Dandong's 'Bridge to Nowhere' over the Yalu River on the border with North Korea.
Dandong Bridge to Nowhere? Yalu River Broken Bridge
The Yalu River Broken Bridge (鸭绿江断桥 | Yālù Jiāng Duàn Qiáo) is a railway bridge on the China-North Korea border that used to connect China with North Korea. It was bombed by the US military during the Korean War, and was never repaired. It remains in its destroyed state today, reaching across from China and abruptly stopping in the middle of the Yalu River, just at the North Korean border.
It is therefore often referred to as the ‘China North Korea bridge to nowhere’ or ‘Dandong broken bridge’.
It is located in Dandong, Liaoning province in northeast China. Originally, this Dandong bridge connected the northeast Chinese city of Dandong with the North Korean city of Sinuiju across the Yalu River.
In its original state when it was first built in 1911, the Dandong bridge was a steel bridge of 944.2 meters long and 11 meters wide, with a total of 12 spans. The fourth span was a swing bridge that could let taller boats pass. There are now only four spans left on the Chinese side.
History of the Dandong Broken Bridge
Construction for the Yalu River Bridge begins. The Yalu River Broken Bridge was built by the Japanese during Japanese occupation of Korea. They began constructing it without the permission of the Qing dynasty government of China.
The Yalu River bridge, the first bridge to connect China and North Korea over the Yalu river, is opened in October 1911 after the Japanese put a lot of pressure on the Chinese government. The Japanese built the bridge to connect Korea with the Eurasia network, connecting Busan in the south of Korea all the way to Calais in France.
That's a pretty long railway.
During the time the Japanese ruled the puppet state Manchukuo (northeast China), they built another bridge just 100 meters away from the original Yalu River Bridge. This bridge is now known as the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge (中朝友谊桥 | Zhōng cháo yǒuyì qiáo) and still connects China to North Korea today.
During the Korean War, US military bombed this original Dandong bridge connecting China to North Korea. This was reportedly accidental. The bridges across the Yalu River were subject to repeat attack as American forces wanted to prevent Chinese support for North Korea.
Ariel attacks were suspended later in the year as the Yalu River froze over and it was easy for the Chinese to cross over by foot.
Attacks resumed again in early 1951 from US military forces and the bridge was bombed entirely apart from the first four spans from the Chinese side. It was never repaired.
From then on, it was known as the Yalu River Broken Bridge.
Dandong City declared the Yalu River Broken Bridge a municipal heritage site. It remains a very popular site to visit for Chinese tourists.
Funds of three million yuan were invested in by the government to refurbish the Yalu River Broken Bridge and open it fully as a tourist attraction. Now, the Dandong Broken Bridge is open for tourists to walk on and get a close look into North Korea from the end of the bridge platform. The site also houses Korean War-era anti-aircraft guns, a statue of Chinese General Peng Dehuai leading the Chinese People's Volunteer Army who fought in Korea, interpretive posts, and requisite gift shops selling North Korean products and local Dandong souvenirs.
* You do not need to spend a long time in Dandong if you are going there to see the Yalu River Broken Bridge. An hour or two is enough time to visit the Yalu River, and both the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge and Yalu River Broken Bridge.
* If you’re in Dandong on your way to North Korea, you will usually enough time to visit briefly see the Yalu River Broken Bridge as you change trains. Most North Korea group tours start from Beijing and it is possible to take the train from Beijing to Pyongyang, with a stop in Dandong on the way. If you get this train this way, you will have approximately one hour to explore Dandong. This is usually enough to see the bridge from the Dandong Yalu River waterfront.
* On the way to the Yalu River Broken Bridge there is also a Starbucks Coffee shop to the left hand side as you walk down the road. Frustratingly enough, it only opens at 08:30am. If you’re catching the train to Pyongyang, you should have just enough time to grab a coffee before you set off on your journey!
* If you’re after a Western breakfast or needing something hearty there is a KFC located a short walk from the train station. As you walk out of the train station, you will see a large statue of Mao Zedong. Walk straight up this road for approximately three minutes and you will see the KFC. There are also cash machines here that accept western cards.
* Visiting the Yalu River Broken Bridge is a very popular tourist attraction amongst Chinese tourists. Be aware that there may be lots of large Chinese tour groups around. It is best to visit during the week or not at peak-times to avoid this.
* If you have more time to spend in Dandong, you can take a day trip to the Hushan Great Wall — the end of the Great Wall of China.
Location and Access
* The Yalu River Broken Bridge is easily accessible from Dandong city centre. You don’t need to go with a tour group.
* If you do want to take a tour group, you can see both the Yalu River Broken Bridge and the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge by taking a boat tour on the Yalu River. This is a great option for those that have more time in Dandong.
* From the train station: walk to the main road in front of the train station in Dandong. When on the main road, turn right and walk directly straight down the road until you hit the Yalu River. This walk will take approximately 10-15 minutes. Once you hit the Yalu River, turn right and you will see both the Yalu River Broken Bridge and the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge.
* There is a ticket fee of 30 RMB (Febuary 2019) that allows you to walk onto the Dandong Broken Bridge. Once you have entered, you can walk right to the end where this incomplete bridge stops. Look to your left, and you’ll see the Sino-Korean Friendship bridge. This is the bridge that connects China and North Korea. Pedestrians cannot enter here, only vehicles and trains can cross. This is the bridge over which you will cross into North Korea to the North Korean border town Sinuiju.
* From the end of the Dandong bridge, you can see into Sinuiju in North Korea and see the city's waterfront, an amusement park that is currently not in use, hotel construction, and factories.