Wujiazhai Ren-shaped Bridge of Yunnan-Vietnam Railway in Pingbian County, Honghe

Chinese Name:滇越铁路五家寨人字桥
English Name: Wujiazhai Ren-shaped Bridge of Yunnan-Vietnam Railway in Pingbian County, Honghe
Honghe Wujiazhai Ren-shaped Bridge of Yunnan-Vietnam Railway in Pingbian County, travel guide introduces the main attractions, entrance tickets booking, The best time to visit, How to Get there, the highlights, facts, history, photos, weather, accommodation, visiting routes, travel tips, tour maps of Wujiazhai Ren-shaped Bridge of Yunnan-Vietnam Railway in Honghe.滇越铁路五家寨人字桥

Dianyue(Yunnan-Vietnam) railway is not only the first railway of Yunnan but is the few in number “one-meter wide between the two rails” in the country. It was build by the Frence colonial authority based on the unequal treaty. Because the railway starts from Vietnamese’s Haifang , a city once the colony of France, passed through the border of China and Vietnam and comes into Yunnan, that is from Hekou extents north to Kunming , so the railway got the name “Dianyue railway” .

Zig-Zag Bridge of Yunnan-Vietnam Railway

Based on the 《The Constitution of China and France’s Concluding and Designing Dianyue Railway》, the constitution which was designed between China and France in 1903, the French technicians were send to scouting the routes, planed to building the railway and established formally Dianyue Railway French Company. Vietnamese section includes the distance from Haifang to Lao Cail, and Dian’s section includes the distance from Hekou to Kunming of Yunnan Province. The railway’s last section starts from Hekou , passes through Bi Sezhai of Mengzi and ends at Kaiyuan,; the middle section starts from Kaiyuan, passes along Nanpanjing River to Panxi and ends at Yiliang,; the first section starts from Yiliang, passes through Chenggong and ends in Kunming. The railway was set up from 1901 and ended on 1st April , 1910, then the whole line was open to traffic.

The track gauge of the Railway is only one meter, the overall length is 855 kilometers, and Vietnamese section is 389 kilometers, the Dian’s section is 466 kilometers. The total cost of the whole line was about 159 million francs, one more times higher than the track gauge is 1.435 meters railway construction. Now, many old buildings such as Bi Sezhai railway station, the former site of Hekou post office, the former site of foreign settlement of Mengzi etc. had been remained alone the railway.

Hekou Customhouse was built in the year 1887, the total area of it is 1127 square meters, and it was one of the earliest customhouse of China. In addition, there were historic preservations such as France stationed Hekou authority agency, Hekou supervision and handling office.

Once for a long time, the Michelin Engine galloping on the Dianyue railway was a symbol of quick speed in ordinary people. When mentioned something’s speed was quick enough, one would say: how fast it would be? Is that quicker than Michelin Engine? The old staffs worked along the railway when mentioned the Michelin Engine now, they will be full of praise: that Engine is so quick that when you hear it roars in the distance, you raise your head and it has been gone away like wind.

The Michelin Engine once belonged to “noble train”,except for soft seat, there were western restaurants, bars, kitchens, washrooms, rest rooms and other service corollary equipments. It was said the waitresses were French beauties. In the year 1935, Mr. Jiang Jieshi encouraged to build Dianyue railway, and once had the plan to inspect it, but had to cancelled the project for his other business, and only his wife Mrs. Song Meiling had made the journey into realization, and the train she took was Michelin Engine, the comfort and the speed of the train had gave her great surprise, and she never thought that there was so excellent train in such huge mountain and gorge.

The reporter had seen the Michelin at depository of Kaiyuan locomotive depot Yiliang back-turning section. Glory and honor of the past had been cleaned by years, and the locomotive had only be left a shell, the inside decorate had nothing left, and one could’t tell where was the bar, where was the restaurant, 12 V-shaped cylinder stators had been bared outside. It was said the expensive aviation gasoline had been running in the engine, the words “red flag” on the head of the machine could be seen clearly, and the name was used during the Cultural Revolution, but common people still used to name it “Michelin”, and after liberation, Michelin was stopped to be used until it was difficult to get the installation kits to repair the machine in 1980’s.

