Chongqing’s Ancient Towns
--Stringing Together Age-old Water and Mountain Pathways
Chongqing is a city of numerous mountains. Since ancient times it has been known as the “City of Mountains.” The Wujiang, Jialing and Yangtze rivers pass through its valleys, braiding together its slopes and waterways into a singular, woven landscape. In the crevices of its landforms, human communities slowly emerged and flourished, coalescing into an array of unique ancient towns, still visible to this day. These settlements draw together the history and culture of Chongqing like a string of fine, glistening pearls.
Along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, the Daba, Wushan, Wuling and Dalou mountain peaks encircle the city of Chongqing, giving force to its title as the “City of Mountains.”
Two million years ago during the early Paleolithic Era, lived China’s earliest people the Wushan Man, occupying present-day Wushan County. Soon after their arrival,
this scenic landscape became a magnet for human civilization, establishing itself as an ancient cultural district.
What was it about Chongqing’s geography that attracted these human settlements? What is the origin of these ancient towns? How did the city evolve into its present-day form? More than just casting off a modern neon glow, a nostalgic look at these towns reveals the city’s truest form.
I have spent the last ten years walking the old paths and stairways of these towns, the details of which I now share with you here, divided up into their cultural and natural divisions as Salt, Shoal, Frontier, Military, Wharf and Relay towns.
Salt Towns, Chongqing’s Point of Origin
In 1994, I followed the Sino-american Three Gorges Salt Enterprise Archaeological Team into the Zhongba Historic Site in Chongqing’s Zhongxian County. This site provided evidence of China’s earliest salt industry.the cultural layer of the site was three meters deep and full of sharp-bottom pottery cups used to cook salts. Experts speculate the site was a professional workshop for manufacturing salt.
A series of boat-shaped tanks used for storing brine were unearthed, as well as kiln pits for firing pottery and the well-arranged foundations of dwellings, giving shape to the silhouette of a settlement of industry and residence.according to historians’
explanations, the Zhongba ruins can be dated to some time between the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600–256 BC), when Zhongba had already laid the foundations for handicraft production and commercial taxation, launching its development as Chongqing’s original settlement.
Salt Town Ningchang Ancient Town Located beside the Small Three Gorges in Wuxi County, Chongqing, Ningchang Ancient Town was one of the earliest regions in China to produce salt, with a 4,000-year history of the salt industry.
It’s not until archaeologists studying Zhongxian County’s salt industry uncovered the development of the Yangtze Three Gorges salt industry, opening up an entirely new chapter in Chinese history, that I finally realized how the evolution of the ancient towns of Chongqing along the river moved in step with the vicissitudes of salt production. Historian Ren Naiqiang believes that during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Period (770–221 BC), the states of Ba (2100–316 BC) and Chu (1400–223 BC), were constantly at war with each other over the salt springs run by the Ba.
Later on, an investigative team and myself followed the Daning River upstream, passing within the limits of Wuxi County. Cliffs towered above the flowing waters, revealing numerous cliff plank paths and hanging coffins. This soaring section of Wushan Mountain gorge in no way appeared to be the ideal location for human dwellings. So why would there be so many traces left of human activity there?
I immediately realized the answer when we made it to the ancient town of Ningchang. From the side of the mountain gushed a massive salt spring.the air was filled with the
scent of brine.ningchang came into being hand-in-hand with a miraculous gift of nature, turning the gorge into series of village dwellings. To one side of the river lay a production and processing district. On the other side is residential zone. A rudimentary bridge spanned theriver, with a salt pipe doubling as a human transport—the most fascinating multi-purpose rope bridge I’d ever laid eyes on.
During primitive periods, before salt wells could be dug, natural salt springs like the one in the State of Ba, were true economic god-sends. Modern geology would describe the phenomenon more technically as a process resulting from a turbulent current exposing deep salt deposits, then forcing them to the surface and ultimately creating a salt spring via underground running water.
