Marco Polo Bridge

Bridge in Wanping Town

Described by the great traveller himself, this 266m-long, multiarched granite bridge is the oldest bridge in Běijīng and is decorated beautifully with 485 individually carved stone lions, each one different. Dating from 1189, although widened in 1969, it spans the Yǒngdìng River, and was once the main route into the city from the southwest.

Despite the praises of Marco Polo, the bridge wouldn’t have 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.