Never has a collection of concrete and steel garnered so much attention. For the last 3 days, a carnival-like spectacle has been witnessed on the deck of the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, as authorities opened up the refurbished national monument for pedestrians only, ahead of today’s reopening for vehicles.
Such an atmosphere of dance, celebration and pilgrimage would more befit the Second Coming or extra-terrestrial first contact, hardly that for the reopening of a piece of transportation infrastructure. Yet, it provides excellent evidence of the place that bridge holds in the hearts of local people, as well as many a Chinese person nationwide.
And explanation too. Its picture was hung in the offices and hotel lobbies of a bygone era, and now, in 2018, the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge reemerges as not only an icon for Nanjing but once again for the country at large, representing just about everything as to early Communist Party achievement and industrial power.
The scale of public enthusiasm for the “People’s Bridge” has also been embraced by local and national media, with a flood of coverage that culminated today, after the bridge’s much-needed 27 months of renovation.
To name but a few, bridge memes have been shared widely on social media, while news portal ECNS has produced an excellent gallery created by photographers Liu Xiaoguang and Xue Xiaohong, who visited the bridge every 3 or 4 days to record for posterity the 2-year-plus-long renovation. Then there was the stunt in which the numbers 1968-2018 were formed on the bridge, by people who share their birthday with the bridge, and some who even participated in its construction.
Away from its restoration, the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge has never been far from the headlines. Movies and books have been written about this magnificent structure; documentaries and a GQ magazine feature made about its darker side and the heroes that roam upon it. The multi-year documentary project “Angel of Nanjing”, that was shot by New York film makers Jordan Horowitz and Frank Ferendo, spotlights one local man, Chen Si, who spends his days convincing people not to leap to their deaths from the world’s top suicide location; it has been reported he has saved over 300 lives.
As to the bridge’s refurbishment itself, it has entailed complete repairs of the approaches, together with a thorough makeover that included the removing of 50 years of pollution to restore the iconic structure’s former luster, plus the addition of pedestrian guardrails, together with brighter, intelligent and energy-saving lighting and drainage system, plus finally, enhanced suicide fences, at the two points where the railway lines pass under the bridge deck.
According to Xinhua News, the bill for the bridge’s renovation came to ¥1.14 billion, while experts say the bridge is now expected to last for another 50 years.
Like other great structures in Nanjing, the People’s Bridge has literally stood the test of time; trucks of the revolution passed atop it, then the trucks of development and industry trundled over. Today, at midday, the electric cars of e-commerce were among the first vehicles to ascend the all-new Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, 50 years to the day after it first opened.