A Walk on the First Yangtze River Bridge
Everyone has its particular memories in one’s lifetime. Wuhan enjoys the reputation of “the city of waters,” and naturally rivers and bridges have become the shared memories of local citizens.
As the first bridge built over the Yangtze in history, Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge is a landmark which the local residents are proud of. You can always find people from different backgrounds sightseeing here and gazing far on the bridge in the cold winter or in the scorching hot summer, witnessing the rapid development of the city. May it be romantic sweethearts, or the whetherbeaten middle- aged men or silver- haired senior citizens. Despite their differences in their life experiences, they hold profound feelings towards this internationalized city and the Grand Bridge.
A few days ago I came across a vigorous old lady. She proudly told me, “Believe it or not, I am seventy- seven this year and it only takes me forty minutes to walk from the Wuchang end of the Bridge to the Hanyang end.” I was astonished to know that the lady named Liu Yuzhen was one of the pioneering builders of this very Bridge. She was only sixteen years old then, carrying fifty kilograms of stone each time on her weak shoulders for paving the road of the bridge. She has reason to be proud of herself because she participated
in such a majestic bridge construction and made contribution to it. Even today, she still maintains her habit of walking across the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge at least once a year.
Today, There are more than ten such bridges across the Yangtze river in Wuhan as Second Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge, Yingwuzhou Yangtze River Bridge, Erqi Yangtze River Bridge that link the three towns of Wuhan. Most people, yet, like Mrs. Liu Yuzhen, hold a special fondness of Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge. Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge was constructed during the fifties and the sixties of the last century. When it was finally open to traffic, many locals flocked to have a look. Afterwards, Wuhan people started to like using the word “bridge” in naming things to commemorate the grand occasion, names like “Construction Bridge,” “Han Bridge,” “Grand Bridge,” and “Friendship Bridge” could be seen nearly everywhere in local areas. So, this bridge engraved extraordinary meaning in the local residents’ mind.
Wuhan has been divided naturally into three towns by the Yangtze River and the Han River and eventually formed Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang. Before the construction of the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge in the middle of the 20th century, ferryboats were almost the only means of transportation for locals to travel between the three towns.
“At that time, not only was it the bicycles and cars that could only cross the river by ferryboat, but even trains were no exception. Every train that crossed the river would first have to be divided up into several sections to be taken across the
river by ferryboat and then brought on to land by locomotive. It would take a few hours just to get one train across the Yangtze.” said Mr. Tang Hao, a sixty- one year old man who formerly worked as a technician for China Railway Major Bridge Design Institute. His father Tang Huancheng was the designer of the Bridge’s Tower. At that time the only lines in circulation were the lines from Hankou to Beijing (Jing for short) and Canton (also Guangdong, Guang for short). It was only after the construction of the Bridge and its opening to traffic that these two lines could be connected together forming the Jing- Guang Railway. The time of crossing the Yangtze for trains was also reduced from a few hours to just a few minutes.
A bridge connects the south to north; natural barriers suddenly turn into thoroughfares. That the natural moats can be turned into thoroughfares not only indicates the human’s courage in conquering the nature, but also its wisdom in building a better
I’m not a native of Wuhan, but I keep a habit of taking the ferryboat to Hankou, the other side of the city, a few times a year from the Wuchang Harbour on Zhonghua Road. Feeling the gentle breeze over the river, listening to the whistles of the passing ships, I can’t help slowing down my hasty steps. As the ferry passes under Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge, I can almost feel the train above speeding along, marching ahead to a new better tomorrow.
“Days and nights ran slower in the past, carriages, steeds, and correspondences went at a snail’s pace. So slow, a lifetime is only enough to love one city.” Exiting at the Harbour’s entrance, I couldn’t help but quietly whispering and humming.
( Photos by China Zhongtie Major Bridge Engineering Group )