Lugouqiao (卢沟桥) or Marco Polo bridge – This is probably one of the most historically significant sites in Beijing, which is saying a lot given the number of famous sites here, but is nowhere near one of the most famous. This is where Japanese troops launched an attack on a Chinese garrison across this bridge in 1937, which would directly lead to a Japan’s full-scale attack on China. After that, hostilities escalated and it wasn’t long before Japan launched an invasion that would ravage China for almost a decade. And yes, this means the Japanese attacked China two years before World War II officially began in Europe.
The bridge is kind of simple, but it boasts two unique attributes. One, it was indeed visited by the famous Italian explorer, hence its name, in the 13th century. It was built in 1192 but rebuilt…in 1698 (though it may have been renovated and altered in the 20th century after the Communist victory 1949).
Second, its stone rails are topped with dozens of stone lions, each one with a different facial expression and pose. These lions are also covered with smaller lions, so in total, there are hundreds of lions.
The bridge crosses the Yongding river, which is a serene place where you can also walk alongside the bank. There is another bridge nearby which carries a train line. In fact, this is what made the Marco Polo Bridge such a strategic place as it guarded that rail line, linking Beijing to the south.
That explains why before you get to the bridge, you pass the Wanping Fortress, a Ming Dynasty walled fort built in 1638 with old sentry towers at the gates. People still live in it and it’s like an ancient living settlement, kind of like the Walled Cities (villages) in Hong Kong’s rural New Territories.
Inside the “fortress” is the Japan resistance war museum (which has a really longwinded official name) that commemorates the fight against Japan when they invaded. It’s quite decent, with weapons, clothing and equipment used by Chinese troops, historical photos, and some vivid audio-visual displays of battle scenes such as Chinese troops firing from a cliff onto a Japanese column below. There’s a bit of propaganda too, though interestingly enough, the flag of the Republic of China (the government of China before the Communist victory in 1949) is displayed in the exhibit about the surrender of Japan. In fact, in that area, the flag of the Republic of China hangs near the flag of the People’s Republic of China, probably the only place in the mainland where you can see this.
For some reason, there was a special exhibit about Taiwan under the Qing Dynasty and Japan colonization, which featured a lot of photos of Taiwan aboriginal people.
Lugouqiao is located in Fengtai district, southwest of central Beijing. It can be easily reached by subway and bus. Get off at Wukesong station on Line 1 and take a bus no. 624 to Zhan Diao Su Yuan (Sculpture Garden) Station, which is around 15 minutes away.
Wanping Fortress guards one end of the bridge. The red structure is the gate tower to one of the fortress’ two main entrances.
I was walking back across the bridge when I saw these foreign military officers, probably from Africa, who had the same idea as me apparently to come here for a visit.
The flags of the victorious allies hang proudly, while the Chinese Communist flags are at right. This is probably the only place on the mainland where the ROC and PRC flags are openly displayed together. China’s current flag is of course, the middle one on the right.
Chinese troops fire on a Japanese convoy below, with loud battle sounds blaring from speakers nearby, one of several such exhibits at the museum.
The museum had a lot of paintings showing heroic Chinese (Communist) troops, such as this one showing a Communist troop column. Nanjing was not the only place to suffer mass slaughter from Japanese troops. This is from Shanxi Province, where 60,000 mineworkers were killed during the war.
Taiwan aboriginal people at the turn of the 20th century