Text and photographs by Ran Yujie
Dense crowds fill the streets and firecrackers boom all around. First-time visitors to Taiping (Peace) Bridge might mistake the event for an ordinary fair, but the celebration is something more.
With the first broken rays of morning sun lighting their ways through the drizzle, dozens of families stream towards the Taiping Bridge at Jushui Pass in Anxian County. Locals are joined by neighbors from Beichuan County and cities of Mianyang and Deyang, all in Sichuan Province. Regional residents gather there annually for a single purpose: to ward off evil spirits and pray for good luck by crossing the bridge.
Jushui Pass can be found along the upper reaches of the Jushui River, sandwiched between precipitous cliffs contrasting the surrounding Chuanxi (Western Sichuan) Plain. Spanning the river is a stone arch bridge erected in 1799 during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). At the end of the bridge is a temple known as the Reclining Buddha, a popular pilgrimage destination year-round. Nobody is quite sure how the local custom of crossing the bridge first came to be, but tradition puts the event in the second month of the Chinese lunar calendar.......