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The bridge (桥) is exactly eight (八) Chinese li (里) (often called a Chinese mile) from Tongzhou, hence the name 八里桥, or Eight Mile Bridge. This bridge once marked the outer limit of the Imperial City of Beijing, beyond which was Zhili Province.
A small palace and temple complex once also stood here. It was here that the Emperor, on his travels, alighted from his sedan-chair and rested overnight, changing from his rich court robes into plainer travelling clothes before proceeding in a horse-drawn carriage. When the Emperor returned, he again stayed overnight at the complex, washing and changing into court robes, before entering the city on sedan-chair.
The Battle of Baliqiao
During the Second Opium War in 1860, on the morning of 21 September, a combined Anglo-French force that had recently occupied Tianjin engaged a Chinese army numbering some 30,000-strong at Baliqiao. A fierce battle ensued, with the Anglo-French force inflicting massive losses on the Chinese army and invading Beijing thereafter. Historians estimate the losses on the Chinese side as about 1,200. The French and British, in contrast, lost only 5 soldiers. The French troops were led by Charles Guillaume Cousin-Montauban, who was then awarded the title of Count of Palikao by Napoléon III.
Baliqiao currently stands at the juncture of the districts of Chaoyang and Tongzhou, and has a subway station served by the Line Batong of the Beijing Subway. The Jingtong Expressway runs through the suburb.
A pavilion built in Qing dynasty style has been recently erected to protect the stelae with Emperor Qianlong's calligraphy from the elements.
Nothing presently remains of the small temple and palace complex, but its location has been identified, and archaeologists are applying for permission to investigate the hitherto undisturbed site.
At present, Baliqiao is in a somewhat neglected state, with graffiti and assorted bills marring its marble construction. There are plans to build a new bridge in order to divert road traffic from the bridge, permitting restoration and conservation work to be carried out, and restricting access to the bridge to all but pedestrian traffic. A museum for the bridge and site is also planned.
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