The famous Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge

The famous Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge

What is the spiritual identity of Wuhan? When we consider history, the answer will surely be the Yellow Crane Tower. However, when we focus on the modern era, I believe there is nothing more representative than the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge.

A bridge will fly to span the north and south, turning a deep chasm into a thoroughfare.”

This was an inspiring excerpt of the poem “Swimming” written by President Mao Zedong in the summer of 1956 when he was visiting the coming-to-be Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge. The construction began in 1955 and the bridge was officially open to traffic in October 1957.

As China’s first highway-railway bridge over the Yangtze River, the completion of the bridge was of paramount importance in greatly facilitating the traffic between the southern and northern parts of China. Prior to that, the city was separated into three parts by the Yangtze River and it took hours for a train to cross the river by ferry to the opposite bank.

The travel time was dramatically shortened to just several minutes after the completion of the bridge. In short, it might not be exaggerating to say that this building of steel and cement marks a spectacular chapter in the history of China as well as a vivid epitome of Wuhan, an industrial city. 

The bridge represents the city’s pioneering spirit and relentless pursuit for excellence. It embodies the memories and aspirations of a whole generation of Chinese people who realized the dream of building a bridge over the Yangtze River, which had been yearned so deeply for over half a century.

It is no wonder that when Wuhan citizens talk about this “First Bridge of the Yangtze,” you can always feel their pride. In fact, it is not surprising to find that many Wuhan people of 1950s were named after “桥”, bridge in English. A dazzling variety of products were branded as Great Bridge with the images of the Yangtze River on their front covers. These included but not limited to the once popular Great Bridge Cigarette, the Great Bridge Children’s Bike, and the Great Bridge Sewing Machine.

Is any visitor from other places coming to Wuhan without taking a photo with the bridge? I guess not.

Ponte di Wuhan sul fiume Yangtze di notte

My father, for example, visited Wuhan in the early 1990s and had a valuable photo with the bridge. Coincidentally, as a new resident of Wuhan, my earliest memory of the city was also about the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge. Back then, I was a primary school student and I came to visit my cousin sister in Wuhan for the first time on summer vocation.

With her, we had a tour of the bridge and I can still recall the vast river and the grand bridge floor many years later. After I graduated from university, I started to work in the city. I met a French friend who lived in Wuhan. When he told me that what he enjoyed most in the city was to take a bus to cross the Yangtze River Bridge while enjoying the picturesque view unrolled in front of him, I nodded and couldn’t agree with him more.

Regardless of time or season, the bridge is always beautiful at whatever angle you wish to see. Standing afar, the bridge looks like a giant dragon lying on water.

Wuhan panorama by night

Starting your step from Yuemachang, Wuchang for a stroll along the bridge’s sidewalk offers you another enchanting experience: The breeze from the river caresses your face and you find the rolling waves of the Yangtze under the bridge and the ships coming back and forth on the river.

Occasionally, you feel a slight tremble of the sidewalk and before you realize, a train has flashed by the bridge’s railway line beneath. Standing on the bridge, you can easily spot the delicate Tortoise Hill and its TV tower on the opposite bank.

Turning back, you can see the elegant Yellow Crane Tower surrounded by greenery afar. Wherever your eyes go, you can always enjoy a panoramic view of Wuhan. When night falls and neon lights glow, the bridge is enwrapped in colorful lights. The iridescent rays reflected off the river below performe a mesmerizing twinkling display.

A visitor can catch a glimpse of the city through the bridge. Tourists beam with smile, young lovers walk side by side, and occasionally biking teenagers brush past pedestrians… That is where you see the silhouette of this dynamic city.

At sunset in hot summer, people throng the bank just below the bridgehead in Wuchang, looking forward to the moment when swimming lovers dive into the Yangtze River.

That is where you see the intimate relationship between water and locals of the city. Even in snowy days, you will not miss to notice a group of senior locals still braving in the water under the bridge. That is where you see the toughness of the Wuhan people.


Il ponte di Wuhan con spettacoli

Wuhan went through a extremely painful and dark period when the COVID-19 epidemic hit the city in 2020. The Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge, which received over 100 countries’ state leaders including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the then British Prime Minister Theresa May over the past decades, became completely empty.

But it is once again full of hustle and bustle with heavy traffic flows after city has recovered.


The aerial photo of this busy bridge is also posted online, drawing the focus of people of Wuhan, China and the world at large. This image, an embodiment of the resistance and courage of Wuhan, remains a warm memory of Chinese people.

There are now 11 bridges in operation over the Yangtze River in Wuhan. These bridges of various shapes and colors have greatly facilitated inter-flows over the river, as well as provided new alternatives for tourists. However, the Wuhan Yangtze River, which has stood still over the past 64 years, will be forever the unique and irreplaceable one.

Now new vitality has been injected to this old bridge as the annual Wuhan Yangtze Crossing Festival kicks off here and spectacular light shows on the Yangtze River regularly takes place around it. The bridge has witnessed numerous historical moments, and it will continue to guard this “City of Rivers” as it marches toward a bright future.


Fuochi d'artificio a Wuhan

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