Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Most Practical Tourist Site You'll Ever Visit

Lugou Qiao is a bridge that is nearly one thousand years old. Marco Polo once described it in this way..."a very fine stone bridge, so fine indeed, that it has very few equals in the world." Centuries later, Lugou Qiao was the site where the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, as it is known here in China, saw its first shots fired.

Now, all of that history is certainly noteworthy, as are the more than 500 stone lions that line Lugou Qiao. But, honestly, what captivated me the most is the way in which the bridge is used today. Although it was closed to automobile traffic decades ago and has since been a protected historical relic, Lugou Qiao lives on today as a means of commerce, transportation, and recreation for nearby villagers.

As we meandered our way back and forth, we found ourselves easily outnumbered by people on bicycles and motor scooters. (We also met up with a woman walking her two dogs, one of which lifted up its leg and peed on the bridge. Luckily the dogs were little, so the stone lions were out of range!) Many of the riders who zipped by were carrying fresh vegetables and other items they had obviously just purchased from a nearby market.

Here was a tourist site, I quickly came to realize, that we paid an admission fee to enter and that the locals simultaneously use (presumably for free) as an integral part of their daily lives. Ancient history, 20th century warfare, and laobaixing (regular people) on the outskirts of today's Beijing. Lugou Qiao is an interesting and offbeat site that mixes old China and new China...with typically befuddling results!

~Steve

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