Are China’s Glass Floors a Disaster Waiting to Happen?

The trend of thrill-inducing glass-bottomed structures is grinding to a halt in China.

Nathan Bahadursingh Nathan Bahadursingh

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Amidst a growing obsession with glass attractions, China is hitting the breaks after a series of accidents has led one province to shut down all of its glass-bottomed marvels. Hebei, a scenic, mountainous province in northern China, has shut down all 32 of its glass bridges, walkways and viewing decks in 24 scenic areas over the past 18 months amid safety concerns. A series of accidents, including at least two deaths, across China has driven the government to reevaluate the safety of the structures. 

Glass attractions are drawing in those looking for a thrill; Photo by Zhang Haiqiang/Visual China Group via Getty Images

The glass attractions were built to thrill and attract adventurous visitors as a means of capitalizing on China’s growing domestic tourism. As a result, many were built in a rush without sufficient care for safety and management. Accidents and casualties have been mounting.

Earlier this year, one tourist died and six others were injured after falling off a glass slide in Guangxi province. One walkway, open for only 13 days, was closed for an urgent upgrade after it could not handle the weight of all the visitors. There have also been cases of tourists being struck by flying debris while on a glass bridge. Given these instances and the lack of national standards and supervision over these facilities, it’s understandable that Hebei as taken action. The province has been the first to introduce regional requirements on construction materials, design and visitor numbers, according to ECNS. 

The Hongyagu glass suspension bridge, formerly the world’s longest glass bridge; image via Xinhua

Among the sites that have been closed is c, which until recently was the world’s longest glass bridge, stretching 488 meters across two steep cliffs. Another glass attraction in Hebei that has been closed is the East Taihang Glasswalk mountain walkway, which is famous for horrifying visitors with its shattering glass special-effect. Throughout the country, a number of glass attractions have been closed as well. 

The East Taihang Glasswalk mountain walkway; image via VCG/Getty Images

What was initially an innovative tourist attraction became an overproduced captivation, built to meet demand and hype. This left a slew of unregulated, high-risk and dangerous structures scattered across China. Including Hebei, there are 2,300 glass bridges and an undetermined number of glass walkways or slides throughout the country.

It must be seen as a positive that the Chinese government has now called on authorities to carry out comprehensive safety checks on these structures, but the goal of implementing new standards across the country is incredibly ambitious. It remains to be seen whether China’s glass floor craze regains traction in the coming years.

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