Yangtze River Travel Guide
in downtown Chongqing
Believed to have been founded as the capital of the shadowy State of Ba in 1000 BC, this port is situated on a peninsula at the junction of the Yangzi and Jialing rivers. Also known as Shan Cheng (Mountain City), due to the hills covering the peninsula, it is one of the Yangzi valley’s “three furnaces” owing to its stifling summer humidity, made even worse by pollution. The main reason to visit Chongqing, a lively, rapidly modernizing city with few historic sights, is to catch a Yangzi ferry downstream through the Three Gorges. In 1997, Chongqing became the administrative center of the new city-province of Chongqing Shi, which stretches 311 miles (500 km) east to Hubei.
Chongqing City Center
- Chaotian Men 1
- Chongqing Museum 4
- Great Hall of the People 5
- Luohan Si 2
- Stilwell Museum 6
- Liberation Monument 3
Chaotian Men Wharf
Chaotian Men (Gate Facing Heaven) is Chongqing’s wharf district right at the tip of the peninsula, where cruise boats line the muddy banks, readying themselves for their journey into Eastern China. A viewing platform overlooking the river junction was built in 2000, and offers splendid views on a windy day, though often visibility is impaired by the heavy fogs caused by intense pollution.
- 7 Luohansi Jie
This Ming-era temple is famed for its hall crowded with luohan (those freed from the cycle of rebirth). The Indian Buddhist pantheon has just 18 luohan, but the Chinese have added hundreds of their own, including Buddhist figures, folk heroes, and even Daoists. The hall has 524 life-sized statues; some sit serenely, while others have grotesque faces. The most easily identifiable figure is Ji Gong, a comic peasant hero near the exit.
Situated in the heart of downtown Chongqing, the Liberation Monument is a plain-looking clocktower that commemorates the Communists’ defeat of Kuomintang forces in 1949. It is surrounded by a busy shopping district.
Three Gorges Museum
- Opposite Great Hall of the People
- 9:30am–5pm daily
This museum, also known as Chongqing Museum, houses a superb collection of Eastern Han tomb relics (AD 25–220) from sites around Sichuan. Peculiar to the region are 20-in (50-cm) long mausoleum bricks, illustrated with figures depicting religious and secular themes. A recurrent image is that of the dragon-bodied sun god, Rishen, associated with Fuxi, legendary ancestor of the Chinese. The highlight is a frieze of soldiers and chariots passing a nobleman being entertained. Upstairs is a display of Ba-era boat coffins.
now part of the Renmin Hotel
Great Hall of the People
This 213-ft (65-m) high rotunda, seating 4,200 people, was built in 1954 as a conference hall to commemorate Chongqing’s important war-time role. Inspired by Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, it is now a part of the Renmin Hotel and is occasionally used for concerts. Its striking exterior, with three tiers of red-pillared eaves beneath a blue canopied roof, stands out from the modern high-rises that are slowly encircling it.
- 63 Jialing Xin Lu, Liziba, 3 miles (5 km) SE of city center
This is the former home of General Stilwell (1883–1946), who was based here between 1942 and 1944 as Commander of the US forces and Chiang Kai Shek’s Chief of Staff. The US was instrumental in helping China overthrow the Japanese, and Stilwell led the effort. Exhibits include a display on the legendary Flying Tigers, a volunteer group of US fighter pilots who held off the Japanese along the China-Burma border between 1941 and 1942. The museum also sells T-shirts with the Tigers’ logo.
- 52 Hongyan Cun. 3 miles (5 km) W of Chongqing
- 8:30am–5pm daily
This group of whitewashed buildings was the base of the Nationalist-Communist “United Front” government during World War II. Among the prominent people based here were the Communist leader Zhou Enlai and his wife, Deng Yingchao. Chairman Mao briefly visited Hongyan Cun (Red Crag Village) after Japan surrendered in 1945, to attend the US-sponsored talks with the Kuomintang forces led by Chiang Kai-shek. The buildings now house a collection of sparsely-captioned wartime photographs. More appealing is the hilly parkland surrounding the site.
- 9 miles (14 km) W of Chongqing
- from Chongqing Hotel
Founded 1,700 years ago on the banks of Jialing Jiang, Ciqi Kou (Porcelain Port) was a famous porcelain production center during the Ming era, and is something of a museum piece. Its riverfront lanes, preserved in their original flagstoned state, are flanked by old timber, adobe, and split-stone buildings with carved stonework, latticed windows, and gray-tiled roofs. Teahouses are everywhere, and there are about 100 to choose from. A couple of traditional ones overlook the river and occasionally host opera shows. Porcelain is no longer made here, but Ciqi Kou is now popular with modern and traditional painters.