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Marco Polo Bridge/China

Introducing Marco Polo Bridge

Described by the great traveller himself, this 266m-long grey marble bridge (Lúgōu Qiáo; 8389 3919; 88 Lugouqiaochengnei Xijie; admission Y15; 8am-5pm) is host to 485 carved stone lions. Each animal is different, with the smallest only a few centimetres high, and legend maintains that they move around during the night.

Dating from 1189, the stone bridge is Běijīng’s oldest (but is a composite of different eras; it was widened in 1969), and spans the Yongding River near the small walled town of Wǎnpíng, just southwest of Běijīng.

Despite the praises of Marco Polo and Emperor Qianlong, the bridge wouldn’t have rated more than a footnote in Chinese history were it not for the famed Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which ignited a full-scale war with Japan. On 7 July 1937, Japanese troops illegally occupied a railway junction outside Wǎnpíng. Japanese and Chinese soldiers started shooting, and that gave Japan enough of an excuse to attack and occupy Běijīng.

The Memorial Hall of the War of Resistance Against Japan is a gory look back at Japan’s occupation of China, but the lack of English captions renders much of its information meaningless. Also on the site are the Wanping Castle, Daiwang Temple and a hotel.