Salt Town Yushan Ancient Town When the salt industry was thriving, Yushan was crowded with merchants, as well as lines of industry-related stores. A local is telling us the story of this shop in the town.
Up until the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), the town of Ningchang had served as a source of salt products to nine surrounding counties. Unfortunately, because the settlement was tied to the fate of the salt industry, the once flourishing town faded away, its Salt Taxation Office, Salt God Dragon Temple and other architectural sites almost entirely disappearing. Posterity now relies only on ancient records to imagine the rare splendor of this once bustling settlement. As a rule, though, the town is now coming back to life through the revival of tourism.
After researching the Three Gorges area, I received a committee assignment to go and investigate Yushan Salt Town at the bank of Wujing River. The salt well in Yushan was the same as the one in Ningchang: a salt vein submerged just below the surface, this kind of natural occurring salt spring was referred to as a Feishui (lit. flying water) well. There are other designations as well: monkey, chicken call, and turtle-dove, so named because those particular animals were seen there licking salts.according to their shape and the characteristics of their walls, one also finds wells called Yellow Mud Spring, Skin Bag, and Nanmu (a type of wood).
The history of salt mining in China is truly time-honored; archeologists have found evidence that ancient settlements first settled around them during the Neolithic period.slowly over time, these miraculous salt wells developed into scenic towns.
Shoal Towns, Slumbering on the Waves
The Yangtze, Jialing and Wujiang rivers form the three river water system of Chongqing. The city’s robust water transportation system was its foundation. What’s curious is how these rivers’ shoals ended up constituting a singular part of the history of Chongqing’s ancient towns. Before the waterways were fully managed, a series of sand bars severely obstructed shipping. Transporters required planning to safely make theircrossings—no timing miscalculations could be made.they needed to contact ahead of time boat trackers. Naturally, a number of boating gangs settled near these obstructive shoals, with small dwellings popping up around them. These eventually grew into proper shoal towns hidden in the mountains.
Shoal Town A busy and flourishing water transportation system is the bedrock of Chongqing’s
development, thus making shoal towns along the riverside one distinctive feature of Chongqing’s ancient towns.
Shoal Town Gongtan Ancient Town Originating from the Dalou Mountain in Guizhou, the Wujiang River runs southwestwardly into Chongqing. It forms the beautiful hundred-mile long landscape gallery along its two banks, while giving birth to several dangerous shoals. Gongtan, an ancient town constructed on one of the shoals of Wujiang, became the largest merchandise distribution center of the Sichuan, Chongqing and Guizhou region.
Among these numerous settlements, including Gongtan on the Wujiang River and Songgai and Zhutuo on the Yangtze River stand as the paradigm.gongtan is situated at the crossroads of present-day Pengshui and Youyang counties.in 1573, during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), a massive cave-in on the Wujiang blocked the river, creating a treacherous shoal.this conversely converted Gongtan into Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou’s biggest transportation and distribution center. Up until the Republic of China period (1912–1949), hundreds of boats crowded its waterways.all the residents of Gongtan were involved in either business or shipping.after Hankou in Hubei opened its wharf, the excellent tung oils of the Wuling hills would undergo refining and then be shipped out to England and America.this turned far away Gongtan into a crucial port of international distribution.
Shoal Town Longxi Ancient Town Located deep in the mountains of northeast Chongqing, at the lower reaches of the winding Daning River, Longxi Ancient Town in Wuxi County has the terrain of a miniature peninsula. It is surrounded by mountains and encircled by the slow, calm water of the Daning River, presenting the beautiful scenery of a shoal town.
Shoal Town Longxi Ancient Town The streets of Longxi are paved with slates from the Daning River, which have smoothed by passersby. Black tiles above the buildings across street stretch along, and the whole town, giving off an aura of serenity and peace. Historical sites, such as fortresses from the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Palace of Emperor Yu and Qing Dynasty courtyards still exist.
