Bisezhai Witnesses History of China's Narrow-Gauge Railway

ByFan Wenjun August 1, 2021
Bisezhai Witnesses History of China's Narrow-Gauge Railway
Bisezhai Station


Bise is a village in Mengzi, in Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture, in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Bisezhai Station, established in 1909, is one of the oldest railway stations in China. The station has witnessed more than 100 years of Yunnan-Vietnam Railway's history.

Bisezhai Station, which covers nearly 2 square kilometers, used to be an important hub along the Yunnan-Vietnam Railway, from Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, to Haiphong Port, in Vietnam.

Construction of the 855-kilometer, narrow-gauge railway began in 1903. The line went into service in 1910. With the gauge at one meter, the railway was referred to as meter-gauge railway. The standard gauge of a railway is more than one meter.

Bisezhai Station was also an intersection station of the Yunnan-Vietnam Railway and the historic Gebishi Railway (no longer operating). Gebishi Railway, built between 1915 and 1936, was a privately owned, narrow-gauge railway that connected Gejiu, Bise and Shiping, all in Yunnan Province. The gauge of the railway was only 0.6 meter.

During the 30-plus years after Yunnan-Vietnam Railway was put into use (in 1910), dozens of trains pulled in and out of the station each day. The majority of goods imported and exported by Yunnan Province were transferred and distributed at the station.   

During that time, people from various countries lived and/or worked in the village, and Chinese culture and Western culture blended within the small, prosperous Chinese village. Various shops, hotels, warehouses, coffee shops, department stores and office buildings were built in the village. Many of those buildings remain, including the Kalos Hotel.

The Yunnan section of Yunnan-Vietnam Railway is the only meter-gauge railway that still operates in China, and serves as a connection hub with a neighboring country.

Bisezhai Witnesses History of China's Narrow-Gauge Railway
Bisezhai Station 


Bisezhai station was one of the locations used to shoot two popular Chinese films, Youth (2017) and Forever Young (2018). Viewers were impressed by the exotic charm of both the village and the station. Thanks to the films, an increasing number of people have learned about the station, and travelled to see it. The station has become a popular destination — for both tourists and photographers — in recent years.  

As one of the first railway stations in China, Bisezhai Station is of great value to the study of railway development in China. Bisezhai Yunnan-Vietnam Railway Historical and Cultural Park has been established in the village, and the park has helped boost the development of local tourism industry.


Photos Supplied by Wang Hongwei

(Women of China English Monthly April 2021 issue)


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