Zhaozhou Bridge


China’s oldest bridge still standing, Zhaozhou Bridge has spanned the Jiao River (Jiǎo Hé) for 1400 years. As the world’s first segmental arch bridge (ie its arch is a segment of a circle, as opposed to a complete semicircle), it predates other bridges of its type throughout the world by 800 years. In fine condition, and part of a riverside, landscaped park, it is 50.82m long and 9.6m wide, with a span of 37m.

Twenty-two stone posts are topped with carvings of dragons and mythical creatures, with the centre slab featuring a magnificent tāotiè (an offspring of a dragon).

The bridge is in Zhaoxian County, about 40km southeast of Shijiazhuang and 2km south of Zhaoxian town. To get here from Shijiazhuang, head to the south bus station, then take a bus to Zhaoxian (赵县, Zhàoxiàn; ¥13, one hour, frequent). Get off at Shí Tǎ (石塔), a beautifully carved, slim-line stone pagoda built in AD 1038, and now standing in the middle of a roundabout. Turn right at the pagoda (if coming from the direction the bus was moving) to walk the final 2km to the bridge, or else take dinky local bus 2 (¥2). The last bus back to Shijiazhuang swings past Shí Tǎ soon after 6pm.