The architectural features of these shoal towns were very unique. Villagers vied for precious space along the steep slopes of the mountains to build dwellings.at first they would pile up rocks to form narrow terraces and then construct their hanging houses.to expand the buildable territory, they built upwards using T-shaped voidstructure houses. This is the most hair- raising river view home I’d ever seen.staircases wound their way up from below the hanging houses, snaking through the small spaces between them, creating an intricate and stunning maze.
Compared to the dangerous shoals of the Wujiang River, the shoal settlements of the Yangtze are much more relaxed.both Songgai and Zhutuo towns formed a grouping, which from a natural, geographical perspective, sat within a concave bank, a large bend eroded over time.the river formed a circuit there, dark waters churning under a seemingly placid surface.
Shoal Town Xituo Ancient Town Located on the western border of Chongqing, Xituo Ancient Town of Shizhu Tujia Autonomous Countyis a typical salt transportation center. It became an important salt transportation and sales port on the Yangtze River as early as the Tang Dynasty. It was also a starting point of a “thoroughfare of state salt” stretching southwardly to western Hunan.
Shoal Town Xituo Ancient Town This is the main street of Xituo Town. Streets in many other riverside towns are constructed parallel to the river but this is a T-shaped street built perpendicular to the river, ascending along the mountain slope, and is thus hailed as the “cloud stairs street.”
The waterway of Songgai had upper, middle and lower wharfs. Local transportation mainly relies on shipping and land caravans, with over a thousand pack horses and mules transporting goods from neighboring counties passed through the town every day.this gave rise to quite a flourishing stable business, with upwards of 20 different caretakers tending to the animals.the stables were still in use up until 1978, when the nation’s highways were finally constructed.today, only the Water God Temple and a Caravan Museum remain to represent the history of this land-water transportation link.
With improvements made to the waterways, the dangerous shoals slowly disappeared, but not before the shoal towns had already won an iconic place in the city’s memory.
Shoal Town Songgai Ancient Town Songgai Ancient Town is situated at the south end of Yongchuan District, Chongqing. Built on a shoal of the Yangtze River, Songgai once thrived due to its convenient water transportation. Ancient architectural complexes and streets are well preserved here, showcasing a profound and inclusive local culture. Frontier Towns, Gazing upon the Rivulets
The mountain and river districts had no administrative subdivisions. Frontier Towns resided on the border of a few different municipalities, but geographically their largest section all sitting within the Wuling Mountain area.
Wuling was the natural and cultural convergence point for Chongqing, Hunan, Guizhou and Hubei. Topographically, it is located on the edge of the Yunnan-guizhou Plateau. There above the elevated prairies and rolling spines of the mountains, the Wujiang, Yuanjiang, Li and other rivers cut thousands of circuitous gorges. There the Tujia, Miao and Han peoples flourished in the ravines.
Frontier Town In the Wulin Mountainous region, where Chongqing, Hunan and Guizhou border each other, the Hong’an and Qingshui rivers separate several frontier towns. Today, a newly constructed bridge links these towns together.
Frontier Town Qushui Ancient Town Qushui Ancient Town is situated in the Qianjiang District of Chongqing. The Apeng River running across the town, with the Wujiang and Youshui rivers, formed an important water channel for the Three Gorges area and the Jianghan Plain. Above the river, there is a 300 m long covered bridge, which is said to be the longest covered bridge in Asia.
Frontier Town Qushui Ancient Town Qushui Ancient Town has been a key commercial hub since the Yuan and Ming dynasties, because it was an inevitable point on the post, trade and salt road in southeast Sichuan. Today, many old stores were revitalized by booming tourism. Raw lacquers of the Guangshunhao Dye House are even sold to Japan.
In Wuling Mountain area, the Hong’an and Qingshui rivers separated a number of frontier towns. A newly constructed bridge linked them together. In Chongqing the frontier town was called Hong’an Town, and in Hunan the one was known as Chadong Town.
