 计划生育 优惠到家 (Ji-hua-sheng-yu You-hui-dao-jia), meaning "One child policy, benefit to each household".

Birth control text.
One child policy slogan

Text like these were ones very common in public places but have now largely disappeared.

Huiming Bridge.
The Huiming Bridge seen from the north
Huiming Bridge in 2014.
In 2014 the Huiming Bridge even got solar powered electric lights
Qingyun bridge near Yunlong.
The Qingyun chain bridge across the Pi river just outside Yunlong as seen in October 2012
Qingyun bridge from above.
Pavilions form the bridge heads of the Qingyun Bridge. The west one contains a small altar
The chains of the broken bridge.
The nearly 200 year old iron chains of the bridge are pulled out of the water

Qingyun Bridge

The Qingyun Bridge is located just outside Yunlong and was ones one of the most important bridges spanning the Pi River.

This iron chain bridge with a span of 36 metres was constructed during the Qing Dynasty in 1824.

The original bridge was financed by a personal contribution of the governor of Shiaanxi. It formed an important link in the salt trade.

Qingyun bridge 2008-01.
The Qingyun Bridge as seen in January 2008

It is a pity that these old bridges on the Pi River are hardly cared for. The Quingyun Bridge slowly gets absorbed by waste dumped around it and is hardly accessible anymore.

Qingyun Bridge in November 2012.
Signs warning that the bridge has been washed away. (Photo: October 2012)

In 2012 the bridge got washed away by a flash flood. The sign (See picture above) states that the bridge will be rebuilt but they could start with stopping the dumping of waste near the bridge. Building waste dumped in and near the river might have contributed to the destruction of the bridge.

Qingyun bridge near Yunlong.
The Qingyun chain bridge across the Pi river just outside Yunlong as seen in May 2012
Qingyun Bridge.
The fully functioning bridge in 2015

The rebuild Qingyun Bridge

The Qingyun Bridge did got rebuild in 2013. The old chains were used again and the roof was rebuild over the eastern bridgehead.

Statue at the Qingyun Bridge.
Statue of Bodhisattva Guanyin the guardian deity inside her pavilion

The guardian goddess Bodhisattva Guanyin got a makeover of fresh paint and new clothes for the child in her lap, hopefully this will protect the bridge better.

Qingyun bridge.
The Qingyun bridge was rebuild. Even the roof is back on the eastern bridgehead. The dumping of construction waste has however not stopped so the same accident is likely to happen again
Qingyun Bridge.
With a new roof and a fresh coat of paint the Qingyun Bridge nearly blends in with the new developments of Yunlong town. (Photo: January 2014)
Zhongzhao Bridge just north of Yunlong.
The double span Zhongzhou Bridge just north of Yunlong
Anlang Bridge.
Donkeys, a man and a dog on the Anlang Bridge

Anlang Bridge

Despite the modern road bridge in Changxin village the Anlang Bridge there is still popular and often used. This probably because the bridge connects the market with the minibus station on the main road and especially on market days the bridge is quite busy.

Woman and child crossing Anlang Bridge.
The Anlang Bridge

The bridge is 60 metres long and has the largest span of all the bridges crossing the Pi River (The two double span bridges are longer but cross the river in two steps).

Tongjing Bridge.
The Tongjing Bridge north of Yunlong
Tongjing Bridge.
The Tongjing Bridge blends nicely into the surroundings
Girls shopping at the hole in the wall shop at the Tongjing Bridge bridgehead.
The pavilion at the eastern bridgehead contains a hole in the wall shop selling things like ice creams and toilet paper and everything in between
Man on horse passing the Tongjing Bridge.
Sometimes it looks like these bridges are used more frequently by animals than by people

Tongjing Bridge

The imposing Tongjing Bridge spanning the Pi River north of Yunlong, is the largest wooden bridge in Yunnan. Originally this bridge was constructed in 1776 but the present form dates from a bit later in the Qing dynasty. The name refers to the salt and silver trade. The bridge has a span of 30 metres.

Joss sticks at the Tongjing Bridge.
Joss sticks placed at the stone describing the history of the bridge

The pavilion on the east bank has a small shop and ones had even a small restaurant. The west bank pavilion has the traditional temple and next to it located the medical clinic. The temple, shop and clinic shows the importance of this bridge.

The Tongjing Bridge is actively used and kept in a good shape and one of the finest examples of a Yunnan wooden covered bridge.

Tongjing Bridge.
Tongjing Bridge.
In winter, when the water is low, one can see the intricate construction of the bottom of the bridge very well
Tongjing Bridge.
Tongjing Bridge.
The Tongjing Bridge

Wuli Bridge

This bridge is located on small side streams of the Pi River. The Wuli Bridge is located in the fields in the middle of nowhere also recently the path behind it got enlarged.

Wuli Bridge.
The Wuli Bridge
Wuli Bridge.
The Wuli Bridge with the Pi River in the foreground
Caifeng Bridge in the green.
The Caifeng Bridge north of Yunlong
Interior of the Caifeng Bridge.
The Caifeng Bridge interior
Joss sticks at Caifeng Bridge.
Joss sticks offered at the Caifeng Bridge

Caifeng Bridge

The well maintained Caifeng Bridge spanning the Pi River north of Yunlong, is the second largest wooden bridge spanning the Pi River. Originally this bridge was constructed in 1628 but the present form dates from the Chongzhen reign period of the Qing dynasty era. The bridge has a span of 27 metres.

The Caifeng Bridge is the last of the old bridges up the Pi River.

