Japanese Covered Bridge – The Legacy Of Ancient Japan in Hoi An

The Japanese Bridge in Hoi An is indeed an iconic symbol of Hoi An Ancient Town, renowned as both a tourist attraction and a marvel of architectural design. Its significance is such that it has been featured on Vietnam’s 20,000 VND banknote, underscoring its cultural importance and historical value.

The Japanese Bridge in Hoi An, situated within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An Ancient Town, stands as one of Vietnam’s most captivating cultural landmarks. Erected in the 17th century, this monument has stood witness to countless transformations within the town. A visit to Hoi An City would be incomplete without experiencing the charm and historical significance of this iconic bridge.

1. About Japanese Bridge in Hoi An

The Japanese Bridge in Hoi An serves as a beautiful reminder of the town’s rich history, seamlessly connecting the past, present, and future across centuries. Its enduring presence symbolizes the continuity of Hoi An’s cultural heritage, making it a timeless icon that captivates visitors from around the world.

1.1. History of Japanese Bridge in Hoi An

History of Japanese Bridge in Hoi An
History of Japanese Bridge in Hoi An

The Japanese Bridge in Hoi An, also known as Cau Pagoda (Chùa Cầu), holds a fascinating legend associated with the mythical monster Namazu. According to the tale, this bridge, constructed in the 17th century with assistance from Japanese businessmen, played a pivotal role in controlling Namazu’s movements. Legend has it that Namazu, a mythological creature whose actions could trigger earthquakes and floods, had its head in India, its body in Vietnam, and its tail in Japan.

The bridge was believed to be constructed with the purpose of pinning down Namazu’s back with a magical sword. This action was thought to immobilize the monster, preventing it from causing natural disasters in Vietnam, Japan, and India. Consequently, the lives of people in these three countries would be safeguarded, ensuring peace and prosperity for all.

In 1719, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu, during his visit to Hoi An, inscribed three Chinese characters on the entrance of the bridge, which translates to “Lai Vien Kieu” in Vietnamese and “the bridge to receive guests from afar” in English. Additionally, the pagoda came to be known as the “Japanese Bridge” or “Japanese Covered Bridge” due to its primary construction by Japanese artisans.

On February 17, 1990, the significance of the bridge was officially acknowledged when it was designated as a National Historic and Cultural Heritage Site.

1.2. The architecture of the Japanese Bridge

The architecture of the Japanese Bridge
The architecture of the Japanese Bridge

The bridge spans 18 meters in length, linking Tran Phu Street (the Chinese quarter) on the eastern side to Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street (the Japanese quarter) on the western side, traversing the Thu Bon River and evoking a serene and nostalgic atmosphere.

Constructed primarily from red lacquered wood for the bridge and roof, and stone for the base, the architectural style of the bridge reflects a harmonious blend of Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese influences, evident in its materials, design, patterns, and decorations.

The distinct Japanese-style curved roof, covering the entire bridge, stands out as a prominent feature. Adorned with yin and yang patterns, symbolic of Vietnamese culture and architecture, the roof adds to the bridge’s aesthetic appeal.

Visitors can find small corridors and benches on each side of the bridge, providing spaces to relax and enjoy the pristine air. Separated from the bridge by a delicate wooden wall is a temple.

Guarding the entrance and exit of the bridge are statues of a dog and a monkey, representing protection and safety in Japanese culture. Legend has it that these statues mark the commencement and completion of the bridge’s construction, with the year of the Monkey signifying its inception and the year of the Dog marking its completion.

1.3. The renovation of the Japanese Bridge

The renovation of the Japanese Bridge
The renovation of the Japanese Bridge

The Japanese Bridge in Hoi An has undergone seven renovations spanning over 400 years, with significant renovations occurring in 1763, 1815, 1875, 1917, 1962, 1986, and 1996. These renovations typically involved minor adjustments to the roof, floor, and pillars, ensuring the bridge’s structural integrity and longevity.

The Minh Huong Commune, a village in Hoi An during that time, was responsible for overseeing the first three renovations of the bridge, reflecting the local community’s dedication to preserving this iconic landmark.

During the French colonial period, the bridge underwent notable changes when the French authorities converted it from a pedestrian-only bridge to one that could accommodate motorized vehicles in 1917. This alteration marked a significant shift in the bridge’s functionality, reflecting the evolving needs of transportation infrastructure in the region during that period.

In 1962, the Quang Nam provincial government undertook further repairs on the Japanese Bridge, continuing the ongoing efforts to preserve this historic landmark. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that the bridge underwent a significant restoration, reverting it to its original pedestrian-only design. This restoration marked a crucial milestone in ensuring the bridge’s authenticity and historical significance.

