A monster that causes earthquakes across Asia, a bridge the snaps the back of the mythical creature, a temple to say sorry, and a covered walkway to bring together two cultures – Hoi An’s Japanese Bridge has it all!
Hoi An is in the centre of Vietnam – in the Quang Nam province – it was, for many years, the commercial heart of the Champa empire which ruled the region.
By the 1500s, the Cham had moved south – but around 1600 the Nguyen rulers who now controlled the region rebuilt it as the major port on the East Vietnam sea.
It became the favoured port for Chinese and Japanese traders – but then French influence made nearby Da Nang the port of choice, and Hoi An again reverted to a quiet backwater.
However, during its heyday as a bustling commercial centre, Hoi An had a significant Japanese population – and they, more than anyone else, are responsible for the Covered Bridge that is today one of Hoi An’s main tourist attractions.
The bridge is at the edge of Hoi An Ancient Town – the first incarnation was completed in 1590, and the ornamentation remains faithful to that period.
It was built to connect the Japanese part of the town with the rest – and was meant to reflect a joining of the two cultures in the town.
It also – and this is what makes it a tourist drawcard – has a unique small Buddhist temple inside.
There is a legend that a giant monster called Cu had its head in India, its tail in Japan, and its body in Vietnam – and every time it moved, earthquakes occurred.
Hoi An, according to the story, was the weakest point in its back – so the bridge was built here to break that back, and kill the creature.
But because they felt sorry about having to kill Cu, the bridge builders also included a temple to show their respects.
Of course, as with all legends, there are differing versions – and the ‘Official’ version, as told by the Communist-party controlled Vietnamese Government, makes no mention of monsters, or such superstition.
But I like to think that Cu still watches over the bridge – and the tourists who tread its covered path in their thousands each month.