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Chinese Bridges: Living Architecture from China's Past

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2013

    One of the first memories I have of being a young study abroad s

    One of the first memories I have of being a young study abroad student at Nanjing University is driving over the famed Nanjing Yangzi River Bridge on the drive from the airport into the center of the city. A Chinese professor accompanying us pointed out the historical significance of this bridge being built after the Sino-Russian split entirely using Chinese expertise and opened at the height of the Cultural Revolution. In fact, as Prof. Knapp excellent book, Chinese Bridges: Living Architecture from China’s Past, attests, the Chinese have been expert bridge builders for millennia. This very rich study covers a wide range of issues including the different types of bridge building techniques that Chinese have employed throughout history, the functional uses and decorative motifs of bridges found throughout China, and the cultural history of bridge building and the role bridges play in Chinese cultural life. The final section gives a generous sampling of regional and cultural variations of bridges found in different regions of China. The book is amply illustrated by not only A. Chester Ong’s beautiful photographs but also paintings and other illustrations recording the importance of bridges throughout Chinese history (i.e. the very famous 12th c. Qingming Festival Along the River scroll.) If I have one wish for the book is that it included some samples of more recent bridges (i.e., the Nanjing Yangzi River Bridge or the Jiashao Bridge) and their relationship to China’s cultural legacy of bridge building, but perhaps that subject is for a whole other study.

    Prof. Knapp has been publishing an comprehensive series of books detailing the unique and important cultural contribution Chinese architecture has made to world cultural, and this book wonderfully complements his previous studies on Chinese houses and interior design. This is a beautiful book that anyone can easily wander through without feeling like you need to be an expert on bridge engineering or the anthropology of China in order to appreciate what Prof. Knapp is exploring. This is that rare type of book that simultaneously looks good on a coffee table and is actually fun gleaning facts from (check out Prof. Knapp’s other “All Things Chinese” for a similar type of book!)

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