Second of four-part series on China trip
WARMER weather greeted us on our arrival in Chongqing after about an hour and a half journey by train from Chengdu on the sixth day of our study tour of China.
Chongqing was formerly a sub-provincial city under the administration of Sichuan Province from 1954.
It was separated from the Province in 1997 to become one of China’s fourth municipalities under the direct administration of the central government after Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin.
After being incorporated into the fold of municipality, its land area greatly expanded. The population rose to over 32 million and development of the city continued at a steady pace.
The creation of the municipality is said to be part of China’s efforts to develop the western region and merge Chongqing with neighbouring Fuling, Wanxian and Qianjiang for a single division of Chongqing municipality.
Chongqing is blanketed by fog all year long — hence its moniker Wu Du or ‘the Fog Capital’.
Although the city sees less sunshine, it has oppressively humid summer weather and is dubbed one of the Three Furnaces of Yangtze River Alley along with Wuhan and Nanjing.
As we explored the central part of Chongqing, also called the New Chongqing, the unique features of the municipality showed how different it is from Chengdu.
Built on mountainous terrain, and partially surrounded by the Yangtze and the Jialing River, the city proves vibrantly different in its own way — with captivating scenery of mountains and rivers.
The first tourist spot we visited there was the famous Porcelain Port (or Ci Qi Kou). The ancient village, formerly known as Long Yin, dates back more than 1,700 years when it was famed for porcelain production during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368- 1911).
Situated on the bank of the Jia Ling River, the village which prospered from its porcelain industry, was renamed Ci Qi Kou or Porcelain Port.
Today, it’s a famous tourist destination with various tea bars, artist studios, embroidery workshops and eateries that attract thousands of visitors every day.
The People’s Liberation Monument CBD (Commercial Building Disclosure) Pedestrian Street — or Jiefangbei CBD Pedestrian Street — was the second landmark we visited.
As the busiest and most prosperous business district, the CBD is the core of Chongqing’s economy.
According to Xie Feng, our tour guide, the place is also called ‘Little Hong Kong’ as its cityscape of skyscrapers bears a close resemblance to that of the Pearl of the Orient.
Undoubtedly, tourism has become the driver of Chongqing’s economy — thanks to social media.
Xie explained a lot of attractions in Chongqing, including Ci Qi Kou and the People’s Liberation Monument CBD Pedestrian Street, became very popular after the Chinese media shot videos to promote them on the Net.
The YangTze River Cableway is also a tourist spot, made famous through the social network, attracting thousands of domestic and foreign tourists every day.
Operational in 1987, the Cableway was initially used to increase transport efficiency between Yuzhong and Nan’an Districts in Chongqing. Now it’s mainly used for tourism and time-saving crossing of the Yangtze.
Wulong scenic spot
If you were a fan of the blockbuster movie, Transformer, you would probably have observed in the fourth sequel — Transformer 4: Age of Extinction — that the background of one part of the fighting scenes looked rather familiar — like that of The Karst Bridges.
Indeed, the Wulong Karsts, a popular tourist spot, has been featured in many China-produced and international movies.
Located in the Wulong National Geology Park, about 139km from Chongqing city, the Wulong Karsts is rated an AAAAA (5A) scenic area, boasting ‘world class tourism quality’.
The Wulong Karsts is divided into two parts — Three Natural Bridges and Long Shui Gorge Gap.
The former is made of three natural limestone bridges — Tian Long Bridge, Qing Long Bridge and Hei Long Bridge, all named after dragons.
The first bridge, Tian Long (Sky Dragon) Bridge, is about 235m (771 feet) high, 147m (428 feet) wide and spans 34m (112 feet). It has a double arch.
The second bridge, the Qing Long (Azure Dragon) Bridge is 281m (922 feet) high, 124m (407 feet) wide and spans 31m (102 feet).
And the third bridge — the Hei Long (Black Dragon) Bridge is 223m (732 feet) high, 193m (633 feet) wide and spans 28m (92 feet).
The Tian Long Bridge is well-known in mainland China and around the world. It has been featured over and over again in many of Chinese film director Zhang Yimou’s action movies.
Our visit to Wulong’s scenic spots concluded at the Long Shui Gorge Gap, a continuation of the Karsts Bridges. While there, we were told to gulp in lungfuls of the fresh air as the Karsts is called the ‘lung-cleanser’. The spring water-flow in the Karsts is said to produce a great amount of oxygen.
Yichang, a sub-provincial city of Hubei, about four hours from Chongqing by train, is one of the 260 smaller cities in China with a population of slightly over one million.
Unlike the other bigger Chinese cities, well-known among international visitors, Yichang has evolved from an ancient city and gone through many changes, fuelled by political disputes and wars.
Starting in the 1950’s, Yichang had experienced rapid industrial growth such as in machinery and building materials, among others, to become the economic centre of south western Hubei.
However, due to subsequent downturns in the economy and related factors, industrial growth came to a standstill, disrupting the development of Yichang.
Between the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Gezhouba Dam, a key water-control facility and a large hydro-electric power station on the Yangtze, was built and it continues to serve as China’s largest hydro-electric facility until the completion of the Three Gorges Dam.
Tourism has breathed new life into Yichang’s economy. As the eastern gateway to the Three Gorges Dam, the city is flourishing as a tourist attraction, receiving thousands of visitors every month.
During our visit, we were first brought to the Tanziling Ridge, 262.48m (about 862 feet) above sea level, with a breath-taking panoramic view of the Three Gorges Dam.
Then, we went on a four-hour boat cruise from Huang Ling Temple Port, along the Yangtze, to the Three Gorges Dam for a close-up look at its operation.
To reform its economy, Yichang was gazetted in April last year as a Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in Hubei Province, focusing on developing advanced manufacturing, bio-medicine, electronic information, new materials, e-commerce and hi-tech and other modern service industries.
Other industries in Yichang are food and beverage and cultural tourism.