Subsequently, the bridge underwent another substantial renovation in 1996, further solidifying its structural integrity and preserving its architectural heritage for future generations to appreciate.

Despite these efforts, the bridge has faced challenges in recent years, particularly due to recurrent floods in Hoi An City. As a result, many of the poles and beams supporting the bridge have deteriorated, raising concerns about its long-term stability and safety.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Quang Nam provincial government approved a substantial project costing nearly one million dollars aimed at preserving the bridge. The project commenced in early 2020 with the goal of conducting essential maintenance and ensuring the bridge’s continued existence as a symbol of Hoi An’s rich cultural heritage.

2.  How to get to Japanese Covered Bridge

Address: Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Minh An Ward, Hoi An, Quang Nam Province
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours every day
Tickets: Free

The Japanese Covered Bridge is located at the western end of Hoi An Ancient Town. To reach the bridge, visitors can start at the Central Market and walk down Tran Phu Street. Along both sides of the street, there are various cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a cold drink or a delicious meal before sightseeing. Once you reach the end of the street, you will see the entrance to the bridge.

3.  Interesting facts about the Japanese Covered Bridge

Before visiting the Japanese Bridge in Hoi An, it’s helpful to learn some key information to appreciate the significance of this cultural relic:

  • Historical Background: Understand the history behind the construction of the bridge, its purpose, and its role in connecting different quarters of Hoi An.
  • Architectural Features: Learn about the unique architectural style of the bridge, including its curved roof, decorative elements, and symbolic representations.
  • Cultural Significance: Explore the cultural significance of the bridge, including its ties to Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese cultures, as well as its role as a symbol of harmony and prosperity.
  • Renovations and Preservation Efforts: Discover the efforts made to preserve the bridge over the years, including renovations and ongoing maintenance to ensure its longevity.
  • Local Legends and Stories: Delve into local legends and stories associated with the bridge, which may enhance your understanding and appreciation of its cultural importance.

By familiarizing yourself with these aspects, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the Japanese Bridge and its place within the cultural heritage of Hoi An.

3.1. The Vietnamese Dong bill features the Japanese Bridge in Hoi An

The Japanese Bridge in Hoi An holds a significant place in the heart of Hoi An Ancient Town, serving as both a symbol and soul of this historic destination. Its importance is further underscored by its depiction on the back of Vietnam’s 20,000 VND banknote, highlighting its cultural and historical significance to the Vietnamese people. This iconic image immortalizes the bridge’s timeless beauty and enduring legacy, ensuring that it remains a cherished landmark for generations to come.

3.2. The temple does not worship Buddha

The Cau Pagoda, also known as the Japanese Bridge, holds a unique religious significance in Hoi An. Unlike traditional temples that worship Buddha, the Cau Pagoda venerates the northern deity Tran Vo Bac De, who is regarded as the god of happiness, wealth, and health in Hoi An. As a result, the bridge serves not only as a prominent tourist attraction but also as a sacred religious site for local people to seek solace, offer prayers, and invoke blessings for their well-being and prosperity. This dual role underscores the bridge’s cultural importance and spiritual significance within the community.

3.3. The Japanese Bridge has two separate parts

The Bridge Pagoda in Hoi An, known as “Chùa Cầu” in Vietnamese, consists of two distinct parts: the bridge and the temple. The term “Chùa Cầu” translates to “bridge temple” in English, reflecting the combination of these two elements.

The construction of the bridge predates that of the temple, with the bridge being built first over the Thu Bon River. Approximately 60 years later, the temple was constructed on the north side of the bridge, completing the architectural ensemble.

When visiting this historic monument, it’s essential to explore both the bridge and the temple to fully appreciate the cultural and religious significance of the site. Each part offers its own unique insights into the rich heritage and spiritual traditions of Hoi An.

4.  Tips for visitors to Japanese Bridge in Hoi An

Visiting the Japanese Bridge in Hoi An is best done between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. during weekdays when it’s typically less crowded, allowing for a more serene experience.

In addition to exploring the bridge, visitors can immerse themselves in the vibrant culture of Hoi An by participating in folk games and watching street performances. These activities typically take place from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day in the Old Town area.

For a unique and enchanting experience, tourists can take a bamboo boat cruise along the canal at night. The illuminated surroundings create a beautiful and nostalgic atmosphere, allowing visitors to appreciate the charm of Old Town from a different perspective.

To gain deeper insights into the history and architecture of the Japanese Bridge, it’s recommended to hire a knowledgeable tour guide. They can provide detailed explanations of the bridge’s significance and guide visitors to its exact location.

After visiting the Japanese Bridge, tourists should explore other nearby attractions such as Quan Cong Temple, Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, and Tan Ky Ancient House. These sites offer further insights into Hoi An’s rich cultural heritage and are must-visit destinations for history enthusiasts.

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