China’s Covered Bridges: Architecture Over Water

Hardback: $65.00
ISBN-13: 9781952461026
Published: July 2020

Additional Information

480 pages | Over 600 color and b&w illustrations
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  • About the Book
  • China’s Covered Bridges: Architecture over Water is the first book in English to examine comprehensively one of the three great covered bridge traditions in the world. Based on decades of observation and ten years of intensive field research throughout China, this book illuminates countless covered bridges that have never been presented in a Western language.

    Terry E. Miller, Ronald G. Knapp, and A. Chester Ong, whose America’s Covered Bridges: Practical Crossings, Nostalgic Icons, broke new ground, have joined here with Liu Jie, China’s leading timber covered bridge scholar. This team has traveled in areas rarely visited by others to document a living tradition whose roots go deep into Chinese history.

    Long before professional engineers analyzed bridge structure mechanically, early builders in China, as in North America and Europe, solved the daunting problem of spanning deep ravines and wild rivers to facilitate the flow of pedestrians, animals, and vehicles. Their collective, yet independent, efforts represent the triumph of ingenuity and common sense.

    Although there has been no census of covered bridges, and it is impossible to calculate how many existed in the past in China, some 3,000 remain, far more than found elsewhere in the world.
    Wooden trusses as understood in the West were not a component of China’s bridge-building traditions. Instead, covered corridors were situated atop either a masonry base or, more significantly, supported by an ingenious assemblage of timbers.

    China’s Covered Bridges highlights covered bridges with a timber sub-structure, including both a variety of cantilevered forms and extraordinary “woven arch/woven arch-beam” types that until the until the last quarter of the 20th century were believed to have died out more than a millennium earlier.

    The story of China’s covered bridges is fascinating not only in terms of technological achievement, social functioning, and aesthetic identity. Each covered bridge in China, whether still standing or long gone, has a story to tell about the nature of rural and urban life.

    Thoroughly researched with a text of over 70,000 words and profusely illustrated with more than 600 historic and contemporary photographs, this book features the work of master photographer A. Chester Ong and is supplemented by photographs by the authors.

    Like America’s Covered Bridges, China’s Covered Bridges is written in an accessible style that will satisfy not only those with general interests but also those with more specialized knowledge.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Ronald G. Knapp, Author

      Ronald G. Knapp, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus, State University of New York, New Paltz, where he taught from 1968 to 2001, has been carrying out research on the cultural and historical geography of China since 1965. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books concerning the vernacular architecture of China and Southeast Asia.
    • Terry E. Miller, Author

      Terry E. Miller, Professor Emeritus, Ethnomusicology, Kent State University in Ohio, began visiting covered bridges with his father in 1953 and has visited more than 1,000 in North America, 300 in Europe, and over 100 in China. He is the coauthor with Ronald G. Knapp of America’s Covered Bridges: Practical Crossings, Nostalgic Icons (2014).
    • Liu Jie, Author

      Liu Jie, Professor of Architecture at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, is the preeminent authority on China’s timber frame “corridor bridges.” His pioneering research in remote areas of Zhejiang and eastern Fujian provinces during his doctoral research at Tongji University led to his discovery of “woven arch-beam bridges.” He has authored/coauthored seven books.
    • A. Chester Ong, Photographer

      A. Chester Ong, born in the Philippines and currently based in Hong Kong, has photographed throughout Asia and for the past decade in the United States. His photography appears in a broad range of magazines, exhibits, and books. He has collaborated with Ronald G. Knapp on four books concerning Asia and more recently with Knapp and Terry E. Miller in North America.

  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • For nearly half-a-century, Ronald Knapp has discovered, identified, and photographed bridges in every region of China. Often taken for granted as, simply, connectors, these wooden, brick, stone, ceramic, and metal structures tell human, social, historic, and architectural stories. Knapp and his collaborators Terry E. Miller and Liu Jie find something new in each bridge, interweaving a narrative of the impact of human hands and design on ecology, economy, practicality, and ultimately man’s achievements across China's slopes and streams. No one who reads this book will ever ignore a bridge again.
      —Nancy S. Steinhardt, Professor, East Asian Art & Curator of Chinese Art, University of Pennsylvania
    • Carefully and thoroughly researched over decades by the authors, China’s Covered Bridges provides a wealth of new information about wooden covered bridges in China that had not been known in the English-speaking world. The immensely valuable text is combined with an abundance of contemporary and historic images.
      —William Caswell, President, National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges
    • The authors offer an excellent richly illustrated introduction to Chinese covered bridges touching on subjects ranging from a historical overview of research, a general overview of covered bridges in the world, typology, notes on construction, covered bridges and folk culture and selected examples. Anyone considering traveling to China to visit covered bridges should consult this book first.
      —Philip S. C. Caston, Neubrandenburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany