Three kilometers west of the ancient streets of the historical Jianshui (建水), a colossal multi-arched bridge stands towering like a giant near the village of Shui Daying (水打营村), where two rivers, the Lujiang (泸江河) and the Tachong (塌冲河) meet after meandering like two dragons.
Nicknamed the ‘Double-Dragon Bridge’ or Shuanglong Qiao (双龙桥), locals call it the ‘Seventeen Arches Bridge’ or Shiqi Kong Qiao (十七孔桥) and is regarded by Chinese scholars as a marvel of ancient civil engineering.
The birth of the dragons
When the bridge was built during the reign Qianlong (乾隆), the emperor of the Qing dynasty who ruled over China from 1736 to 1795, it was only a 37 meters long three-span stone bridge that spanned over the Lujiang River (泸江河).
Following a series of violent floods, another river, the Tachong River (塌冲河) burst its banks and merged with the Lujiang River, destroying parts of the village and the three-span bridge. This episode gave Shui Daying (水打营村) its name. In Chinese 水打营村 literally means ‘waters 水 hitting 打 the settlement 营’.
From three to seventeen spans
In the early 1820s, during the reign of Emperor Daoguang (道光) of the Qing, local officials decided to repair the three-span bridge and added fourteen arches. The bridge thus earned its name as ‘Seventeen-span Stone Bridge’ (十七孔连拱石桥) and was nicknamed the ‘double dragon bridge’ (双龙桥).
Marvel of ancient architecture
The three-story wooden pavilion that was built on the new bridge burnt during the 6th year of Xianfeng Emperor (咸丰), in 1856 and was rebuilt during the 22nd year of Emperor Guangxu 光绪, in 1896.
The bridge is regarded by Chinese specialists as a marvel of ancient civil engineering which competes with the ten-span bridge of the Summer Palace in Beijing (颐和园) and as wonder of Yunnan province.
How to get there
The Double-Dragon stone bridge is located on the road to the ancient village of Tuanshan (团山) three kilometers west of Jianshui (建水) in Yunnan province. Its one of the many sights to visit on a short day-trip itinerary outside Jianshui.
If you are on a budget, you can squeeze yourself in a yellow mini-van (面包车) that departs from the square near to the KFC. It’s 5 RMB per person. The driver will let you off in the village of Shui Daying (水打营村), cross the village and you will see it.