The newly opened (Sep 2005) Huguang Guild Hall is one of the most interesting sightseeing spots in Chongqing.
During the early Qing-Dynasty there lived only about 800.000 people in Sichuan Province. So people frm Hunan, Hubei, Guangdong and other provinces were invited to settle in Sichuan and develop the country. (incredible, isn't it?!) Those migrants all build their own guildhalls. The hUguang Guild Hall was built by people from Hubei and Guangdong Provinces. Here they had a location for business, culture and social affairs.
The now renovated halls and rooms are about 300 years old. Many theatres, opera-stages and temple-halls can be seen. Some of the rooms are turned into a migration museum. Visitors can see and buy local handicrafts.
I really enjoyed the solemn atmosphere of the ancient halls, which are surrounded by modern highrise buildings.
About 130km away from chongqing is Dazu, an old small town. There is a odern highway nw, which makes the trip to Dazu a day-trip from Chongqing. Around Dazu there are many beautiful Buddhist grottoes, reliefs and sculpture hidden in the mountains. This area has been so far away from everything, that the grottoes survided the Cultural Revolution without any harm done to them. It is said, that there are about 50.000 Rock Carvings in the hills around Dazu. They are from Buddhist, Daoist and Confucian origin.
In 1991 I visited the sculptures of Beishan, which are only a small walk away from Dazu Center. I liked hiking in the mountains and to discover the small temples and the beautiful sculptures.
This year (2005) I saw the sculptures of Baodingshan. Baodingshan is about 15 km from Dazu. There are mInibuses going there. Hidden in a beautifula narrow valley are the colorful sculptures. They are many centuries old, the oldest Rock Carvings are from Tang-Dynasty. In Baodingshan a Buddhist sect carved their ideas of a mixed Buddhist and Daoist Universum into the walls of the valley. There are impressive reliefs of Hell and Saints. Most impressive and still worshipped is the sculpture of Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara, a beautigulg statue with thousand arms (!).
Like most old and big cities Chongqing also had a massive city wall. Most of it is turned down many years ago. But as people in China now appreciate their history they discover the ruins of their past and try to restore and renovate the bits and pieces, which survived until today.
Chongqing City Wall is a piece of about 200 metres. I only saw it in the night, when it seems to be a dancing and Karaoke-bar. Very funny!
This big museum opened this year. Its architecture is to resembles the 3-Gorges -Dam. From this name I thought, the museum mainly shows technical details of the 3-Gorges-Dam. Actully it shows many aspect of the 3-Gorges-Area. There is the history of the 3-Gorges-Dam, but are also hall displaying the beautiful landscape and fauna and flora around the Yangzi-River. Other halls show the history of Chongqing. I loved the porcellain-exhibition. The museum is very modern and shows everything together with Audio-guides, interactive maps and a nice design.
I fullheartedly recommend to visit this museum.
With a long history of porcelain production, the former village of Long yin changed its name to Ci Qi Kou, which means Porcelain Village. Since many centuries the village had been also an important supply post for shipping on the river. That explains, why there are so many shops along the narrows lanes. Even though it is now an interesting tourist spot, the shops and the houses are still full of normal local live.
The majority of the houses date from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, periods during which many masterpieces of Chinese architecture were created. Much of the two and three storey construction is of bamboo and timber. Blue bricks and pillars set off the snow-white walls that contrast in turn with vermilion doors and lattice windows. Black tablets and lanterns adorn the gates to complete the authentic and traditional appearance of the properties. The quietly flowing waters of the Jia Ling River pass by the front of the village and have been its lifeblood for as long as anyone can remember. For it was the river that brought goods and people here as well as carrying local products off to customers at home and abroad.
Most people in Europe know Chongqing because it is the starting point of Yangzi-Cruises downriver.
The Yangzi River is about 6.300km long. It is the longest river in Asia. That is why the Chinese people call the Yangzi "Changjiang" which means "Long River".
The Yangzi River is very important economically. The Three-Gorges-Damm will provide China with electricity and protect the plains downriver from the yearly floods.
If there is one place that Chongqing people go to appreciate the recent development of Chongqing into a big city, it is in the ampitheatre of Renmin Square. If the commercial hub of the city is around the Liberatin Monument, the civic and cultural centre is here, outside the People's Hall on the huge plaza.
Trees line the marble square, and novelty fountains dance alongside the steps. At the far end, the traffic roars past the site of the new Chongqing Museum and the Three Gorges Museum.
On the slopes above, new blocks rise,hemming the square in.
All day and for much of the night, the square is humming with people, walking, sitting, chatting and just soaking up the atmosphere in that uniquely Chinese way: just walking doing very little, but enjoying the day.
First built during the Tang Dynasty, and reconstructed and enlarged during the Northern Song Dynasty by Emperor Zhiping. Later still, in Emperor Qianlong's reign it was again enlarged and dedicated to the Dragon God. Finally in the mid 1880's the Arhat's Hall was built, to hold 500 clay arhats.
