The 800-year-old Lugou Bridge
in southwestern Beijing, which featured in Marco Polo's travelogues, is showing signs of weather erosion, with nine of its stone lion sculptures seriously damaged.
The bridge is famous both in China and overseas for its exquisite architecture, according to an official with the cultural relics department of the Lugou Bridge tourist site.
In addition to the nine that are badly damaged, cracks have been found on many other stone lions, the official, surnamed Wang, said. He added that it will be difficult to repair the damaged sculptures.
The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has commissioned experts to investigate the situation and develop a repair plan.
Monitoring equipment has been set up on the bridge to study environmental factors such as temperature and wind force.
The bridge was first built in 1189 and has been refurbished and repaired several times since then.
The great Italian traveler Marco Polo, who came to China during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), wrote this of the bridge: "Over the river, there is an extremely beautiful stone bridge. Come to think of it, it is indeed the most wonderful and unique bridge in the world ..."
The bridge, 266.5 meters long and 7.5 meters wide, has 11 arches. But it is most famous for its 485 lifelike and intricately carved stone lions. In addition to the lions, there are cubs etched into the design of the bridge. But because they are very small, each measuring no more than a few centimeters, it is difficult to gauge just how many there are.
(Xinhua News Agency October 26, 2006)