Chongqing is unique in many ways. The largest rural city in China and one of the few megacities far from the coast has a peculiar location. Indeed, Chongqing is the only big city in China built on steep terrain, with the wild Yangtze River meandering around. Besides, foreign influences are hard to find in Chongqing, though it was the first inland city to open to international trade. Strangely enough, ancient Chinese sites are scarce too. Honestly speaking, it is an enormous city full of tall grey buildings. However, the following 10 interesting facts about Chongqing loom beneath the surface.
01 Chongqing Is China’s Third Largest City
The population within the urban area of Chongqing is the third largest in China, trailing Shanghai and Beijing. According to the latest census, some 8.9 million people lived in Chongqing in 2010. The census also revealed that the population inside Chongqing’s administrative area was 12.1 million. In the past ten years, the city grew tremendously and is now the home of some 15.8 million people. That is, way ahead of Tianjin and Guangzhou. Since it doesn’t belong to any province or autonomous region, Chongqing is under direct control from the central government. In total, some 30.5 million people live in the municipality.
02 Its Name Means Double Celebration
Throughout its history, Chongqing has changed its name several times. Its first known name, Jiangzhou, means River State. Song Emperor Guangzong (personal name Zhao Dun) gave the settlement its current name in 1189. He wanted to commemorate his ascension to the throne as a prince and then emperor. Thus, we had two celebrations! Unfortunately, the celebrations didn’t last long. His reign only lasted five years. Not only that, but it seems his wife, Empress Li Fengniang, ruled the state. Due to the latter, he was known as the Henpecked Weakling.
03 Chongqing Was the National Capital
Chongqing’s history goes back to the 13th century BC when it was the capital of the Ba Kingdom. Due to its privileged location on the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, it was an important trading post for centuries. In fact, it was the capital of two short-lived kingdoms, Daxia and Daliang. Nevertheless, the city grabbed the world’s attention in 1937. Chiang Kai Shek established Chongqing as the provisional capital of the Republic of China. It remained as such until the Second Sino-Japanese War ended in 1945. During that time many factories moved from East China to Chongqing.
04 The City Center Is on a Peninsula
Chongqing’s unusual skyline is due to its unique location. Chongqing’s city center sits in the middle of a narrow peninsula surrounded by the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers. Most of the city’s highlights are in the center, including the two main pedestrian areas. The epicenter of the city is Jiefangbei Square. One could say that the area around the People’s Liberation Monument, commemorating the victory over Japan, is Chongqing’s Times Square. The city’s tallest skyscrapers surround this busy pedestrian area. Another fascinating place is the Chongqing People’s Square. The Great Hall of the People and the Three Gorges Museum preside over the square. The former was built in 1950 to host important people, while the latter showcases the best art in Chongqing.
05 Chongqing Has Historical Sites
Though Chongqing’s modern appearance is undeniable, the city has interesting historical sites. The Huguang Assembly Hall is an 18th-century guildhall in the city center, not far from the main square. The compound includes pavilions, courtyards, ceremonial halls, and theaters. The Huayan Temple southwest of the city center is known for its golden Buddha and an annual boat festival. Besides, the ancient town of Ciqikou sits on the shores of Jialing River, to the east of the center. The Song Dynasty built the original city at the beginning of the 11th Century. It remained an important port for quite a long time. Several traditional houses, teashops, and small theaters have survived until today.
06 Chongqing’s Architecture Is Modern
Since Chongqing flourished after World War II, most of its architecture is new. In fact, almost all of its residents live in post-war buildings. The city grew rapidly at the end of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, most buildings from that period are not that interesting. Things changed this century. The Grand Theater of Chongqing came to be in 2009. This jewel has an impressive façade entirely made of glass. Locals come at night to see the impressive building illuminate. The oddly shaped Guotai Arts Center from 2013 is fantastic. Traditional Chinese Bayu culture inspired the roof’s black rods, while the warmth of Chongqing’s residents, the red rods.
07 Traditional Architecture Inspired Its Main Landmark
Without a doubt, Chongqing’s most famous attraction is the Hongya Cave, a massive building south of the Jialing River. In the early years of the Ming Dynasty, Chongqing had 17 city gates. One was Hongya Gate, next to the cave by the same name. Modern-day Hongya Cave opened in 2006. The complex, inspired by the stilted houses of the Bayu people, is a popular dining destination. Everything was done to look old and traditional, including a road, a bridge, and a waterfall. Locals flock to its 11 floors to try food from all over the country. The building shines at night with impressive light fixtures.
08 Chongqing Has Wonderful Parks
Chongqing might look like a giant concrete jungle, but there are some outstanding parks to escape to. Lovely Eling Park is in the center. The 100-year-old park is on a hill in the narrowest part of the peninsula. As you can imagine, the views from the park are wonderful. Local’s flock to its lake, covered bridge, and newly built viewing platform. The Nanshan Botanical Garden is also in the city center. It is famed for its large Camellia garden. The Chongqing Garden Expo Park is further away, but much bigger. The park’s gardens represent different Chinese regions.
09 Outstanding Sites Surround the City
Everybody in China knows Chongqing’s incredible countryside. The Dazu Rock Carvings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is only 100 kilometers to the west of the city. The cave has over 10000 carvings dating back to the 9th to 13th Centuries and blending Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Some 170 km down the Yangtze River lies Fengdu Ghost City. Temples dedicated to the afterlife pack this 2000-year-old site. Amongst the incredible nature that surrounds Chongqing, the Three Natural Bridges area is the prettiest. We are talking about three natural limestone bridges over the Yangshui River.
10 Chongqing Metro Has a Station In a Residential Building
Chongqing Metro is one of the largest rapid transit systems in China. Since the city’s terrain is so steep, two lines were built above ground, like a monorail. Its oldest line, metro line No. 2, is especially scenic. One of its stations is in a residential building. Contrary to what people believe, the Liziba Station and the residential building were built at the same time. The station occupies from the sixth to the eighth floor of a 19 story residential building. State of the art noise reduction technology allows residents to live on top of the metro.