Woman engineer leads team in building bridge in mountainous Guizhou

Updated: Mar 9, 2021 Women of China Print
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Pingtang Bridge in Southwest China's Guizhou province has become the focus of admiration and attention since the completion of its construction. [For Women of China]

Zhang Shenglin, chief engineer with Guizhou Bridge Construction Group Co., Ltd., cannot remember how many bridges she has designed during the past 27 years. But her heart is filled with delight every time her team completes, under her leadership, the construction of a bridge. For Zhang, it's like a dream coming true. For nearly three decades, people the world over have been amazed by the unique beauty and solid structures of the bridges (built by Zhang and her team), which look like "rainbows" across steep valleys in Guizhou's mountainous areas.

Since she started working as a technician at Guizhou Bridge Engineering Corporation, in 1993, Zhang has participated in the construction of many large bridges, including Jiangjie River Bridge (in Cian, a county in Guizhou) and Waihuan Jiangjin Yangtze River Bridge (in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality). Several projects have earned her State- and provincial-level science and technology progress awards.

World's longest-span bridge

Southwest China's Guizhou has experienced rapid development in its transportation infrastructure during the past two decades. That should, to a large extent, be attributed to the tremendous efforts of engineers and builders (like Zhang), who have dedicated themselves to building bridges in Guizhou (especially in the mountainous areas). As a result, many people have referred to Guizhou as the largest "museum of bridges across valleys" in the world. Now, all counties (in Guizhou) are linked by highways, some of which include bridges.

Construction of Daxiaojing Bridge (in Luodian, a county in Guizhou), has given Zhang the greatest satisfaction. In 2018, she led her team in building the concrete-arch bridge, with the longest span (450 meters) in the world. For the first time in Guizhou's history, a local enterprise (Guizhou Bridge Construction Group Co., Ltd.) built such a world-level bridge. Zhang and her teammates solved many technically difficult problems as they built the bridge, across the steep valley, using the most advanced technologies and construction equipment.

Amazing 'Rainbows' Across Steep Valleys — Engineer Leads Team in Building Bridge in Mountainous Guizhou
Zhang Shenglin works on her design schemes. [Xinhua]

Dedication to her career

Zhang in 1971 was born in Pingba, a county in Guizhou. She is grateful to her parents, who were strict with her, both in her studies and in cultivating her moral character, when she was a little girl.

Zhang will never forget how scared she was when, in 1993, she climbed the ladder to install a component on the high Jiangjie River Bridge. "For the first time in my life, I worked on a construction site ... My legs were still shaking, even after I fulfilled my task," recalls Zhang.

She also will never forget how delighted she was when she looked at the long bridge, as its construction was completed, in June 1995. "Our efforts had paid off. We felt a sense of pride and accomplishment," recalls Zhang.

"I'm lucky that I live in a good age, when Guizhou has put much effort into developing its transportation infrastructure," adds Zhang.

Amazing 'Rainbows'

In 2006, Zhang led her team in developing the construction plan of the Xinguang Bridge, a landmark structure in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province. Zhang worked day and night to develop a new technology to build large, heavy bridges (like Xinguang Bridge), and she received the Zhan Tianyou Prize, the top civil engineering award of China, and Lu Ban Prize, China's top prize in construction, for her efforts.

In 2016, Zhang was promoted to chief engineer of Guizhou Bridge Construction Group Co., Ltd. Her promotion caught the nation's attention, as women chief engineers were rare in the construction industry. During the following two years, she designed and led her team in building Daxiaojing and Pingtang bridges (in Guizhou).

In December 2018, Bridge, a Beijing-based bimonthly magazine, released the list of China's Top 10 bridge engineers in 2017 and 2018. Zhang made the list. Bridge announced the selection of China's Top 10 bridge engineers every two years. Zhang is the only woman to ake the list during the last five selections.

Amazing 'Rainbows' Across Steep Valleys — Engineer Leads Team in Building Bridge in Mountainous Guizhou
Zhang Shenglin discusses with workers on a construction site. [Provided to Women of China]

Inspiring power

During the past 10-plus years, Guizhou has experienced rapid development in bridge engineering; it has drawn on the experiences of other countries, and it has encouraged engineers to foster technical innovation. "Now that we have accumulated rich experiences in our work, we are confident that we can build more, better bridges," says Zhang.

During the past decade, Zhang has had several treatises published on bridge engineering. She often discusses academic issues with Chinese and foreign experts.

"Bridge engineering is a branch of civil engineering, an old, traditional profession ... Despite the passage of time and the changes in civil engineering, we should always attach great importance to the precision and quality of our works," stresses Zhang.

She has had a hard time striking a balance between work and family. "I have to spend a lot of time working on construction sites. My parents help me take care of my son," says Zhang. "I'm glad my boy has turned out to be an independent young man."

Given Zhang's remarkable achievements in her work, the CPC (Communist Party of China) Central Committee and the State Council named Zhang a National Role Model Worker in November 2020. Inspired by workers (like Zhang), who have made outstanding achievements in their work, an increasing number of Chinese workers are creating miracles in their own fields.

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