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Zhaozhou Bridge or the Anji Bridge is considered to be Shijiazhuang City’s symbol. The bridge was built during the Sui Dynasty and it was designed by Li Chun, a famous architect.
The bridge is a very well preserved and the earliest stone arch bridge to be found today. Due to its historical importance, it is also listed as a nationally important cultural relic.
Highlights of the Zhaozhou Bridge
The Zhaozhou Bridge is around 50 meters long and has 37.37 m central span. The bridge is 7.3 m tall with a width of 9 meters. Its arch covers an impressive circular segment which is less than half a semicircle. It has a radius of 27.27 m. The bridge also has four additional arches which reduce the bridge’/s weight and also reduce floodwater force. It is an elegant and well designed bridge. The posts and guardrails are covered in beautiful carvings.
The technical details
The Zhaozhou Bridge has a length to span arch ratio of 1.1. This means that it is less than that of a semicircle arch in a bridge by almost 43%. The design of the bridge allowed saving of material by 40% and made it light in weight. The arch’s elevation is 45 degrees, subjecting the bridge’s abutments to sideways force and downward force.
A man-made wonder
The bridge’s central arch is made with 28 curved, thin limestone slabs that are joined using iron dovetails. The design allows the bridge arch to adjust if there are any shifts in the supports. It also prevents the collapse of the bridge even if a part of the arch would break. It also has two smaller side arches on each side of its main arch.
The side arches are very important. They first reduce the bridge’s total weight by 15.3%. This is important due to various reasons. Also, if the bridge gets submerged during floods, these side arches would allow water to easily pass through and would reduce the force on the bridge’s structure. The excellent construction and design of Li Chun not only economized the materials but also provided aesthetic appeal.
The legends of Zhaozhou Bridge
Many old legends exist about Zhaozhou Bridge’s construction. The Xiaohe River overflowed in the past, allowing the local people to only go across by boat. A local carpenter, Lu Ban, managed to overnight turn sheep into stones for making the bridge. Chai Wangye and Zhang Guolao, two immortals, tested the bridge’s solidity.
Zhang Guolao arrived facing backwards on a donkey. He had the moon and the sun in his bag. Chai Wangye came with a cart which had China’s five famous mountains. When they reached the middle of this bridge, the bridge started shaking and was likely to collapse. When Lu Ban realized that the situation had turned highly unfavorable, he jumped in the water to hold the bridge up with his hands. The bridge was luckily sound and safe.
This resulted in clear hoof prints on the bridge’s surface from the rut and the donkey. The fingerprints of Lu Ban were also there on the bridge’s arch. It is also said that like the lines in “Child Cowherd”, a folk song, the Zhaozhou Bridge had been created by Lu Ban. The sages left its boulder railings. Chai Wangye pushed his cart on his bridge to make a rut and Zhang Guolao crossed this bridge on donkey back.