All along the roads in Hong’an were features referred to as fire- extinction tubes (fenghuo tongzi). These were constructed to prevent conflagrations.their structure was distinct, towering a number of meters above the roofs of common residences, an especially effective fire prevention device. If a house caught fire by accident, the flames would climb upwards instead of spreading outward to neighboring structures. Running between these fire-extinction tubes were constructed two-story wooden buildings. These served as the storefronts of the town.
Facing this scene was the frontier town proper, its tiers of hanging houses rising from the river, spiralled upon streets and lanes along the mountain slopes--an enchanting
site for the visitor. A steel cable linked the two shores, which also propelled the movement of ferry boats. When passengers had all climbed aboard, the old boatman would calmly sit down in the cabin and use a log jammed into the metal cable to slowly drag his way across. And then it was back and forth all day.
Frontier Town Longtan Ancient Town The Longtan Ancient Town was reestablished in 1735 (during the Qing Dynasty). Since ancient times, Longtan River, the main river of the town, has been a key channel linking Chongqing with Hubei, Jiangsu and Zhejiang regions. Merchants and purchasers from these areas gathered in Longtan and the whole town was full of stores.
Several well preserved mansions and courtyards of wealthy families remain in the town.
Frontier Town Longtan Ancient Town Benefiting from the convenient location and good transportation, many officials and wealthy merchants resided in Longtan Ancient Town. In the town, there are spiritual shrines in places such as the Palace of Emperor Xuanyuan and the Palace of Emperor Yu. There are also many traditional Jiangsu and Zhejiang style constructions and the town has become a museum of ancient Chongqing architectural treasures.
Frontier Town Longtan Ancient Town The Longtan River flows through Longtan Ancient Town and was once an important
waterway. Today, the three existing wharfs of the town are no longer used for traffic and transportation - they have become places for people to wash clothes or fetch water.
Frontier Town Longtan Ancient Town In Longtan, flowing spring water from the mountain provides a high-quality water supply for local residents.
As for me, looking for these frontier towns was a moving process that felt a lot like a child searching for the life track of his mother. My grandfather was a famous country gentleman of Xiushan County in Wuling Mountains. When my mother was still young, my grandfather sent her away to Longtan Town in Youyang County for her studies.every month, he’d send sedan bearers to go and pick her up. The trip was 7 hours one way.the whole thing seemed bizarre to me. Why would he want to send my mother so far away to study?
Longtan Ancient Town was built on the shores of the Longtan River, a waterway that conveniently flowed directly into the Yuanjiang River and Dongting Lake. The town was a key inland commercial port. Merchants and officials arriving from all directions no doubt prized humanistic culture and education.in 1740, during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Longtan established the Longchi Academy. In 1907, during the reign of the Guangxu Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the academy was converted into a public school. In 1939, the middle school doubled as a normal university with close to 5000 students.in the remote Wuling area, this was definitely a grand undertaking.
Longtan still preserves its original commercial features. Its nine wharfs built during the Qing Dynasty, are arrayed along the river in single file.near the market, merchants established hometown guild halls for the Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Fujian
communities. The town was full of temples of various kinds supported by every trade and guild. In times of to live relying on nature, people could only appeal to their personal gods residing in their hearts for protection. Every residence of the town bore witness to the town’s history, but now only tourists come and go through empty doorways leaving just the traces of their footprints.
Frontier Town Hong’an Ancient Town Located in the southeast of Xiushan Tujia & Miao Autonomous County, Chongqing, Hong’an Ancient Town is a frontier town and Chadong Town of Hunan stands across the river.
Frontier Town Hong’an Ancient Town Wooden hanging corridors stand in a line along the riverbank of Hong’an Town.
