Bridge over troubled water

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Built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Yujie Bridge is one of Shanghai’s most historic pieces of architecture. It was believed that the Qing Dynasty emperor Qianlong (1736-1799) even walked on it. In 2008, the Shanghai government officially declared it a protected cultural relic.

Well, it clearly didn’t really ‘protect’ the relic, so to speak. That’s because in early June it was suddenly discovered that parts of the bridge had “mysteriously” gone missing, reports. Even more perplexing, local officials were totally clueless as to the whereabouts of the missing parts.

Calm down, says property developer Vanke. As it turns out, the developer, which owned the land on which the structure sat and had “the rights to move the bridge”, had taken parts of the bridge and moved it to outside its Shanghai office. It did so because of nearby reconstruction work, with the company claiming to have removed the sections to protect the bridge from damage (for the time being, the parts of the bridge are on display in front of Vanke’s Shanghai office to promote its latest real estate development).

While local residents were relieved to know that the parts of the bridge had resurfaced, many questioned how the company managed to remove bits of a protected cultural relic without informing local authorities. “Vanke said it had taken good care of the bridge during its removal and did not cause any damage to it. But it admitted that it had not notified the relevant departments before moving it,” one official told the Shanghai Daily. It is technically illegal to remove a protected cultural relic, says Wu Jiang, vice-president of Tongji University in Shanghai. However, it certainly hasn’t stopped people in the past (see our Ask Mei column, WiC285), with Wu adding that, “a lot of places are secretly dismantled”.

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