Crossing Tongji Bridge

Foshan China 2017-05-02

"Cross Tongji Bridge, troubles go away!(行通济, 冇闭翳)" Crossing Tongji Bridge on the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, is a big New Year event for many Foshan residents. A great number of people will participate in this important folk activity.



Tongji Bridge: Past and Present

With a history of about 400 years, Tongji Bridge is located near No.52, Golden Fish Street, Pulan Er Road, Chancheng district, Foshan. It is also called as the rainbow at the edge of village (村尾垂虹), which is listed on the previous top 8 most famous scenic spots in Foshan.


Tongji Bridge was originally an arch bridge built in the Ming Dynasty and got its name "Tongji(通济)" in 1626, which is the abbreviation of "an unobstructed path leads to goodness (必通而后有济也)" in Chinese. Li Daiwen, minister of Ministry of Revenue in the Ming Dynasty went back to his hometown and built a bridge over the upstream of Foshan River with wood and stones, which was solid and would not obstruct the river. The bridge had nine steps upwards and thirteen steps downwards. The two numbers, 9 and 13, were extended to the meaning of "pawning for 90% and redeeming in 13% (九出十三归)", which could be interpreted as throwing out a minnow to catch a whale. Thus ancient Foshan residents crossed Tongji Bridge with a wish of fortune and wealth.



Traditions of Crossing Tongji Bridge

Crossing Tongji Bridge had become a popular folk activity by the time of the reign of Qianlong Emperor in the Qing Dynasty. At that time, people crossed Tongji Bridge with their families on the 16th day of the first Chinese lunar month, taking paper pinwheels, small bells and lanterns. On that day, the bridge was bustling with people from morning till night.


In the early years of the Republic of China, rivers near Tongji Bridge silted up and peoples zeal for crossing Tongji Bridge faded. The bridge was rarely visited at that time. In 1960s, Tongji Bridge was changed into a beam bridge.


Since the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China, roads in Foshan had been extended. The river under Tongji Bridge was transformed as subdrain. The bridge was replaced by a road and no trace of a bridge could be found.


Traditionally, Foshan people cross Tongji Bridge carrying some "mascots", including pinwheel(风车), wind chime(风铃) and lettuce(生菜).


The pronunciation of lettuce in Chinese, Sheng Cai, is close to the phrase "making money(生财)". People take lettuce when crossing Tongji Bridge to pray for good fortune. Pinwheel embodies smooth sailing with the meaning of everything going smoothly. Likewise, wind chime is expected to bring good fortune to those who cross Tongji Bridge.


In the old days, the Foshan residents crossed Tongji Bridge from south to north on the 16th day of the first Chinese lunar month. At present, some people have changed the day of crossing Tongji Bridge to the Lantern Festival, i.e. the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month. According to an expert on folk customs, the correct time of crossing Tongji Bridge begins at 11:00 PM on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, and ends at 10:00 PM the next day.


Many people believe that only crossing Tongji Bridge for three years in a row can troubles go away. Though there is no historical reference, this legend has been spreading widely. People cross the bridge year by year to pray for good luck with a wish of eliminating troubles.



Taboos When Crossing Tongji Bridge 

(1)One-way Route

People are expected to walk one-way route, from the head of bridge(north side) to the end of bridge (south side) without any return.


(2)Do Not Throw Lettuce

Lettuce(生菜) stands for making money in Chinese. Tourists can take lettuce back home after crossing the bridge, which means taking money home.