There are a number of other frontier towns scattered through the Wuling Mountain area, but their names have almost all slipped from memory. These towns all embody the primitive and pristine beauty of the region: Xiushan Mountain’s Shidi Ancient Town, Youyang County’s Houxi Ancient Town, Pengshui County’s Huangjiaba Ancient Town. Their hanging dwellings display the architectural spirit of spiritual mountains, but also recall a feeling of mature comfort.
Garrison Towns, Rooks Between the Rivers and Peaks
During warfare, the fortification and defense of towns became their primary goal. In Chongqing, besides the famed Diaoyu Fortress in Hechuan District (In 1259, a 36-year fight to the death took place in the Hechuan Diaoyu Fortress between the Southern Song court and the Mongol forces, a conflict of preeminent significance in Chinese history), a number of other settlements underwent extensive metamorphosis into garrison towns. Laitan, some 42 kilometers northeast of Hechuan, was one of them.
Garrison Town To a great extent, the personality of a city originates from its geographical environment. Located among huge mountains and flowing waters, the ancient towns of Chongqing never lack “testosterone.” For instance, garrison towns established during war times still convey tales of chaos and flames.
Garrison Town Laitan Ancient Town Located in the northeastern Hechuan District, Chongqing, Laitai Ancient Town consists of three main streets. Well-arranged ancient buildings flank each street, with wooden structures and black tiles, instilling a sense of peace and warmth.
Garrison Town Laitan Ancient Town Constructed in 1862 (during the Qing Dynasty), the barbican of Laitan Ancient Town is the only intact military defense fortress in Chongqing. A barbican is a military structure that helps defenders lure, siege and annihilate the enemy. This is the interior of the barbican in Laitan.
Garrison Town Laitan Ancient Town The façade of the Laitan barbican.
Laitan was established in the Song Dynasty. During the Qing it morphed into a defensive fortress against banditry.as an outpost designed specifically to resist
invasion, the town was constructed atop Lingjiu Peak, which is more than 80 meters above the Qujiang River, a tributary of the Jialing.it was protected on three sides--east, south and north--by steep cliffs. Only to its west, where a flat plain extended outward, was the town exposed.
Three gates led into the city. Its southeastern Dongshui (East Water) Gate and eastern Xiaozhai (Small Stockade) Gate were constructed to be easy to defend and difficult to assail.the Western Dazhai (Large Stockade) Gate was placed above a flat plain. A barbican was added to further reinforce and tighten city defenses.the presence of the barbican outside the frontier garrison town was absolutely unique. Its fanning shape was a departure from the standard. Four wall entrances in the shape of crosses were constructed, secreting troops and weaponry in holdings behind the wall.there was a covered corridor atop the barbican, achieving a singularly effective defense, but also presenting an awe-inspiring image.
Garrison Town Yuelai Ancient Town Yuelai Ancient Town was of strategic military importance and suffered appalling banditry over the course of its history; thus, a large number of imposing watchtowers were set up by wealthy families of the town. This abandoned watchtower is now a livestock shelter.
Garrison Town Yuelai Ancient Town The mansion next to this watchtower is long gone and locals have turned the whole area into farmland. A peasant is picking potatoes in the field.
Garrison Town Yuelai Ancient Town This is the interior of a watchtower in Yuelai. Lights shine through the square-shaped firing holes.
While passing through Laitan’s city defenses, squeezing down its narrow alleys, there is a striking sense of being within a Buddhist world.huilong and Erfou temples are the town’s two most important sites.huilong rests at the heart of the settlement, with Erfo sitting high atop Lingju Peak, a sacred site to Siddartha in India Buddhism.these two religious sites protected the inhabitants and preserved the city from being destroyed in warfare. When wars stopped, incense in the temples would rise and the population paused to offer their devotion.
