Nail-less construction technique a bridge from past to present

By HU MEIDONG in Fuzhou and LI HONGYANG | China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-20 09:37
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Huang Chuncai draws the blueprint for an arch bridge at his workshop in Ningde. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Huang Minhui returned to Ningde's Pingnan county from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in 2005 to work with his father and elder brother on the renovation of old bridges and build new traditional-style arch bridges.

He quit his printing business because he felt the craft of traditional bridge building was a more promising career. His father had also urged him to return a number of times.

"I didn't learn the skill handed down by generations of my family at first because there was no way of using it. Now, the local government is emphasizing the protection and passing down of the craft so we are taking on projects to build traditional bridges and pavilions in scenic spots," he said.

Since 2005, Huang Chuncai and his sons have built dozens of wooden arch bridges in Pingnan.

One of their creations, the Shuanglong Bridge, which is located in a geological park in Ningde, spans 66 meters over a river valley at a height of about 10 meters.

"Mastering the skill mainly depends on personal experience rather than theory. The blueprint must be precisely calculated. For example, radians (a unit of angle equal to an angle at the center of a circle whose arc is equal in length to the radius) must be the same on both sides. Otherwise, the bridge will collapse," Huang Minhui said, adding that learning takes physical strength and endurance.

"It is all about dealing with large pieces of wood. Our construction sites are often dangerous because we build bridges in mountainous areas where there are no shops or shelters."

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