In 1942, a Japanese bomb destroyed the entire compex, but it was rebuilt quickly and restored to its former glory.
The entrance to the temple is up a narrow gully, in which more than 400 Song Dynasty statues of Buddha are arranged, protected now by a gallery roof.
The temple itself has specific treasures, including a mural of Sakyamuni's visit to Myanmar, and three bronze statues of the Western Saints. It has also become a major repository for Buddhist scriptures.
This is an active, crowded, living temple, and there is always a bonfire of candles and offerings in the courtyard.
A few kilometres to the west of downtown Chongqing, rising up the slopes of the peninsula's hogsback ridge is Hongyan, or Red Cliff, Village.
Originaly, the village was the private house and gardens of Madam Rao Guomo, who donated it to the Communist Party. In those dangerous days of the early 1930s, Chongqing was a hotbed of intrigue, derring-do and espionage. It was like Casablanca and Lisbon a decade later. Chongqing has many memorials to this era, when both Nationalists and Communists were strong in the area as they both fought the Japanese. Later, after the end of the Second World War, this was where the Communists and Kuomintang negotiated for peace between each other, culminating in the Chongqing Agreement that both sides never really trusted.
Today the village is fronted by a huge staircase with water cascading down the grey marble to a pool at the equally huge front gates. At the top of the flight a large car-park caters for the Party faithful who visit the massive, modern "center for patriotic education", which I understand (I didn't visit the center) has various waxworks displays of key figures.
If you take the pathway to the east of the building you come to the old buildings, set on the banks of a fast-flowing stream among pretty gardens and lofty trees. It is a pleasant spot, and the spartan offices, living quarters and meeting rooms have been kept largely as they were during those heady days seventy years ago. Photographs on the wall clearly show the rooms and furnishings to be true to their original state. It takes little imagination to icture Mao Zedong, who lived here for a month, Zhou Enlai, Dong Biwu and Ye Jianying plotting and planning here in the cool rooms.
Other than brief room descriptions, there is very little in English, which is a pity because this is an interesting place.
Sitting above People's (Renmin) Square is the People's Hall, one of Chongqings more unusual buildings.
The People's Hall complex is bigger than it looks, as it is half as big again as the massive square. It was built between 1951 and 1954, at a time when Deng Xiaoping was very influential in the city. It is suggested that the structure was 'his baby'. At the time, Chongqing was very dear to the hearts of the Communist Party, and there was a real desire to lift this Sichuan backwater to a higher position among the pecking order of Chinese cities. The People's Hall was to be the symbol of the war-ravaged, heavily-bombed city.
It is modelled on Beijing's Temple of Heaven, and from the outside, the green glazed roof, circular structure and red pillars are impressive. Inside the architectural techniques for holding the roof up are a bit more prosaic, with acres of steelwork and trusses.
The hall can hold more than 5,000 people, and the acoustics are reputed to be superb. As always it is suggested that someone whispering on the stage can be heard at the back. Perhaps....
This building, for me, symbolises what 'could have been' for China from the early 1950s, a bright new spirit of reconstruction and movement forward. Alas, it was not to be.
Today, the People's Hall gets regularly used for concerts, ballet and ceremonies: it would be good to be able to enjoy it to musical accompaniment, but you can get in for a small fee on any day.
Right in the city center/Yuzhong district you can find the Luohan Si or Arhat Temple. It is supposed to be mire than 1000 years old. And yes, if Chinese leave a central spot between all those scyscrapers unused, it must be something special. Inside there are several buildings and little temples. One building shows about hundred different Buddha figures.
Despite the fancy new Shanghaistyle concrete glass and marble skyscrapers, there are still some parts of the old, true traditional quarters left! CiQiKou might be the most popular, but even close to Jiefangbei you can find the old lanes. Go for a try!
The small Monument to Liberation has become the motif for Chongqing. Its actually one of the few liberation monuments that can be called beautiful: normally these are iconoclastic swarthes of steel or aluminium, recalling the heroic deeds of peasants and soldiers, complete with bunched fists, guns and hammers. Chongqing's understated clock-tower is much more humane, and extremely elegant. It stands proudly at the junction of Minzu Lu and Minquan Lu, and despite the mass of neon signs and graceless shopfronts all around, it remains a poised and admirable tribute to the struggles of many (regardless of your political views). Originally, a 9 metre tall wooden tower opened in 1940 after Sun Yat-sen died, but was enlarged and encased in concrete within ten years. You can now climb the tower for a view which, because of the tall buildings around, is basically exactly the same only 35 metres higher.
BeiBei is a one hour drive from the City center/Yuzhong District. Here you can climb up the famous Lions Peak. Bamboo woods, green trees and a nice view (if not too cloudy;)
There are also some nice relaxing hot wells in BeiBei - take a rest!
Chongqing is the starting point for the popular river cruises down the Chang Jinag/Jangtse river. The cruise ships leave from these docks here, where the muddy Jangtse meets the deep blue Jialing River. What a beautiful mix of colours!