A Walk on the First Yangtze River Bridge


Special Focus - - Contents - Liu Dongli 刘冬莉

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 )

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