It’s impossible that such town could mimic a premier level governmental structure on the scale of a capital city.however, the ancient towns of Chongqing did serve their function as deterrents to invasion, inventing ever more ingenious methods to solve issues of defense and development. The Longxing Ancient Town in Chongqing’s Yubei District is a classic example. During the town’s long history from the Song to the Ming, Longxing underwent a number of upheavals, throwing its inhabitants into a perpetual state of unease.afterward, the town chose to locate to a level location tucked in between high topographical features, a city surrounded by natural defenses. Five other large towns encircled it: Yulin, Tianbao, Shichuan, Fusheng and Guanxing, making Longxing “a central-peripheral” settlement.
Longxing Town’s roads were laid out in a manner that constituted an inherent circular defense; a gauntlet of inspection stations prevented outsiders from breaking through, doors at every node of the fenced opening and closing at set times, forming a complex multi-layered defense system. During times of war, the highest military garrisons became the last resort and protection. The keep had an impregnable moat within it, as
well as high stepped walls, and water and food reserves, as well as ancestral shrines.it was a comprehensive settlement unto itself. A siege would not disrupt its ability to meet the needs of the enclosed population.
Garrison Town Diaoyu Fortress Situated on the south bank of Jianglin River, and the Hechuan District of Chongqing, the Diaoyu Fortress was a key military town in defending the Southern Song Dynasty against the Mongolians. This is a city gate of the Diaoyu Fortress.
Garrison Town Diaoyu Fortress This is the city wall of the Diaoyu Fortress, out of which flows the Jianglin River. With one side being backed by the mountains and the other three surrounded by water, the naturally advantageous terrain of Diaoyu helped the Southern Song withstand the invincible Mongolian army.
The craftsmanship and boldness of garrison towns’ engineering is a marvelous thing. It inspires in me the same kind of awe experienced at the Acropolis.though the analogy is a bit uneven, Longxing’s garrison echoes the Greek site’s combination of functional defense, gathering, and worship. In spirit, the sites are kin. Wharf Towns, All-inclusive Locations
Unrolling a map of Chongqing reveals immediately the imposing presence of mountain ranges, riverways and local cultures constitute three main forces. In the northeast down from the Yangtze River and Wushan Mountain, the city links up to Ba and Chu culture in the west.in the southeast the Wujiang River and Wuling Mountain form the arm of Tujia and Miao minority cultures. In the west through the Huaying Mountains and Jialing River, it connects Shu (Sichuan) and Central Plains civilizations.
Wharf Town Chongqing is a region where people from all walks of life gather. Waves of people and a flow of goods flock to numerous wharfs on riverbanks and overland past houses in Chongqing.
Wharf Town Baisha Ancient Town
Located in southwest Jiangjin District, Chongqing, Baisha Ancient Town has a large population of 150,000. It also has a long history as it has been a human settlement since the Han Dynasty, and wascounty seat for several dynasties. With an advantageous location beside the Yangtze River and ample workforce, it is not hard to imagine the prosperous times of Baisha.
Wharf Town Baisha Ancient Town Modern railways and highways have divided much of the volume of traditional shipping. Without stops by large freighters, people in this time-honored wharf town are still accustomed to purchase commodities and go to fairs. On fair day, many people from neighboring areas come to Baisha by ferry.
It was Chongqing’s intricate water and land traffic system that eventually made it the convergence of multiple cultures. The city has a number of river wharfs, but it also needs to be remembered that it contained many overland courier stations as well. These water and land routes received a near constant flow of peoples and goods. Anjü, Ciqikou, Tanghe, Shima and other ancient towns were located along the main thoroughfares of Sichuan, Chongqing and Guizhou.the sheer numbers of horses and merchants transiting through the area caused these sites to form into outposts.
Anjü Ancient Town in the Tongliang District of Chongqing was a transportation hub from ancient times.the Qiongjiang River was a branch tributary of the Fujiang within its borders.traveling northwards up the current led one to northern Sichuan, following the current downstream would lead one to the the Jialing River, and finally on to the Yangtze. This route was once teeming with skiffs. Merchants swarmed here like ants. Soldiers also used the Fujiang River as a site for their fortifications and encampments.
