Lugou Qiao, also known as the Marco Polo Bridge, is one of earliest segmented stone arch bridge about 16 km in the outside of Beijing
The Diary of Marco Polo says "Over this river there is a very fine stone bridge, so fine indeed, that it has very few equals in the world."... A very great stone bridge... For you may know that there are few of them in the world so beautiful, nor its equal ... It is made like this. I tell you that it is quite three hundred paces long and quite eight paces wide, for ten horsemen can well go there one beside the other ... It is all of grey marble very well worked and well founded. There is above each side of the bridge a beautiful curtain or wall of flags of marble and pillars made so, as I shall tell you ... And there is fixed at the head of the bridge a marble pillar, and below the pillar a marble lion ... very beautiful and large and well made." This description earned the bridge its name, Marco Polo, in the Western World.
The Lugou Bridge is located 15 kilometers southwest of Beijing proper. Known also as the Guangli Bridge, it spans the banks of the Yongding River. According to historical records, the Lugou River is also called the Heishui (Black Water) River. In the local dialect in ancient times, lu (reed) meant black; thus the Heishui River became known as the Lugou River, and the bridge was accordingly given the same name.
The Lugou Bridge has been standing over the Yongding River for 800 years. In the Mingchang period (1190-1208) of the Jin dynasty, the bridge was listed into the "Eight Scenic Spots of Yanjing (Beijing)" under the title "Lugou Xiaoyue" (Moon over the Lugou Bridge at Dawn), which has remained throughout the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.
Officially the bridge was called the "Lugou Stone Bridge", and it was built completely of white stone and looked majestic with a total of 485 stone lions lined on the balustrades of both sides.
The stone lions on the posts of the bridge are most famous. There is an interesting proverb that "the lions of the Lugou Bridge are too numerous to count," So you can imagine yourself how many lions there are. It is said that there are 485 in all, and someone also says there are 498 or 501. And, which is more important, all the lions have been delicately carved, and every two of them have some differences between them. In this way, the bridge is just like an art gallery.
A pair of vividly carved reclining stone elephants and a number of other animal figures guards each end of the bridge. At the extremes of the bridge there are two stone steles, one recording the history of the renovation work carried out in the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722), and the other bearing the inscription "The Moon over the Lugou Bridge at Dawn" in the handwriting of Emperor Qianlong.
The Lugou Bridge is situated at a strategic point on the one overland route to the capital from the south. Bridge construction was begun in 1189 and completed four years later. The bridge is 235 meters long of white marble. It has 11 arches and as many broad piers.
This bridge has been repaired for many times, recording many historical facts. On July 7, 1937, Japanese troops illegally occupied a railway junction near Wanping and fighting erupted. This is considered by many to be the date when the war between China and Japan began. The war ended with the end of WWII. The "Lugou Bridge Event" will be a sign of the inexorable Chinese People into the history for ever.