The latest vertiginous Chinese tourist attraction in which special protective footwear-donning visitors are invited to ruin a perfectly good afternoon by openly weeping, sweating profusely and/or succumbing to a state of acrophobia-fueled catatonics has been closed indefinitely after a brief — some might say mercifully brief — 13-day run.
The reason for the sudden closure of Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge?
It’s probably not what you think.
You see, it wasn’t a crack, structural mishap or freak accident involving a contraband selfie stick that has done the world’s longest (1,410 feet) and tallest (984 feet) glass-bottomed pedestrian bridge (temporarily) in.
It was the crowds.
Do look down: China's tourism agency describes Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge as offering "visibility over the tops and sides, as well as through the bottom." (Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)
An impressive feat of engineering no matter how you might feel about forking over $21 to scurry or crawl across a cliff-linking walkway with transparent flooring, the 20-foot-wide bridge was designed to accommodate up to 800 people at one time — or 8,000 visitors in one day. However, since the record-breaking trepidation trap opened to the public on August 20, a staggering 80,000 daily visitors have shown up at Zhangjiajie National Forest Park hoping to traverse the bridge.
“We’re overwhelmed by the volume of visitors,” a spokesperson for the park explained to CNN, making it clear that the bridge was accident- and crack-free during its first two weeks. “There was no problem.”
While it’s beyond me why, each day, 80,000 people would want to descend on a gorgeous, 12-acre national forest park — established in 1982 as perhaps the most highly trafficked of four national parks comprising the UNESCO-recognized Wulingyuan Scenic Area, Zhangjiajie’s otherworldly limestone formations famously served as a geological inspiration for “Avatar” — only to experience pure, abject terror, parks officials and the management company are reportedly scrambling to work toward a solution that would allow the bridge to reopen as soon as possible.
Located in the Hunan province, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is also home to the Bailong Elevator, a somewhat controversial glass elevator deemed as the world's largest outdoor lift. (Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)
While selfie sticks and stilettos are all prohibited on the world's longest and tallest glass bridge, amateur gymnastics are apparently a-OK. Prior to its closing, fashion shows were also planned. (Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)
As reported by CNN, fixes would include improved infrastructure around the bridge including new parking lots to accommodate larger crowds and a new ticketing system. Again, it’s unclear when the bridge, which made a point of banning visitors from wielding selfie sticks and was to eventually include a bungee-jumping component, will once again welcome visitors.
Designed by Israeli architect Haim Dotan, Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge is certainly not the first glass-bottomed tourist magnet to hit China’s Hunan province. In fact, the Chinese have demonstrated a penchant for glass-bottomed everything in recent years — the more insane/intense/impossible, the better.
Less than a year ago, Haohan Qiao — “Brave Man’s Bridge” — opened to strong-stomached thrill-seekers of all genders within Shiniuzhai National Geological Park. While Haohan Qiao isn’t quite as long (984 feet) or high-up (590 feet) as Dotan’s immobilizing structure that spans Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, some might consider it altogether more terrifying given that it’s a legit suspension bridge. Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge is not a suspension bridge but a vaguely more reassuring-sounding cable-stayed pedestrian bridge.
While no doubt terrifying to many, China tourism officials speak of Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge in more enticing terms, noting that the span "floats in harmony with the surrounding scenery." (Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)
While Dotan has remained mum about the closure of his knee-buckling creation, he did speak of the bridge in rather poetic terms prior to its opening.
“As the designer of this bridge located in an incredible and magical national park, I believe in nature, harmony, balance and beauty," he told Dezeen of the bridge. "Nature is beautiful as is. One wants to make the least impact upon it."
“It will create an experience of being in pure nature while suspended in mid-air, between heaven and earth, like a bird with its wings open wide. I called it Bridge of Courageous Hearts.”
Following the sudden closure of what was looking to be one of China's top tourist attractions in the increasingly crowded glass-bottomed category, here's hoping that the Courageous Hearts flocking to Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon also possess plenty of patience.