Caifeng Bridge.
The Caifeng Bridge is well located and from it one can walk to the mysterious Xuantian pavilion a bit further up the mountain that guards the access to Shundangjing hamlet
Xiantian Pavilion with protective wall.
Xuantian Pavilion.
Xuan Wu statue in the Xuantian Pavilion.
Statue of Xuan Wu the guardian deity inside the Xuantian Pavilion

Xiantian Pavilion

The Xiantian Pavilion is the access gate in the wall protecting Shundangjing.

Fongshui wall at the back of the Xiantian gate.
The fengshui wall at the end of the gate to prevent bad spirits to get into the village

The Xiantian pavilion houses a statue of Xuan Wu (玄武, "Dark" or "Mysterious Warrior") a Taoist deity that is always depicted with a sword, the three mountain hand seal, snake and turtle. He is also known as the "Mysterious Heavenly Upper Emperor" (玄天上帝 Xuantian Shangdi).

Shundangjing hamlet.
The Shundangjing hamlet hiding behind the Xuantian gate
Caifeng Bridge in the morning mist.
The Caifeng Bridge in the morning mist
Jiancao Bridge.
Jiancao Bridge. It is a pity that, like at many bridges, so much rubbish is dumped in the river around this bridge

Jiancao Bridge

The Jiancao Bridge is located in Jiancaoxiang a small market town in a side valley of the Pi River valley. The bridge links the two parts of the town together. It is a pity that, like at many bridges, so much rubbish is dumped in the river around this bridge.

Jiancaoxiang is renowned for its fruit spirit with wild berry flavour made in a distillery next to the bridge.

Horses and mules at Jiancao Bridge.
During market day the Yi people come down from the mountain sides to shop and park their horses and mules at the old bridge
Ji women at Jiancao bridge.
A lot of the Yi women wear their traditional dress every day
Jiancao Special
The ready product packet in ready to drink shot glasses
Jiancao fruit baijiu
Tasting of some wild berry flavoured Jiancao baijiu
Jiezifang Bridge.
The Jiezifang Bridge
Market on Jiezifang Bridge
The bridge doubles as a covered market space

Jiezifang Bridge

In the same valley the Jiezifang Bridge in Shijing village doubles as the central meeting space and local market.

BBQ snacks
BBQ snacks are a speciality of Yunnan
Zhang Gong Shenjun Bridge
The Zhang Gong Shenjun Bridge
Zhang Gong Shenjun Bridge protectors
The protectors of the bridge

Zhang Gong Shenjun Bridge

This bridge high up in the valley is made from the local rock and adobe bricks.

Zhang Gong Shenjun Bridge
Tourist at the interior of the bridge
Three pigs and a bridge.
Three piglets taking one of the many covered bridges still standing in this valley
Fongshui Bridge.
High up in the side valley there is a bridge with a long "Fongshui Wall" over it
Fongshui Bridge (Back).
From the other side the bridge looks just like a big wall standing in a paddy field
Rattan Bridge.
The Shundang Rattan Bridge with a span of 27 metres
Xu Ying crossing a rattan bridge.
The access path to the Shundang Rattan Bridge

Rattan bridges

Not only old wooden and iron-chain-bridges are spanning the Pi River but there are several bridges made of rattan as well. The largest of these has a span of 30 metres.

Access path to rattan bridge.
The access path to the Shundang Rattan Bridge

These rattan bridges are hard to find because they blend in with the nature around them.

The Songshui Bridge, located next to the main road, has been restored. It is now a popular tourist stop.

How much longer these rattan bridges will last is unclear; already the rattan has been replaced by metal wire and steel cables on most of them.

Going home over a rattan bridge.
Locals and tourist at the Shundang rattan bridge

Shundang Rattan Bridge

Also it is our favourite rattan bridge and we often take people there, the thing is not an tourist attraction but a means across the river for several households living there.

Tourist at the rattan bridge.
Tourist going for the perfect shot
Rattan Bridge.
The Shundang Rattan Bridge in winter
Temporary bridge.
Temporary bridge at the Pi River
Temporary bridge.
Temporary bridge at the Pi River
Temporary Bridge.
One of the many temporary bridges crossing the Pi River
Covered Bridge in Summer
Two pictures of the same covered bridge in the Qingshuihe tributary valley. One picture in summer and one in winter
Covered Bridge in Winter
Also the Pi River Valley enjoys an overall mild climate the lookout is of course different. The best time to visit is April/Mai and September/October
Tianchi Reservoir.
Tianchi Reservoir and National Park in winter
The Taiji River.
The Taiji River Symbol as seen from the viewpoint. For a full size picture click here

Huimin Bridge.

Location: 25°44'34" N. 99°22'29" E.

Qingyun Bridge.

Location: 25°52'54" N. 99°22'03" E.

Anlang Bridges.

Location: 26°03'58" N. 99°26'26" E.

Tongjing Bridge.

Location: 26°05'35" N. 99°26'08" E.

Shundang Bridge.

Location: 26°15'32" N. 99°24'13" E.

Wuli Bridge.

Location: 26°16'14" N. 99°23'36" E.

Caifeng Bridge.

Location: 26°16'43" N. 99°22'43" E.

Jiancao Bridge.

Location: 26°03'55" N. 99°18'26" E.

Jiezifang Bridge.

Location: 26°08'56" N. 99°17'32" E.

Zhang Gong Shenjun Bridge.

Location: 26°09'06" N. 99°17'37" E.

Fongshui Bridge.

Location: 26°10'43" N. 99°17'45" E.

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

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