With an undulating terrain, Chongqing is famous for its magnificent night scene. Join Business Traveller and explore this “city of hills”, immersing yourself in its unique charm.
One of the oldest Buddhist houses of worship still in existence, Tushan Temple stands at the peak of an eponymous mountain, taking over an area of more than 10sqkm in the Nan’an District of the city. Famed writer Bai Juyi from the Tang dynasty (618-907AD) wrote a poem called “A lone journey to Tushan Temple”, but many believe that the temple had been there long before and was once called other names. There are many sections to the temple, totalling 100 rooms. The main hall features a statue of Gautama Buddha. The commanding location and scenic surroundings here are out of this world, which is befitting as a place of worship.
Tea time at the ancient citadel
People in Chongqing love tea and they drink it anytime, anywhere. Oftentimes, residents will just put a table on the roadside and sit around it to enjoy a hot pot of the fragrant brew. If you want to experience the joy of life like the locals, go to the ancient citadel Tong Yuan Gate. The staircase here ascends to a cannon battery on top of the citadel, where you will find a simple teahouse filled with locals playing mahjong and sipping tea. It is a no-frills kind of setup: a set of plastic desk and chair, a cup and a big old-fashioned flask are all you get. But you can sit here for as long as you want for as little as five yuan.
Located in urban Chongqing, Tong Yuan Gate is one of the few historic remains standing in the city. Here, you can find soldier sculptures depicting a violent war between Ming troops and the rebel army of Zhang Xianzhong. There is a path next to the park called “Jin Tang Street”, which means “a city guarded by metal wall and boiling fosse”, a testimony to the citizens’ wish for stability.
Night-time river cruise
It is said that: “No trip to Chongqing is complete without seeing the city’s night view”, and you have the option to do so on land or on the water. If you prefer the former, the best vantage point is Nanbin Park. But what we suggest is to fully immerse yourself in the brilliance of night-time Chongqing on the river, and admire the sparkling buildings as the boat drifts by. “Cruising along the two rivers” is a famous attraction of Chongqing, where the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers converge. Chaotian gong and Jinbihuihuang are among the many cruise companies offering this experience. Both have boats waiting at Chaotianmen pier. The trip lasts for two hours (ticket price is RMB88/US$13.45, depending on the boat size).
Ciqikou Old Town
An hour’s drive away from the city centre is Ciqikou Old Town, perched on a hill overlooking the Jialing River and covering an area of 1.18sqkm. It was built back in 998 AD and later prospered in the porcelain-making trade and became one of Chongqing’s busiest harbours. This was how the town got its name Ciqikou, which means “porcelain port” in Chinese.
Two- and three-storey buildings made of bamboo and timber line the stone slab streets in the preserved neighbourhood, and a visit here can feel like a trip back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. Porcelain handicrafts are popular buys here, but if you are more into food, try the famous local dishes of maoxuewang (braised blood curd in chilli sauce), qianzhangpi (bean curd sheets) and jiaoyan huasheng (spicy salted peanuts).
Explore the town further and you will see Bao Lun Buddhist Temple, which is regarded as a miracle in China’s architectural history. Constructed without the use of a single nail, the temple was where the Jian Wen Emperor of the Ming dynasty spent his life. All year round, Buddhist believers come to this temple to pray.
Huangjueping Graffiti Street
Located in the Jiulongpo District, this lane is said to be the largest graffiti street in China and it is a visual treat. It was a project launched by Lou Zhongli, the president of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, who has transformed the buildings along this 1.25km-long strip into canvases of abstract images, cartoons and messages. As you revel in the diversity of art in this otherwise ordinary-looking town, you can sense the beauty and rising modernity of Chongqing.
Two hours’ drive away from Chongqing is the sanctuary of rock carvings which have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage since 1999. The most significant pieces are at Baodingshan and Beishan. The two sites are near one another, and a visit to a single site costs RMB100 (US$15.3) while a ticket for both sites is priced at RMB140 (US$21.4). The Dazu carvings represent the pinnacle of Chinese rock art, with 76 caves featuring more than 60,000 statues. Vivid statues were carved on a natural vertical cliff, but many seem unfinished. According to historical records, riots broke out in the area at the end of the Southern Song dynasty, forcing the craftsmen to leave their magna opuses and flee. Since these rock carvings were well hidden, they survived the Cultural Revolution and air raids. Today, the statues are still in almost mint condition. The 31-metre reclining Buddha in Baodingshan is the largest statue among the collection, depicting the state of nirvana. Unlike most of the other reclining Buddha statues that are full-body, this one has half the body hidden in the rock, provoking viewers’ imaginations. It is reputed that no two statues here have identical facial features. We don’t know if this is an overstatement, but after spending time appreciating each and every one of these statues, you will have to at least agree that they are true works of art.
If you need to do some retail therapy, don’t miss out on Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street. Check out the four large malls spreading out from the People’s Liberation Monument you will see at the centre of Jiefangbei. For good buys, venture into the smaller streets where you can bargain for clothes, shoes, and jewellery, etc. Remember to bring lots of cash, as many places do not accept credit cards.