The well-known Zhaozhou Bridge, also known as Anji
Bridge or Dashi Bridge, is a large stone-arched bridge located on the Xiaohe
River in Zhaozhou County, Hebei
Province . It is the largest and oldest stone-arched bridge in the world.
It took 11 years to complete the bridge -- from the first to the 11th year of
the Daye reign (605-616) of the Sui
Dynasty (581-618). Bridge designer Li Chun built the Zhaozhou Bridge south
with a stone arch made of massive limestone wedges reinforced with iron. The
innovative main arch of the Zhaozhou Bridge curves to form a shallow arch rather
than the half circle preferred by Roman engineers at the time.
Li's creativity and ingenuity in producing such a unique
design and structure has won the admiration of many people. The Zhaozhou Bridge
predates any comparable development in Europe by several hundred years.
The Zhaozhou Bridge is 50.82 meters long and 9.6 meters wide;
the span of its large stone arch in the middle measures 37.37 meters -- the
world's largest arch at the time. There is also a smaller symmetrical arch at
each end. This kind of structure not only requires less building materials but
also makes sluicing during the flood season much easier. The bridge floor is
smooth and flat with passages for pedestrians on both sides, while carriages
can move through the middle. The apex of the arch is fairly high so that boats
can also pass through easily. The bridge is ingeniously designed, with a
well-proportioned layout, solid structure and a magnificent and attractive
outward appearance. Willow branches sway gracefully at both ends of the bridge
and, from afar, the inverted image of the arch in the water resembles a rainbow
spanning over the Xiaohe River.