Zhaozhou Bridge (also known as Anji Bridge), one of the national key cultural relics, is located on Xiaohe River in Zhao County of Hebei Province. It is designed and built in Sui Dynasty (A.D. 581-618) by the famous craftsman Li Chun. The bridge is about 1400 years old and was listed as the oldest and best preserved ancient open relic in the world. The design and the craft of Zhaozhou Bridge are exquisite, not only is second to none in our country, but also in the world. According to the textual research, in European, the same style as Zhaozhou Bridge didn’t appear until the middle of 19th century. It is more than 1200 years later than that appeared in China. Besides, the sculptures of lions, elephants and dragons on the bridge are vivid, delicate and beautiful. No wonder it is praised as the art treasure in the treasure house of cultural relics. It is said that the construction technology of China has spread to Japan and other countries in Ming Dynasty, which promoted the cultural exchanges and friendship between the other countries and China.
It is said that Zhaozhou Bridge is finished over a night by Lu Ban who is the most famous ancient artisan, which provides conveniences for the people on both sides of Xiao River. So people praise the architects with beautiful legends. Besides, there are mainly three fairy traces on the bridge, namely the hoofprint of a donkey, a rolled gap, a knee print, and a palm print
The most famous folk literary and art work about Zhaozhou Bridge is Hebei folk song called "Xiao Fang Niu". In the song it sings: "Who built Zhaozhou Bridge? Who made the jade balusters? Who rode on a donkey and walk past the bridge? Who pushed the cart and rolled a gap?" The answers are: Lu Ban, a sage, Zhang Guolao, and Chai Rong.
Now let me tell you the whole story in details. Five miles south to Zhao County is a river named Xiao River. In ancient times, the current is turbulent. In every summer and autumn, when the rain falls, rain and spring water come down together and form a raging torrent. So it is quite inconvenient for the residents and pedestrians along the banks. The famous craftsman Lu Ban heard of the difficulty of the county and decided to help the people out. He travelled a long way and built this huge stone bridge over one night. This news spread fast and lots of people, near or far, scramble to visit the bridge with the feeling of surprise. Accidentally, the miracle even shocked Zhang Guolao, one of the “Eight Immortals”.
He put “the sun” in the right backpack and “the moon” in the left backpack on the donkey back and decided to walk past the bridge. What’s more, he wanted to play a joke on Lu Ban on purpose, so he invited Chai Rong and asked him to push his unicycle carrying “the Five Mountains”. Upon their arrival at the end of the bridge, Zhang Guolao began to ask whether the bridge is able to allow two people to walk past at the same time. It is the time when Lu Ban has done all the construction work and felt so satisfied that he disapprovingly said, “Since it is so solid a bridge, how come it can’t bear you two to walk past it?
Are you two joking with me?”Unexpectedly, once they have step on the bridge, it began tottering. Seeing this bad situation, Lu Ban jumped off the bridge to hold the bridge on the east side firmly with his hand. Thus make them go through smoothly with the sun and the five mountains. From then on, several “fairy traces” were left on the bridge which is talk about by the people. Zhang Guolao has left the donkey’s hoofprint and a round hole was made by his fallen bamboo hat. Chai Rong has left a knee print and a rolled gap made by his cart because of his hard push. And Lu Ban has left his palm print on the bridge when he held it. But in the end, due to the disrepair of the east side, the palm print was unfortunately missing. The folk song “Xiao Fang Niu” is singing about this vivid legend.
Nowadays, as it is a national key cultural relic, vehicles are not allowed to prevent the bridge from damage caused by the heavy traffic. So I suggest you go there on foot. I am sure you will be surprised by the bridge itself and some other legends spread among the locals.