Hoi An plans to dismantle iconic 400-year-old bridge

By Giang Huy   August 30, 2016 | 09:19 pm PT
Some say the Chua Cau Bridge simply won't be the same if it is dismantled for restoration work.

International and Vietnamese experts are debating over restoration work on the 400-year-old Chua Cau Bridge in the central ancient town of Hoi An.

In order to restore the bridge properly, most experts at a recent conference think it should be dismantled, said Nguyen Chi Trung, a senior conservation official in Hoi An. 

The solution has received mixed reactions. Historian Vo Ha has warned that dismantling the bridge will make people feel "it's not the same", while architect Le Thanh Vinh said it should be implemented only as a last resort with careful planning by conservation experts.


The iconic image of Hoi An's Ancient Town, Chua Cau literally means 'bridge pagoda'. Built by Japanese merchants in the 17th century, it's also known as the Japanese Bridge. 


The pagoda part was added to the bridge in 1653. Over half a century later, in 1719, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu of the Nguyen Dynasty visited Hoi An and named the bridge 'Lai Vien Kieu', meaning 'Welcome Bridge for Faraway Visitors'. Hoi An, at the time, was in fact a major trading port in the area, welcoming Chinese, Portugese, Dutch, Japanese and Indian merchants. 


Today, during the peak season, the bridge welcomes as many as 7,000 visitors each day from all over the world.


The wooden bridge painted in red lacquer was built based on the 'thuong gia ha kieu' concept, meaning a house above a bridge. 


The pagoda is a place to worship the God of Weather who is believed to have the power to control natural calamities and bring happiness and wealth to locals. 


Chua Cau has undergone multiple restoration efforts and it has kept its current form since the 18th-19th centuries. 


The pillars of the bridge.


“I think Chua Cau Bridge is still in good condition. It will last well for the next 10 years without any repairs. I have no idea what is in the minds of local authorities. From my point of view, it is not necessary to dismantle the bridge for full restoration,” said Nguyen Van Tien, who has been the bridge's porter for 20 years. 


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