Fascinating valley with fascinating old bridges.
Fascinating valley with fascinating old bridges.
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.
Just north of Yunlong the Pi River makes a double bend and makes a perfect Taiji symbol ( 太 极 图 ).
From the mountain on the west at a point 375 metres above the symbol one has the best view of the symbol.
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.
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.
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".
Text like these were ones very common in public places but have now largely disappeared.
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.
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.
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.
The Qingyun Bridge did got rebuild in 2013. The old chains were used again and the roof was rebuild over the eastern bridgehead.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Xiantian Pavilion is the access gate in the wall protecting Shundangjing.
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).
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.
In the same valley the Jiezifang Bridge in Shijing village doubles as the central meeting space and local market.
This bridge high up in the valley is made from the local rock and adobe bricks.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 25°44'34" N. 99°22'29" E.
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Location: 26°09'06" N. 99°17'37" E.
Location: 26°10'43" N. 99°17'45" E.
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.
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.
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