...so finally, after leaving the rice terraces behind in the morning mist of a rainy day... after some 3 hours of a bus ride I got to the place I wanted to visit and discover the most on this trip- the land of the Dong minority. With huge huge expectations! A small (cca. 2.9 - 3 million) nation known for it's special talent of carpentry wich results in amazing own architectural styles: two special public building types and very own construction principles for residential building.
My first Dong area to stay at for three days was the Sanjiang County, with the famous Cengyang wind and rain bridge and about seven small Dong villages around.
the Dong Wind and Rain Bridge
A type of bridge got it's name from the fact of being such strong and secure shelters, by which you could cross the river no matter how strong the wind or the rain outside would be. Two concepts are united in one: a corridor bridge
which is a covered river crossing and a pavillion bridge
, which has a striking external appearance. This kind of bridges exist since 3rd century B.C., in various provinces of China, but have been
most developed in the land of the Dong, as the show-off of this nation's wooden architecture potential. Structurally they all are similar, but not two of them are alike. W'n'R bridges are cantilever bridges: the principle of such bridges is based on the fact that several tiers of beams extending from both sides of a valley that is to be bridged thrust out further towards the middle untilthe topment layer can be covered by a load bearing tier, linking the two bracket-like structures. It's actually a similar principle that is used at traditional building of chinese temples. ...With additional supporting piers in the river, the Dong got to the spans they could cross with the beams of an average tree-trunk lenght. The bridge's building material is china fir
, which is the most favorite tree of the people of this ethnic group and is grown in their environment very extensively.
Structurally a W'n'R bridge consists of it's lower bearing substructure
and upper covering superstructure
, whuch is built according to the basic Dong residential construction principles. A very essential part of every wind'n'rain bridge are the many shed roofs, which protect the wooden bearing structure from getting wet and at the same time
don't obstruct the view from the bridge. What also makes these bridges exceptional are the pagoda_style roof structures built above the bridge supports.
The Dong territory is rich with rivers so almost every village has at least one wind and rain bridge. The choosing of any W'n'R bridge's location is never accidental. It's very delicate and it must always be in the dialog with the surrounding environment. Its aestetic appearance must contribute to the pleasure of sitting inside it and enjoying its outside environment. Many times it is an actual access to the village so it is the Enthrance to the Village. These bridges are the villagers' pride and joy and everyone participates when they are being built.
The Dong also reffer to their bridges as "dragon bridges"
or "the bridges of the writhing dragon". There are figures of dragons on the roof many times with the aim of protection. The dragon is a guardian which promises and brings good fortune. "Wealth remains, the water goes!"
. According to the Feng Shui principles the water represents wealth. Therefore the water aperture=the bridge frame must stay "tightly closed" so that when the water passes trough, the wealth
remains. The Dragon makes sure it does!
The Cengyang Bridge
in Ma'an is one of the largest wind-rain bridges of the Dong people and in China. It spans over the river of Linxi wich and is also called the Yongji bridge. It was first built in1912, so if I get back to visit it in 2012 I'd be around for it's 100 's birthday (...which sounds perfectly convenient to me). It was rebuilt twice, cause of the floods. It's86m long and 3.8m wide, has 2 pedestals, 3 piers and 5 towers, the central tower being the tallest. It gives a symetricall impression, but it's actually not, cause the symetry and design principles are always adapted to the environment and the functionality of the certain bridge. Passing it, sitting on it, taking a nap in it, watching the village life and visitors pass by, daytime, nightime...listening to it's sounds...so...becoming one of its users...even if just for a couple of days...you realise that it's just grand!
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