Old suspension bridges reopen at Alishan

Two historic suspension bridges, Tianchang and Dijiu, at 35K, Provincial Highway 18 beside Chukou Village, Chiayi County, were re-inaugurated August 14, 2014.

The two bridges’ names in Chinese mean “eternity.” The higher one is Tianchang (“as expansive as the sky”) and the lower one is Dijiu (“as sturdy as the earth”), both striding across a rushing river. It is said as long as lovers walk across the bridge, they will stay happily together until death tear them apart.

Between the bridges is the popular Longyin Temple which worships Zen Buddhist monk Ji Gong. From a distance, the temple looks like a giant dragon holding a gem. This temple is not to be missed as it offers a panoramic view of picturesque mountains and waters.

There are also lively stone sculptures waiting to be explored around the temple, such as the 18 Kong Fu Kids, Children of the Four Seasons, Child Chest Players and the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals. The remarkable Ji Gong sculpture in front of the temple is also worth appreciation. According to Chiu Ching-hsien, president of the Chukou Community Association, the sculpture has even been awarded by a competition of the sort in Beijing.

Visitors can also strike a wishing bell in the misty temple-side park. One strike invokes peace, two invoke joy, and three invoke happiness. The nearby Renleqi Historic Trail leads to the Tianchang Bridge today and was once the only path to Alishan. A birds-eye-view from the Tianchang Bridge is so refreshing that it takes away all hardships of travel.

The Tianchang and Dijiu suspension bridges have been refurbished to help to boost local tourism and enliven the past. The project was initiated by the Alishan National Scenic Area Administration in 2009. Upon the first assessments, a relocation site was selected. But after several expert reviews and geological examinations, it was decided that the bridges were to be fortified in their original spots and side enhancements were to be made. Work began in August 2013, with more than NT$20 million invested. The project was complete in the next year as supported by excited locals. Many said they look forward to bringing their elder family members to appreciate the bridges. The graceful arch-shaped bridges, which reminiscence lovers holding their hands, are now ready to testify ever-lasting, timeless love under the blue sky of Chiayi again.