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Chinese Wooden Arch Bridges


China, a country dotted with traditional wooden arch bridges, has a lot of bridges that were built with unique construction techniques and skills, among which are wooden arch bridges.

The traditional design and practices for building Chinese wooden arch bridges is based on the architect’s understandings of structural mechanics and surrounding environments. Traditional tools and skills, and the core technique - “beams organization”, tenons and mortises are essential in building a super-stable Chinese wooden arch bridge.

In old days, the architects were carpenters, and the construction process usually was charged by a master carpenter. In the building process, the carpenters were in close accordance with a strict technical procedure, which was passed on from master to students or father to son. These carpenter families are important in building, maintenance and protection of arch bridges.

As the carrier of traditional techniques, these bridges are important gathering sites of local people. Here they communicate, hold entertainment activities and worship ceremonies on the bridges, which enhance affections with each other and extend cultural characters.

But in recent years, due to the facts of acceleration of urbanization, scarcity of wood, and smaller construction space, etc, the survive and inheritance of the techniques are threatened and some traditional skills have even vanished. Wooden arch bridge is called “modern heritage of ancient conception” in bridge academe, it transcends any other kinds of traditional wooden bridge in China in terms of technique level, and it is one and only in the world bridge history.

The traditional construction techniques of wooden arch bridge were listed in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) in October, 2009.

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