Over this river there is a very fine stone bridge, so fine indeed, that it has very few equals in the world."
-Diary of Marco Polo
Located 15 km southwest of Tiananmen Square, over the Youngding River, the Lugou Bridge (Marco Polo Bridge, the bridge was so named and known to the west owing to the description of the famous Italian explorer Marco Polo) is the oldest existing multi-arched stone bridge in the Beijing area. Construction of the original bridge on this site commenced in 1189 and ended in 1192 and was later reconstructed in 1698.
The Lugou Bridge is 266.5 meters in length and 9.3 meters in width, supported on 11 piers. At the side of the bridge stand two steles. One carries the inscription about the rebuilding of the bridge in the 37th years of the reign of Emperor Kangxi, Qing dynasty (1698 AD). On the other stele one sees the calligraphy means "the morning moon of Lugou" by Emperor Qianlong. On each of the 281 white marble pillars stands a stone lion. The most intriguing feature of these beasts is the fact that there are more lions hiding on the head, back or under the belly or on paws of each of the big lions. Investigations to determine total number of animals have been carried out on several occasions but the results have proved inconsistent, ranging anywhere from 482 to 496. However, record has it that there were originally 627 lions. The posture of lion varies, as do their ages. Most date from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, some are from the earlier Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368); while the few lions dating from as long ago as the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) are now quite rare.
China's entry into World War II began with shots on the Marco Polo Bridge on July 7, 1937 when the Japanese attacked Chinese troops, resulting in the occupation of Beijing. This is known as the “Marco Polo Bridge Incident.” To memorize the 50th anni