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Thanh Toan ancient tile roofed bridge a rare architecture worth exploring

Thanh Toàn bridge is located about 7 kilometers to the east of Hue in Thủy Thanh Commune, Hương Thủy district. It was reportedly established during the reign of Emperor Lê Hiển Tông (1740-1786) and has been maintained by the village ever since. Construction of the bridge was initiated by Trần Thị Đạo, the wife of a high-ranking Mandarin in Lê Hiển Tông’s court. Trần, who came from this area, had the bridge constructed to better facilitate transportation and communication in the village that lines both sides of the canal. When the Emperor heard of her charitable act, he exempted the village from taxation as a reminder for them to live up to her example. In 1925, Emperor Khải Định granted her a posthumous title and ordered the villagers to establish an altar on the bridge in her memory.

Recognizing the bridge’s historical value, the Cultural Ministry renovated the bridge in 1991.

Thanh Toàn bridge is located about 7 kilometers from Huế city center. It is perfect for a half day or full day leisure rural life immersion.

“Around Huế – the covered bridge” after 1904
“Cầu Ngói Thanh Toàn” a rare survivor of its kind

The above ancient photo is the postcard #7 in the 5th series of Peslissier Collection “The covered bridge in Indochina “. The traditional bridges in Tonkin (Red River Delta) and Annam (Central Vietnam) were deeply studied by L.Bezacier, a renown conservator for the historic monuments in Tonkin. He also dedicated a chapter in his book “Art of Vietnam ” for these refined bridges. The bridge from Thanh Thuy ̣(other name of Thanh Toan village), near Hue had given rise to several monographs in the magazine “Friends of Old Hue”. The bridge was built according to the architectural rules known as “Thuong Gia Ha Kieu” (upstairs a house, below a bridge) or a house on a bridge.

This bridge consists of three spans or compartments. The one in the middle is raised above the other two which descend gently towards the two banks of the canal. The bridge rests on eighteen magnificent ironwood columns arranged in three rows, sunk into the bed of the river. A roof covered with semi-cylindrical tiles covers it. On one side of the central compartment, facing east, is a small chapel dedicated to the worship of Tran Thi Dao. On both sides of the two spans inclined towards the banks are benches on which you can enjoy a really pleasant cool breeze, even in the hottest summer months. The width of the floor (4m70) and the height of the roof are such that one could cross the bridge in a car with the top up. The work is 17 meters long … / … On this bridge, the villagers composed many songs and marivaudage. Some are gay; there are some sad ones. “Crossing the tiled bridge, I exhale my sorrows.

The roof was removed by the typhoon of September 11, 1904. It was restored thanks to contributions from the inhabitants of Thanh Thuy village. The latest restoration was made in 2020 and it is now very charming, beautiful.

“My heart is so heavy with sorrows, as the bridge has columns supporting it.” Another sings: “When you go, Miss, under the tiled bridge, please allow me to accompany you. I will be very happy “

Popular song
Rural Immersion cycing to Thanh Toan tile roofed bridge
Comparing Thanh Toan with other tile roofed bridge in Vietnam

Regarding the covered bridge, L.Bezacier wrote: “The bridge designed like a “roofed bridge” are actually a bridge in wood which is covered a roof”. It is composed of two clearly separate parts: a proper bridge and a house over it. The structure of the bridge is the same as other bridges in rock, and has a greater or lesser number of spans. They are made up of a variable number of posts that sink into the bed of the river. The one of Phat Diem composed only three posts per span why the bridge of Khuc Toai near Bac Ninh had six. The transverse beams of the steps are surmounted by longitudinal beams on which the floor rests. It is this architecture which makes the bridge look like a house. This is made up of three columns, a walkway and two sides. The walkway is for passage while the two sides are benches where people can rest, and normally occupied by villagers or vendors. The frame, with crossbowmen makes it hard to differentiate the bridge house from the pagoda. The roof may be simple like the one of Phu Khe in Ha Nam province or double level of Phuc Toai. In the center of the main span, sometimes an altar is placed to worship the founder or donator of the bridge. There are not many differences between the bridge in Tonkin and Annam. The most famous is the one of Thanh Thuy (Thanh Toan tile roofed bridge) and the Japanese bridge in FaiFo Hoi An. The “Pagoda of Master ” Chua Thay in Sai Son, near Son Tay also has a nice roof, like the one in Hoi An. (Source: AP1154-Sallet, Friends of Old Hue)

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