3/03/2016

Yang Chung-chou's Bridge

  
I often cross Zhongzheng Bridge on foot late at night, on my way home to Taipei after I shut down my restaurant, which is located in New Taipei City (Greater Taipei). The view down the Xindian River is nice and there aren't many cars, making for a peaceful crossing. I mentioned my habit to a friend, who remarked: "One of these days, that bridge is going to fall into the river." From a distance, it does seem to be riding a bit low. I'm not able to make out the sag people say is there; I'm no bridge engineer. Constant earthquakes and flooding have been working on the bridge's stability.  Now the Public Works Department is weighing in. They want to tear down the bridge before it collapses. The Department of Cultural Affairs stands in the way though. Zhongzheng Bridge is also the oldest out there on the Xindian.
 
According to the historical marker at the bridge's head, Zhongzheng Bridge'll be 80 next year, making it a relic of the Japanese era. Why it is named after Chiang Kai-shek, the dictator whose army invaded Taiwan a decade after construction, isn't a big mystery. The bridge used to have a Japanese name. That was lost in the sinification of Taiwan that occurred  later on, when Chinese rulers were attempting to rewrite the country's history so that their Taiwanese subjects would look upon themselves as Chinese too. The historical marker also indicates that Yang Chung-chou, father of the famous painter Yang San-lang, was behind an effort to get the bridge built. As an important land owner and one of the mayors of Yonghe during the Japanese colonial era (1895 to 1945), Yang Chung-chuo stressed it would help commerce a lot once in place. I've been told by his great-grandson that, after years of wrangling, Yang donated the land at the bridge's head to jumpstart the project.  
 



I took this phone shot from the bridge, looking east. I don't think it's too hard to get a feeling for how much the bridge has sunk. Half a dozen suicides take place from her rails yearly. I brought this up with a beat cop, saying: "I would probably just swim away if I fell off."
 
"No you wouldn't," was the replay. "People don't die from hitting the water. They drown after getting stuck in the mud at the bottom of river."