Michelin had created a speed record in the past one hundred years, lots of people said the secret was on the tires of the machine. Over hundred of years, there is no trace of chap and adhesive on the tyres, the surface texture of the wheel is still distinct, the word “Michelin” could be seen clearly, people have to admire French’s the super technology level.

It was introduced that Kunming railway administration had invested over 800,000 yuan to repair the machine to display it in the exhibition. So we could not see it galloping on the rails, but at the least we could imagine its past heroic posture.

Zig-Zag Bridge of Yunnan-Vietnam Railway

Give Dianyue Railway an Objective Statement

  Three pieces of remarkable things had happened in Yunnan in the first half of the 20th century: the first was building Dianyue railway in the early times of the 20th century, the other were building Burma road and the Hump during the war of Anti-Japanese, and the three pieces of things made the world known Yunnan, and at the same time let Yunnan known the outside world of China. While the Dianyue railway, whether from the span of the time, the scope of the engineering and the influence to the development of Yunnan was the first of the three projects.

Dianyue railway was one of the most toughest projects in the world modern history. The overall length of the railway is 854 kilometers, 465 kilometers is in Yunnan and the other 389 kilometers is in Vietnam, and 178 bridges and 152 tunnels were built along the railway. Within the Yunnan section, over 60,000 workers were forced to build the railway, and among them, over 12,000 workers died in strange land for diseases, injury and other reasons, including over 800 foreign technicists.

Dianyue railway, the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal were considered the three most toughest projects in the world.Dianyue Railway has great humanity value for it is not only one of the three plateau railways in the world, but is the only gage railway which is still in use in China, so it is the precious cultural relics, living specimen and fossil in the railway development of China, even the world as well.

There is one paragraph describing the scenery of Nanxihe river, which is one of the section Dianyue Railway passes by, in the book 《the Railway of Yunnan》which was written by a Frenchman: ” from the viewpoint of scenery, the natural landscape of Nanxihe river bend is the most magnificent, and it touches one’s heart most. Its steep hill, the boundless open fields, and majestic view would be compare with Alps.”

Grand sight is in the perilous peaks, but it is the most difficult thing to build railway in such difficult conditions. Everywhere in the mountains is dense forest and 2-3 meters high thistles and thorns, “it is impossible to enter the jungle without a dagger. And the jungle is also a zoo, there are lots of deers, monkeys, sometimes there also have leopards, even dangerous tigers, they get a great threat to the workers, horses, mules and doges’ safety.” In addition, the most difficulty to overcome during building the railway through the jungle is to handling the mountain collapsing and the great amount of the collapse rocks on the slope. It was said in the book《The Railway of Yunnan》: In the process of constructing the Railway, except 12,000 labors died for the construction, there also died over 80 “leaders” , almost all were French. They were buried at Kaiyuan and Zhicun village, just nearby the railways. One day in a summer, the reporter drove to Kaiyan to search for the graves of the French, asking for many people and meeting many troubles, the reporter got the information that there was a place named “Yangrenfen” in a fertilizer factory buried many foreigners, “it was said they died in the time of constructing the Railway.” After contacted with the propaganda department of the fertilizer factory, the reporter finally stepped into the area of the “foreigner grave” which were surrounded by walls, but instead the reporter saw numerous pots of flowers. When the gardener knew that the reporter came for the foreigner graves, he led him to a corner and pointed to corner and said:” there were all.” Push aside the grass, the reporter saw some graves as expected. They were short, on the head of each grave was carved some French words, perhaps they were the name of the dead. The local people said that in the past, the place had greater area, and was surrounded by stone walls, later the walls were pulled down for some people built house on it, and some bones were dug out.

The reporter listened silently and did not know how to estimate the Frenchmen who died here. At that moment he suddenly he thought of the consul general of France stationed in Yunnan, he had a Chinese name “Fangsuya”. Several years ago, a man from Kunming copied Fangsuya’ photos which were pictured in Yunnan, then he took them back to Kunming and displayed. The exhibition caused a great sensation. Undeniable, the French came to Yunnan and wanted made it their colony, and after Dianyue Railway was opened to traffic, it was like a suck blood vessel, plundered over 230,000 ton tin from Gejiu, impacted greatly to nation’s handicraft, so in for years of traditional education, these Frenchmen were invaders and bloodsuckers.

