Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge is one of the "Ten Scenes of the West Lake". These scenes change with seasons and have their own iconic features. The Broken Bridge (Chinese: Duan) on West Lake in Hangzhou is not actually broken. Some say the bridge got this name because the only road stops there. Others say Duan is the last name of the original owner of the bridge. However, to truly understand the story behind the name, one should learn the famous Chinese folk legend.
This is a touching and beautiful love story between the White Snake and handsome man Xu Xian. The legend has it that the young man saved the white snake from a snake trapper. The snake, therefore, spent one thousand years to take human form to reward Xu Xian. The Broken Bridge is where the White Snake lady, who names herself Bai Suzhen, and the reincarnation of Xu Xian meet again. He lends her his umbrella that becomes the symbol of their love.
The Broken Bridge also witnesses their separation later on. They were forced to split because of a monk who killed demons. In the Yue Opera play, the white snake sings, "the enchanting scenery of the West Lake is still there...the Broken Bridge is not broken, but my heart is broken." Their story is also compiled into different plays and widely spread among people. Every year, a lot of tourists visit the bridge because of the legend and the West Lake scenery. Most of the visitors to West Lake start their tour from the Broken Bridge.
The only time you can see the broken view of the bridge is after snowing. Hangzhou snows seldom in winter from December to early March. After snowfalls, the Broken Bridge becomes one of the most romantic places for people to view snow scenes. When the sun rises, the snow on the top of the bridge melts under sunshine, while there is lingering snow on the shady part of the bridge. If you look at it from a distance at this time, the bridge seems to be broken, but it's a visual illusion.