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Bridge

| 2017-12-29
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

The Chinese character “qiao” means “bridges.” Using materials including bamboo, vine, wood and stones, ancient Chinese developed various forms of bridges, including beam arch, suspension and pontoon bridges.


 

船到桥头自然直
chuan dao qiaotou ziran zhi
Chuan means “boats” while dao means “to reach” Qiaotou refers to either end of a bridge arch. Zhi means “straight.” This proverb means that the boat will naturally take a straight line when reaching and crossing under a bridge arch.
One would naturally wonder if a boat can cross under a narrow bridge arch. However, physical laws ensure that it will cross smoothly. This proverb means that the problem under discussion will surely work out in the end, one way or the other.



灞桥折柳
baqiao zheliu
Baqiao refers to the ancient Ba Bridge at Chang’an, capital of Tang Empire. Zhe means “to snap.” Liu refers to willow branches. People in Chang’an bid farewell to their friends nearby the Ba Bridge. They usually snapped a willow branch from the trees along the river and sent it to those departing for a long journey.
Liu” shares a similar pronunciation as the Chinese word “to stay,” which is a gesture of asking someone to stay. Hence, snapping a willow branch nearby the Ba Bridge, or sending a willow branch to a person means bidding farewell to someone.        


    

鹊桥相会

queqiao xianghui
Que refers to magpies. Xianghui means “reunion.” This idiom means a reunion on a bridge of magpies. It tells a story of Chinese Valentine’s Day, or the Night of Sevens, which is on the seventh day of lunar July. The tale said that the star Vega is Zhinü (the weaver girl), a daughter of the Goddess of Heaven, while the star Altair is Niulang (the cowherd). Zhinü neglected her weaving duty in heaven after being married to Niulang in the mortal world and the Goddess punished them by locating them on each side of the Milky Way. They are allowed to reunite at the Night of Sevens on the bridge formed by magpies over the Milky Way.
This idiom is used as a metaphor of faithfulness in love despite all the obstructions.