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在线翻译:
szdaily -> People
Retiree preserves beauty and wisdom of old bridges in photos
     2015-April-3  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Anna Zhao

    anna.whizh@yahoo.com

    WHILE retirement can be a time of relief from busy work for most people, 65-year-old Shenzhener Wu Liguan lives a much tighter schedule than before his retirement — trekking across the country to photograph ancient bridges. Although he is only an amateur photographer, Wu has a tome of photos of ancient bridges.

    Fondness of ancient architecture

    Wu, a native of Qingyuan, Guangdong Province, relocated to Shenzhen in the late 1980s. He developed an interest in photography 14 years ago and focused his lens at first on ancient houses. He later had a photo album of China’s traditional houses published, which covered various residences such as the Huizhou-style folk dwellings, quadrangle dwellings and cave dwellings.

    He visited many places to photograph the ancient houses, often crossing mountains and rivers. During those trips, he noticed the bridges that were built hundreds of years ago.

    As a veteran who participated in building bridges when he was in the military, Wu’s interest in bridges doubled.

    He began to photograph bridges systematically. “Maybe it’s because of my own growing up experiences, but I have deep feelings about ancient houses and bridges that you can’t find in urban cities,” Wu said. “The design of a bridge often embodied legends and stories that tell of the connection between the bridge and people, bearing the culture of a specific group of people — the wisdom of our ancestors.”

    At first, Wu just followed his instinct in taking pictures until he was introduced to Tang Huancheng, a renowned bridge expert, by a magazine. Tang was impressed by Wu’s huge photo album of bridges and later wrote the foreword for the album, giving high praise of Wu’s works.

    Tang’s words gave Wu great encouragement.

    Wu said he often consults libraries in different cities, looking for information on local bridges. After studying bridges for a few years, he can easily explain the different categories and styles of bridges and their locations.

    Pursuing dreams

    Wu has left his footprints in 26 provinces, mostly in the remote countryside. Most of the locations of ancient bridges are in places where traffic is undeveloped. He often had to walk, ride a horse, or take a motorcycle to reach those bridges.

    Wu says the process of photographing bridges was arduous, but the excitement of taking good pictures kept moving him forward. “You have to have great patience in order to capture a good picture and have a tolerance for loneliness,” he said.

    Most of the time, he had to wait for the sun to be in the right spot so that the bridge would be shown in the best natural light. When it is rainy or foggy, he waits. Some bridges were worn down by the years, so he would have to carefully remove mud stains by hand to reveal the bridges’ natural beauty.

    Traveling alone sometimes can be boring, but Wu said he enjoyed the hospitality the people he met on his trips. In a mountain village in Fujian, local villagers invited him for a dinner and offered to be his guide.

    He would ask local people about the bridges’ origins since most bridges have no inscriptions. Sometimes it’s impossible for him to understand local dialects, and Wu communicates with the locals through written words.

    While a bridge is ultimately built for transportation, ancient people tended to attach religious and superstitious beliefs to bridges, Wu explained.

    The extensive use of animal totems is one of them.

    A bridge called Wugong Bridge (centipede) in Minhou County, Fujian Province, was engraved with two centipedes on two slab stones on each side of the bridge. Wu learned that the locals believed the image of a centipede could deter snakes, hence it would protect local residents and livestock.

    A bridge in Sichuan was full of children’s handprints and footprints, reflecting local folklore that the prints were blessings for future generations.

    “They (ancient people) considered building bridges to be accumulating virtues for themselves so they could receive blessings from the almighty, so most bridges in the south were built by civilians,” he said.

    “You’ll never know the depth of a culture behind a bridge unless you probe into the details,” Wu said.

    Unusual journey

    In August 2008, three months after an earthquake ravaged Sichuan Province, Wu visited Qingcheng Mountain, near Dujiangyan. When he arrived, he found that most places were left in ruins. He had to wade through a rushing river on his way down the mountain.

    In August 2012, he went to Hekou, a border region with Vietnam in Yunnan Province, to photograph a bridge constructed on a precipitous cliff. He passed through a 300-meter tunnel by stepping carefully along rails to photograph the bridge. He said his ‘heart was in his mouth’ out of fear of snakes in the darkness.

    Wu has photographed many bridges that are listed as national key cultural heritages. He feels very fortunate to have taken many precious pictures because some of them no longer exist.

    At least 10 bridges he has photographed have been destroyed. Zhen’an Bridge, a wooden bridge built more than 600 years ago during the Ming Dynasty in Pucheng County, Fujian Province, was destroyed by a fire in 2009. A bridge in Tengchong, through which the Chinese Expedition Force went to Myanmar to fight during World War II, collapsed out of disrepair.

    “I don’t mind traveling a long way to take pictures, but I feel a great loss when the bridge I travel to photograph is gone,” Wu said.

    In September 2011, Wu released his second book on ancient architecture, with photos of more than 200 ancient bridges, complete with explanations of their unique characteristics and stories behind the bridges. Wu hopes the book will raise people’s awareness of protecting cultural relics. The book covers nearly all categories of ancient bridges.

    “Photographing bridges is my way of paying tribute to the past,” he said.

    Wu hopes to take more photos and present an exhibition before he turns 70 and to have his photo albums released overseas.

    “As long as I can walk, I will continue to record ancient architecture with my camera,” he said.

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