Home > Legend: The Seventeen-Arch Bridge at the Summer Palace

Legend: The Seventeen-Arch Bridge at the Summer Palace

2016-01-22 10:01:28Share:

  The Seventeen-Arch Bridge at the Summer Palace was built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799). There are some thirty bridges in the Summer Palace and this is by far the largest one, with a length of 150 meters (164 yards) and a width of 8 meters (8.75 yards). Legend has it that it was not only the sole passageway to Nanhu Island, but was also an important attraction in the lake area.

The Seventeen-Arch Bridge


  The unique scenery is but one of the stunning landscapes in the Summer Palace. With the styles of Lugou Bridge, rumor has it that with the (Marco Polo Bridge) in Beijing and the Baodai Bridge in Suzhou, the Seventeen-Arch Bridge looked more like a rainbow arching over the water. There are 544 distinctive lions on the columns of the white marble parapets, and 59 lions more than those in the Lugou Bridge. It is reported that on each end of the bridge is a carved bizarre beast which looks like kylin, an auspicious animal among the lexicon Chinese legends. With the biggest arch in the midst of the bridge flanked by sixteen others, visitors can count nine arches in different sizes from the middle to each end of the bridge.


  Number nine was believed to be the biggest yang (anode) number, an auspicious number favored by the emperors. So this, according to legend is the reason why the bridge has seventeen arches. If one includes the central arch, there are nine arches in total that extent from either end of the bridge.

The Seventeen-Arch Bridge


  There is another interesting legend connecting to the beauty of this bridge. One day during the construction of the bridge, an old man in shabby clothes came to the busy building site and shouted "Who wants Longmen (Dragon Gate) Stone?" He got no reply as the others took him as a crazy man on seeing his poor appearance. The poor man left with the stone in great disappointment. He stayed under a big tree, and every day, he chiseled the stone as early as when cocks started to crow. One night, it rained heavily, the poor man had to shelter from the rain under the tree when another elderly man saw him and asked him to live at his home. After a year went by, the old man said goodbye to the kind master and left the stone to him as a reward in return.


  At the same time, the project of the Seventeen-Arch Bridge was almost finished except for a proper stone to fit the gap in the middle of the bridge. Rumor has it that someone advised the project director to find the man who once sold the Longmen Stone. The director found out where the old man once lived. Out of extreme happiness, he found the right stone and gave the master some money to move it away. To everyone's excitement, the stone was exactly the right one to fit the gap. Suddenly someone realized, "The old man must be the incarnation of Luban (the earliest ancestor of carpenter) who came to help us to build the bridge!"


  The beauty of the bridge varies according to the four seasons, the time of the day (whether at dawn and dusk), and also from varying perspectives from residents who know of its vast history. You will get a best shot of the Longevity Hill while standing on the bridge. Lions sculptures with different postures and expressions are also perfect images favored by many photographers can be seen from there. Rumor has it that the bridge is set in willows and undulating waves of windy springs, which makes the bridge appear to sway like a pearl necklace. In addition, the hill side of Longevity Hill is a good place to see the bridge from a distance.


  The Seventeen Arch Bridge is part of the Summer Palace in Haidian district, where imperial rulers from the Forbidden City went to escape summer's heat.

The Imperial Gardens