FUZHOU Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Eastern China's Fujian Province is offering rewards for finding missing parts of four ancient wooden arch bridges, which were washed away in torrential floods brought by Typhoon Meranti.
The wooden arch bridges, found mostly in eastern China's Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, are built using wooden structures fitted together without using a single metal nail or rivet. The Chinese building practice was put on UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2009.
The four bridges: Longjin Bridge, Sanxi Bridge, Guanshan Bridge and Xianwuting Bridge, are all cultural sites under protection, with the oldest dating back to 1631.
Qiu Changrong, deputy director of the cultural bureau in Minhou County, said that after the typhoon passed, most structural wooden planks of Guanshan Bridge and Xianwuting Bridge were retrieved thanks to the narrow waterway underneath. However, components of the other two were much harder to find as they floated into bigger rivers.
"After the typhoon, we called on villagers to join the government's efforts in looking for the missing parts downstream. Anyone who finds them can get a government reward from hundreds to thousands of yuan depending on how much they find," Qiu said.
A week since the typhoon passed, around one third of the missing pieces of the bridges have been recovered, as people trekked downstream to a reservoir in a neighboring county with the help of local farmers.
"None of them claimed the bonus," Qiu said. "Partly because local villagers value ancient things, which are even worshiped as shrines of local folk belief, so villagers will not charge for such beliefs."
Heritage experts say three of the bridges will be restored using traditional technique at their original locations, while one bridge might be relocated for restoration.
"There are still a great number of missing pieces. The restoration of the bridges depends on how much we retrieve and the opinions of experts from higher cultural authorities," Qiu said.
In addition to the four bridges, the typhoon also damaged an 871-year-old bridge in Quanzhou, Fujian, and washed away three ancient bridges that were under state-level protection in Taishun County, Zhejiang.
Typhoon Meranti, the strongest typhoon to hit China this year, left 28 people dead and 15 others missing in Fujian and Zhejiang, after making landfall in Xiamen, Fujian, on September 15.