Wharf Town Shima Ancient Town Shima Ancient Town is the first port as the Yangtze River enters Chongqing, thriving due to water transportation. Besides the shipping business on its wharfs, Shima is also a major local producer of grain and livestock, hailed as the “barn of Jiangjin.” (Jiangjin is a district of Chongqing.)
Wharf Town Shima Ancient Town With a history of five hundred years, Shima has retained most of its historical constructions. Among those buildings, the Qingyuan Palace is the most representative and best preserved, bearing distinctive characteristics of classic Ming and Qing dynasty architecture.
Because Chongqing and Hubei were geographical neighbors, during the late Ming and early Qing periods, floods of refugees from Guangxi, Jiangxi, and Fujian burst into Sichuan. The ancient towns became the first stop for a number of these immigrants. These torrents of people deposited memories of their homeland into the social guilds of the towns,keeping nostalgia and provincial sentiments alive. They also used them to protect the interests of fellow regional businessmen. Anjü, Shuangjiang, Wanling and a number of other ancient towns all erected large-scale guild halls. The guilds in Anjü were quite distinguished: the Hubei and Guangxi guilds were located on the southern edge of the town sharing its eastern wall with the Matzu Temple and its western edge with the Dizhu Palace.over the years, these exclusive communities melded into a hybrid population with new shared sentiments.
Provincial guild halls were the bedrock of maintaining one’s hometown identity.the ancestral hall served to graft oneself into their ancestral tree. The ancestral halls in these ancient towns were always the spiritual heart of the town.
In Tongnan District, Shuangjiang Town drew its name from the two rivers, the Fuxi and Houxi, that wound themselves around it like a jade belt. The town was first
known as the Yangjiachang (Yang Family Ground). The Yang clan had originally migrated to the area in 1699 during the 38th year reign of the Kangxi Emperor of Qing Dynasty. Their illustrious rise began small as a purchase to reclaim fields of several dozen acres. Following centuries of great change, the Yang family courtyard is still as vast as it once was.
Wharf Town Tanghe Ancient Town With an area of 2.8 hectares, the old block of Tanghe Ancient Town was constructed upward along the mountain. Different styles of ancient architecture since the Ming and Qing dynasties line up along the slope, covering more than 15,000 square meters.
These are traditional Chongqing style, Huizhou style and even China-western style constructions, showcasing the diverse and all-embracing cultural root of Tanghe
Wharf Town Tanghe Ancient Town This is the façade of the Qingyuan Temple, an imposing structure standing at the highest point of the entire Tanghe Town. Constructed in 1887 (during the Qing Dynasty), it was called Qingyuan Palace before turning into the temple we see today.
The ancient towns are no rustic plots sealed off from the world. One small section of their land harbors a heroic spirit, such as the Zhongshan Town in Chongqing’s Jiangjin District.along the north-south axes, two rows of old buildings line up on the banks of the river.the hanging houses and the column-and-tie style buildings across the street set each other off perfectly. Their architecture is inlaid into the landscape like decorated tile, to be admired from afar or even enjoyed on foot. The most exquisite feature of the buildings is their use of the distinctive saddle-veranda, referred to by locals as “street-crossing halls.”
Zouma Ancient Town is located in the Jiulongpo District of Chongqing, at the border of Bishan and Jiangjin districts.it was once an important trading post of both Chengdu and Chongqing. Its most iconic features are not its streets, but its legendary tales of the wild. In the past, the loose chatter of travelling merchants mixed with the culture of the locals producing the folk art of Zouma. Temples and entertainment houses line up along the 400 m long central street of Zouma Town, including the Guanwu Temple, Opera Stage, Temple of King of Yu. It is said there were more than a dozen of theaters on the street during the peak of the town.
