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Home Travel in Beijing Lugou Bridge
Lugou Bridge
Travel in Beijing
Lugou Bridge

"Over this river there is a very fine stone bridge, so fine indeed, that it has very few equals in the world." — The Diary of Marco Polo

The Lugou Bridge (lú gōu qiáo 卢沟桥) also known as the Marco Polo Bridge, is a famous stone bridge located 15 km outside of Beijing across the Yongding river (yǒngdìng hé 永定河)—a main tributary of Hai River (hǒi hé 海河). (However, in recent years, the water of Yongding river is diverted to Beijing so there is no water under Lugou bridge.) Situated 15km (9.32 miles) southwest of Tiananmen, the Lugou Bridge is well-known because it was highly praised by the Venetian traveler Marco Polo during his visit to China in the 13th century (the bridge was later known in Europe simply as the Marco Polo Bridge), and for the Marco Polo Bridge incident, which marked the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).

Construction of the original bridge on this site commenced in 1189 and was completed in 1192 and was later reconstructed in 1698. The Lugou Bridge is 266.5 m (874 feet) in length and 9.3 m (30.5 feet) in width, supported on 281 pillars. On each pillar stands a stone lion. The most intriguing feature of these beasts is the fact that there are more lions hiding on the head, back or under the belly or on paws of each of the big lions.
statute on Yongding river
statute on Yongding river statutes on Yongding river

Investigations to determine the total number of animals have been carried out on several occasions but the results have proved inconsistent, ranging anywhere from 482 to 496.
According to the survey in 1961 by the Beijing Cultural Relics Administration, there were 486 lions of various size in total: 281 bigger lions on top of the balusters plus 198 smaller lions on their bodies, apart from the two lions balancing on their heads the balustrades at the Bridge eastern end, 4 lions atop each of the four sculptured marble columns standing at the Bridge's heads, and one lion discovered later in the sand under the bridge. However, another survey conducted in 1983 resulted in the total number being 498. What is the exact number? Maybe you could go and count yourself. However, record has it that there were originally a total of 627 lions.

The posture of each lion varies, as do their ages. Most date from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, some are from the earlier Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368); while the few lions dating from as long ago as the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) are now quite rare.
Lugou XiaoyueFour ornamental columns each 4.65 meters (15 feet) high and a white marble stele stand at the ends of the bridge. One stele records the reconstruction of the bridge by Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in 1698. The other stele bears calligraphy by Emperor Qianlong, the grandson of Kangxi. It reads 'Morning moon over Lugou', and for the 700 years since its completion, the bridge has been a well known scenic spot in Beijing. Almost from its very inception, namely in the Mingchang period (1190-1208) of the Jin Dynasty, the bridge was listed by travellers and men of letters as one of the "Eight Scenic Spots of Yanjing (Beijing)" under the descriptive title "Lugou Xiaoyue" or Moon Over Lugou at Daybreak (The Morning Moon Over Lugou Bridge ).

Marco Polo, the great Italian traveller, saw it towards the end of the year 1276 during his tours in China under the Yuan Dynasty. In the book of travelogues bearing his name, which came out years later, Marco Polo gave a detailed description of it:" ... a very great stone bridge ... For you may know that there are few of them in the world so beautiful, nor its equal ... Marco PoloIt is made like this. I tell you that it is quite three hundred paces long and quite eight paces wide, for ten horsemen can well go there one beside the other ... It is all of grey marble very well worked and well founded. There is above each side of the bridge a beautiful curtain or wall of flags of marble and pillars made so, as I shall tell you ... And there is fixed at the head of the bridge a marble pillar, and below the pillar a marble lion ... very beautiful and large and well made." This description earned the bridge its name, Marco Polo, in the Western World. However, Marco Polo may have suffered a slip of memory when he gave the number of arches of the bridge as 24 instead of the 11 that it has always had.

Incidentally it may be interesting to note that Marco Polo called the bridge "Pulisangin". This is because, as some scholars point out, the upper course of the river Lugou or Yongding is the River Sanggan, and the river itself may have been known at the time as Sanggan or Sangin. As for "puli", it came from Persian word "pul", which means bridge. Therefore, Pulisangin was an international coinage for the "bridge on the Sanggan River" -- a name highly indicative of the amount of intercourse between China at the time and countries to her west.
As well as being famed for its aesthetic features, Lugou Bridge is also considered to be an architectural masterpiece. It is built of solid granite, with a large central arch flanked by ten smaller ones. Each of the ten piers is protected by triangular iron pillars that have been installed to prevent damage by flood and ice.

Resistance Against Japan

However, Lugou Bridge holds a very special place in the modern history of China, and more for painful memories rather than either its stunning beauty or amazing architectural achievement. It was here on the Marco Polo Bridge that the eight-year-long War of Resistance Against Japan commenced on July 7, 1937, that culminated with the surrender of Japan in 1945.

Adults: 20 yuan
Students: 10 yuan (with student ID)
Senior citizens and people with disabilities: free (with certificates)
Check online for memorial activities if decide to go around July 7