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Chongqing, my ulitmate favourite city in China

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A green haven on the Yangtse river.

 

When you look up Chongqing in most guide books they don’t say much about it other than it being the biggest city in China with 32 Million inhabitants, which is not even true. It actually “only” has 8 Million inhabitants itself and the remaining 24 Million live in cities and villages around Chongqing in an area of the size of Austria, who just are responding to the same municipal.

While much can be said about Chongqing’s former party chief Bo Xilai, and he apparently left the city with a great debt, he still had a positive impact on a lot of aspects of life in Chongqing. In his reign he focused of five points:

1) He instructed each neighbourhood to have their own police station, which has the duty to patrol their district regularly. Since this has been put into action, the crime rate is said to have diminished over 50%.

2) He wanted a city of movement, not congestion, so he invested a lot of money into infrastructure. And indeed all the time we were in Chongqing we not once got stuck in traffic (compared to the hours we spent on standstill in the traffic of a lot of other cities in China).

3) He wanted Chongqing to be an economically well situated city and therefore put a lot of time and effort in its promotion as an industry investments and developments.

4) He dreamed of a city in the forest and therewith initiated a grand reforestation of both the city itself and it´s surrounding. Apparently he even launched “The day of the trees”, where all party officials and everyone who thought something of himself had to plant a new tree.

5) He wanted Chongqing to be a city of community, which is why it was important for him to ensure that there was a community space maximum 500meters away from all residential areas for the community to come together.

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Morning at the square of the people. The group in the front of the picture is doing Tai Chi, wheras the group in the back is dancing to modern Chinese pop songs.

The Square of the people in the middle of the city centre of Chongqing is just one example of such a space. I was advised to visit this square twice once in the evening between 7.30pm and 10pm and once between 6.30am and 8am. Both times one can magically immerse in Chinese everyday life. In the evenings young and old come together to play cards, do gymnastics, dance to various types of music (people just bring music player with their favourite songs and start a dancing group), go roller skating or just have a wee picnic while watching the world go by. Anyone can just join in the fun, but be aware as a) all the ichnographies look much easier than done as when the Chinese people do them they probably have already been practicing these moves for a while and b) even once you finally get the moves you will get a lot of laughs and stares being a Westerner in a sea of black hair.

While the morning is not as busy as the evening on the square of the people, it is still packed with people doing Tai Chi, Qui Gong or Kung Fudance. Some dance like in the evening and some jus jog around the square and do other gymnastics. The importance of physical health as base of spiritual and emotional health is much more integrated and accepted in the Chinese way of life than one can see in most Western societies.

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Walking down the main alley of Chongquing´s old town it is easy to get lost…

Another point that fascinated me was that even though the sense of constant progress, which you can feel in a lot of Chinese cities, is apparent here as well, it is paired with a sense of conservation and proud of their Old Town and University district. It is a labyrinth of deep and narrow alleys full of a diverse range of merchants, musicians and street artists.

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Buddha on his way to the Nirvana. This picture shows only the upper body, while the acutal carving goes on for more than ten meters up until the Buddha´s feet.

Furthermore, Chongqing is a mere hour drive away from the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Dazu rock carvings dating from the 9th to the 13th century, which are absolutely amazing. They are said to be the most Chinese of all Buddhist rock carvings in China, including influences of Confucianism and Taoism. They are also home to one of the biggest Buddhas ever carved out of rock in one piece in the world. In the words of UNESCO: “They are remarkable for their aesthetic quality, their rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on everyday life in China during this period.”

What is your ulimate favourite city in China and why?

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16 thoughts on “Chongqing, my ulitmate favourite city in China

  1. sophierose233 on said:

    Great post. I am yet to go to Chongqing – it’s on the list. I recently went to Chengdu and I loved it. It was such a cool city mixed with the old and the new.

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    • Hi Sophie, how was Chengdu? I really wanted to go, but could fit it into the tight itinerary this time… Is there anything uncommonly known you would recommend?

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      • sophierose233 on said:

        Sorry! I just saw this! I loved Chengdu! One of my favourite cities in China by far! Uncommonly known….hmmm not too sure. We had dinner on the roof of the shopping mall which was great and had good views over the city

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  2. I had never heard of Chongqing before – thanks for the introduction. The square sounds like a wonderful lively place and I can understand why it would be your favorite.

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  3. Wow! This is not how I pictured any city in China. I love the reforestation idea.

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    • Hi Lesley, thank you for your comment. The reforestation is something very special in this area as in most others it did not have such an important value than in Congqing. It is definetly worth a visit 🙂

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  4. I haven’t been to China, but it looks like a beautiful place to visit. It’s great that they have implemented reforestation. I can see all the lush, green in your photos.

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    • Hi Dana, yes, China is definetly worth a visit. It is one of the most amazing countries I have ever been to. I am looking forward to hearing your stories once you do. Cheers, Eva

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  5. Wow, what a fascinating place. Sadly Chongqing didn’t even come up while we were in china. It’s a shame it looks lovely.

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  6. Chongqing looks like a lovely city. Big though! 8 million people is a lot, 32 million is just crazy!!! How do you find the air quality there? That is the one thing that worries me about visiting China. I’m a severe asthmatic so am scared the pollution would be a trigger.

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    • Hi there and thank you for your comment. Regarding the air pollution in China, well, we have only seen blue sky twice in three weeks, so I reckon the former has a lot to do with this, yet other than a sand storm in Xian and the forbidden city during the midday heat, I never had any problems breathing. The Chinese government is already very aware of the problems of air pollution and try to do things against it as long as this would not slow down progress and the economy. One thing I found especially curious for example was that mopeds, vespas and motorbikes all had to be elctronic to avoid too much air pollution in the city centres. Also, if you have historically problems with places of lower air quality I would maybe recommend avoiding too much time in big cities and to use a mouth mask in cities, which you can buy there in all forms and colours. China in general, however, is definetly worth a visit or two 🙂

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  7. Bookmarked for our upcoming trip to China! Thanks for uncovering Chongqing. China is so vast that I feel lost trying to plan our travel there!

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  8. my trip through China was mostly a whirlwind but i loved Shanghai. while we sat on the rooftop for dinner and gazed along the shore we saw the historical buildings light up! it was amazing to see the huge skyscrapers on one side and these beautiful old buildings on the other!

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  9. I didn’t know about the UNESCO rock formations. I didn’t go to Chongqing when I was in China, but now that I know about it, and you’ve sold it so well, I’ll have to put it on the list for next time.

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