This beautiful little bridge has become a modern-day icon of Hoi An. A bridge was first constructed on this site in the 1590s by the Japanese community in order to link them with the Chinese quarters across the stream.
The bridge is very solidly constructed because the original builders were concerned about the threat of earthquakes. Over the centuries the ornamentation has remained relatively faithful to the original understated Japanese design. The French flattened out the roadway for their motor vehicles, but the original arched shape was restored in 1986.
The entrances to the bridge are guarded by weathered statues: a pair of monkeys on one side, a pair of dogs on the other. According to one story, many of Japan’s emperors were born in the years of the dog and monkey. Another tale says that construction of the bridge started in the year of the monkey and was finished in the year of the dog. The stelae, listing all Vietnamese and Chinese contributors to a subsequent restoration of the bridge, are written in chu nho (Chinese characters) – the nom script had not yet become popular.
While access to the Japanese Bridge is free, you have to surrender a ticket to see a small, not very impressive temple built into the bridge’s northern side. According to legend, there once lived an enormous monster called Cu that had its head in India, its tail in Japan and its body in Vietnam. Whenever the monster moved, terrible disasters befell Vietnam. The bridge was built on the monster’s weakest point and killed it, but the people of Hoi An took pity and built this temple to pray for its soul. The writing over the temple door is the name given to the bridge in 1719: Lai Vien Kieu (Bridge for Passers-by from Afar). However it never quite caught on.