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Tuesday, 23rd August 2016

Calls for Hoi An's iconic Japanese Covered Bridge to be restored

The Japanese Covered Bridge is one of the main sites that visitors wish to see and photograph upon arrival in Hoi An. Now, experts are calling for the 400-year-old structure in central Vietnam to be taken down for restoration, before being reinstalled.

More than 100 experts have suggested that to ensure that the bridge, which has important symbolic value, remains in the best condition, steps need to be taken. A recent conference saw almost unanimous support for the move, Tuoi Tre News reports.

Cracks have started to appear in the bridge’s supports, causing concern for the structure, which is classified as a National Heritage Site. It is thought this is a consequence of the constant flowing of water below and the 1.2 million people who visit every year.

The bridge represents the traditional bond of friendship between Vietnam and Japan and as such, experts from both nations are concerned about its state of repair. Representatives of the Japanese community in Hoi An built the bridge back in the 17th century and it has stood proudly on the river in the middle of the city ever since.

It is instantly recognisable due to its gently arched shape, traditional roof and intricate decoration atop the structure. A pair of weathered monkey statues welcome visitors on one side of the bridge, while two dogs sit sentinel on the other. These are thought to relate to the year of the monkey and the year of the dog, which is when work began and ended on the bridge.

Professor Luu Tran Tieu, president of the Cultural Heritage Association of Vietnam, said that restoration should be prompt. He added that proper documentation of the architecture of the bridge must be fully undertaken before anything is removed. This way it would be possible for everything to be put back exactly as it is now, only in better condition.

Modern technology could be used to ensure the bridge’s heritage value is preserved, but the most important thing is for a comprehensive restoration plan to be put in place. As calls for the work to be done are still new, there is not yet any indication of how long such a process would take, what its cost would be or who would finance the work.

In the meantime, visitors can continue to see the bridge, which stretches above the Thu Bon River on trips to Hoi An. The port city has become increasingly popular in recent years, as its restaurant scene has blossomed and the fine tailors that occupy its streets have seen their reputations spread across the globe.

Related news stories:
Why include Hoi An on your Vietnam itinerary? (29th September 2015)
The best bridges in Vietnam (27th January 2015)
Understanding religious practices in Cambodia (9th July 2014)