Guangji Bridge, also known as Xiangzi Bridge, is an ancient bridge across the Han River in Chaozhou, Guangdong province, China. It is renowned as one of the country’s four famous ancient bridges — the other three are the Zhaozhou Bridge, the Lugou Bridge and Luoyang Bridge. It is said that if you went to Chaozhou and did not visit the bridge, your visit to Chaozhou was worthless.
Aside from the antiquity and historical significance, Guangji Bridge is special as being the world’s first pontoon bridge that can open and close. A part of the Guangji Bridge is supported by eighteen floating boats, that could be moved aside to create an open channel for ships and boats to pass through. Originally, the entire bridge was a floating structure supported by eighty-six huge boats. Today, only the middle section can be opened.
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Guangji Bridge was built, as a floating bridge, during the Song Dynasty in 1170, led by a magistrate named Zeng Wang. It was originally named Kangji Bridge. Just four years after its construction, a flood swept the bridge away, and so another magistrate Chang Wei led workers to reconstruct it. In those times, districts were headed by magistrates who not only oversaw law and order but were also responsible for the district's administration.
Soon several magistrates of the prefecture became involved in the bridge’s construction. Among them, Ding Yunyuan led people and built the most piers. His achievements were most outstanding so the bridge was called Ding Gong Bridge. In 1194, one magistrate built a pavilion at the east coast and named the bridge Jichuan Bridge. By 1206, the east and west end of the bridge was finished, and the middle section was connected by some boats, making it both a beam bridge and a pontoon bridge.
During the Ming Dynasty, the bridge was reconstructed and renamed Guangji Bridge. Later, during the Qing Dynasty, two statues of oxen was added on both ends. The bridge, which is about 500 meters in length, is now supported by 24 stone piers and 18 boats, and has 24 pavilions.
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