Zhàozhōu Bridge

Bridge in Shíjiāzhuāng

China’s oldest bridge still standing, the Zhàozhōu Bridge has spanned the Jiǎo 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 Zhàoxiàn County, about 40km southeast of Shíjiāzhuāng and 2km south of Zhàoxiàn town. To get here from Shíjiāzhuāng, head to the south bus station, then take a bus to Zhàoxiàn (赵县; ¥11, one hour, frequent). Get off at Shí Tǎ (石塔), a slim stone pagoda in the middle of the road, where you turn right to walk the final 2km, or else take dinky local bus 2 (¥1). The last bus back to Shíjiāzhuāng swings past Shí Tǎ at about 7pm.

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