Zhaozhou Bridge

Hebei


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.