But when the time went to 21 century, the Railway became the door of Yunnan opened to outside world, and just this Railway drove the development of Yunnan’s economy and changed local people’s thought. It brought in western advanced cultural education, democratic and scientific thoughts. In the war of liberation, the Communist Party built secret traffic line alone the Railway, they passed message to their organization through the Railway, sent their excellent railway workers to revolutionary area, so the Railway had made contribution to Yunnan’s liberation.

A Spike A Drop of Blood, And A Crosstie A Life

After the first Opium War in 1840, the French invaders came into China, and in 1885, they opened the door of southwest of China by force, then they despoiled Yunnan’s railroading right. In March 1898, the minister of France stationed in China used the event helped Qing Dynasty returned Liaoning to China as the excuse to meet with the prime minister of Qing Dynasty, while putting forward the firm term of ceding Guangzhou Bay to France, they had also required that “China must permit France or French company build a railway from the border of Vietnam to Yunnan Province, and Qing replied “permissible to comply with the requirement.” So France obtained the right of building Dianyue Railway. In September, 1899, headed by Banque de I’IndoChine and other several organizations established Dianyue Railway Company, contracted the business of collecting money and construction. In October, 1903, France and China concluded and signed 《the Constitution of Dianyue Railway》, and in 1904, the part in Yunnan was started.

The construction of Dianyue Railway was built on the price of “A Spike A Drop of Blood, And A Crosstie A Life.” Most of the places that the Railway passes by are sparsely populated areas. There are 3628 bridges in the length of 466 kilometers railway, such as the herringbone bridge at Boduqing, the Railway bridge frames between two mountain cliffs, and from the bridge to ravine there are 90 meters, the length of this herringbone bridge is 65 meters, to finish it cost over a year. Because the engineering was so complex and enormous, the Frenchmen had invested more than 150 million francs, much higher than the cost of constructing Jinghan Railway or Pujin Railway. According to statistics, when the Railway was finished in 1910, more than 60,000—70,000 people died for it, even the local official of Yunnan at that time had to admitted “ The railway was really constructed by flesh and blood of our compatriot.”

From Plateau to the World

We had to admit that for thousands years of primitive, closed and backward conditions of Yunnan was completely broke down just because of the Railway. It made Yunnan and the world began to realize each other, and from then on Yunnan’s history was changed for the rapid development of the society and economy , and Yunnan thus made a further influence to China’s recent history.

When the first roar of train was heard in the deep valley of Yunnan one hundred years age, the great shock it gave to common people was unprecedented.

After the Dianyue Railway was opened to traffic, some Frenchman had written final report in 《The Railway of Yunnan》like that:“ Yunnan’s real export is not in the east, namely Guangdong and HongKong direction, but in southeast directly from Honghe River Valley to Haiphong and Tokyo Bay dirction.”“Before Yunnan was collected with Tokyo Bay and the South China Sea by railway, anyone would not make Yunnan a valuable place.”

Yunnan immediately from closed border became the forefront of China. The first hydropower station of China—-Shilongba Hydropower Station was built near the Railway, in 1913, the Station began to supply power to Kunming. When the whole Beijing were using oil lamp at that time, the ordinary people of Kunming had been using electric light. In Kunming, there were various and numerous foreign firms, shops. English, French, German, Japanese, Greek could be heard everywhere, Chinese from other cities, such as Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, Hubei, Henan and Tianjin gathered here, all of those made Yunnan become intersection of Chinese and Western culture. The tin industry developed quickly, it became the most important pillar of the economy of Yunnan, the output of tin from Gejiu was the second in the world, and so Gejiu city got the name of “Tin Capital”, many Podunk along the railway, such as Hekou, Mengzi, Gejiu, Kaiyuan etc were prosperous for the railway, they became developed counties of Yunnan Province.