Across thousands of miles, the model of the Taishun covered bridge finally arrived at KUSA with this WKU student

Union, New Jersey: Kean University in New Jersey hosted a special Mid-Autumn Festival Ceremony for all exchange students from China on Monday, September 12. Li Xuan, a student from Wenzhou-Kean University, was one of the exchange students who went to the U.S. this fall and he was entrusted with an important task for the occasion. He was assigned to present Kean President Dr. Lamont Repollet with a model of a Taishun covered bridge which was made in Wenzhou, China.

This covered bridge model was jointly donated by the Zhejiang Provincial People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Wenzhou People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, and Wenzhou Covered Bridge Cultural Society. It was handcrafted by Ms. Ji Tianyuan, a national intangible inheritor of China.

President Repollet of Kean University was delighted with the presentation and said that it was the best gift he had ever received. “It was not easy to transport the covered bridge model. It took a long journey from Wenzhou to bring this precious gift to the school,” said President Repollet.

Additionally, a holograph was attached to the bridge model, handwritten by Frank Wang, Chairman of the Board of Directors of WKU, and Li Wang, the Chancellor of WKU. The letter said, “The actual bridge of the model is the Xidong Bridge, which was built in the fourth year of the reign of Emperor Longqing in the Ming Dynasty (1570). It represents the best wishes for KU and the sincerest appreciation to you from WKU. We hope you will like it!”

In June, the Taishun Bridge began its journey to the US, which saw it transfer through five airports across three continents including Wenzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Qatar before arriving in New York. Li Xuan admitted that the transportation process was not easy, “The box accidentally broke and two wheels fell off which greatly increased the difficulty of our transportation.” Li Xuan and his companions finally carried the model safely to the Kean USA campus on August 29 for the handover at the Mid-Autumn festival celebration.

The covered bridge model will be displayed in the Kean House on the KUSA campus. During the ceremony, President Repollet sincerely invited all Kean students to visit the display to appreciate the beauty of the shape and structure up close.

“The Sino-US Kean Twin Bridge Project” is a project between Taishun County in Wenzhou and Wenzhou-Kean University. It aims to bring global awareness to the traditional technique of constructing a wooden arch bridge, considered an intangible cultural heritage in China. The project is jointly sponsored by Zhejiang Zhi Ai Charity Foundation, Wenzhou Covered Bridge Cultural Society, Wenzhou High-Temperature Youth Association, Wenzhou-Kean University Education and Development Foundation, and other public welfare organizations.

To enhance the cultural exchange and research cooperation between the university and the local community, a team from the College of Public Architecture, led by Vincent Peu Duvallon, visited Taishun County in 2021 to investigate the ancient covered bridges. Preparations were then made for an off-campus practice base. “Our aim is to build Taishun into a practice base for students of the College of Architecture and Design of WKU so that teachers and students could visit Taishun to study and inspect the ancient corridor bridge and appreciate ancient residential architecture culture,” said Duvallon.

On November 20, 2021, Wenzhou-Kean University’s 10th year anniversary was commemorated with a ceremony for “The Sino-US Kean Twin Bridge Project.” During the ceremony, Zhejiang Zhi Ai Charity Foundation volunteer Weng Xiaoyou donated one million RMB ($USD 140,000) to Wenzhou-Kean University’s Education and Development Foundation. This included half a million RMB ($USD 70,000) each for traditional culture and public welfare and bridge-building funds. The winning entry of the Taishun Covered Bridge Innovation Design Competition was also announced at the event.

In accordance with “The Sino-US Kean Twin Bridge Project”, the construction of a covered bridge on the campus of WKU is scheduled to start in October and is expected to be completed in Spring 2024. In the future, we also look forward to the Kean Twin Bridge Project at Kean University in the United States, which will testify to the long-term friendship between the Chinese and American people.

Writer: Wenwei XIANG

Proofreader: Abbigail Ajim, Joseph Andrew