Wharf Town Ciqikou Ancient Town
Located on the bank of the Jianglin River in the Shapingpa District, Chongqing, Ciqikou Ancient Town began to take shape during the Song Dynasty. During the War of Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression, Ciqikou became the distributing center of produce for the middle and upper reaches of the Jialing River, when Chongqing became the war-time capital of China. Today, the town is still an important water and land port of Chongqing. Relay Towns, Both Good and Evil Realms of Fantasy
The nature of Chongqing ancient towns’ disposition, is infinitely more complicated than we imagine ancient towns to be. Many of these towns possess multiply features at the same time. For example, Anjü Ancient Town in the Tongliang District of Chongqing, was both a wharf and a relay town.the town draws its prevalent water culture from its reliance on the Fujiang River. On the other hand, because of its location on the main southern thoroughfare of Sichuan and Chongqing, it became a relay town, a station for military encampments and a busy market for hundreds of merchants.
Before reaching Anjü, I had heard that about the town’s supposed Whampoa Military Academy. I had my suspicions. I thought it was just another ploy by a local government to fabricate a historical anecdote in order to drum up more tourism. But upon entering the town, I indeed saw the institute.the front gate was painted with white stripes in a European fashion, creating a marked contrast with the pseudo-classical architecture flanking it. A Chinese-style memorial arch was colored in a rarely seen blueish-white color, matched to the official Kuomintang of China (KMT) flag.the original site of the academy had already basically been dismantled, the military equipment removed for display.
Relay Town The characteristics of Chongqing’s ancient towns are more complex than the categories we currently have. An ancient town usually possessed multiple features. For example, Anjü Ancient Town in Tongliang District, Chongqing, is both a wharf town and a relay town.
Relay Town Fengsheng Ancient Town Located at the junction of Ba’nan, Fulin and Nanchuan districts of Chongqing, in Fengsheng Ancient Town is bountiful, and trade of goods, including rice, ginger and tea, made the town prosperous.
Relay Town Fengsheng Ancient Town
This is the crossroad at Fengsheng, formed by east-west and north-south streets. It was the most prosperous bustling business street in the town, teeming with overnight stores and inns.
In 1938, the KMT hastened a retreat inland from Nanjing, commanded to flee to the western region of China. Training of soldiers continued as the KMT beat a bath westward to the Tongliang District of Chongqing where Anjü was located.anjü’s Military Officer Academy would go on to train the 14th class of Whampoa graduates. Approximately 6500 of them returned to the front lines to fight the Japanese during the War of Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression. During these three years till the Whampoa then moved to Chengdu in 1942, thousands of students camped inside the Chuanzhu Temple, Lianxi Ancestral Hall and Confucian Temple in the town.the soldiers quartered in these religious sites held fast to their faith in dedicating themselves to their fatherland.
The significance of the academy’s move here extended beyond mere military purposes. It had much also to do with the topography and history of Anjü.the ancient town used a mountain as its city wall, looking out over Chongqing, with the Fujiang, the Qiongjiang and Wumu rivers surrounded on its three sides.the town was likewise stocked with generals, historically having produced a phalanx of talented figures
Banan District’s Fengsheng Ancient Town was a major relay post opens up toward Chongqing’s southeastern Fuling and Nanchuan districts and Guizhou. Since the Ming and Qing dynasties, Guangdong, Jiangxi, Hubei, eastern Sichuan and other peoples widely gathered there. People refer to Banan as the first dry wharf there.
Relay Town Anjü Ancient Town As a human settlement, Anju has a history of more than 4,000 years. During the Southern Dynasty (420–589 AD), Anjü Town was established and become a key town in north Chongqing.
Relay Town Anjü Ancient Town This is the former school site of the 14th term of the Republic of China (R.O.C.) Military Academy. In 1938, after the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression began, the government of Republican China began a large scale retreat from Nanjing to western China. During the withdrawal, the R.O.C. Military Academy was temporarily relocated in Anju.
When a trading center is established, factions and gangs soon appear amongst the controlling industries. The members of a brotherhood, named as paoge and with a gang hue were a frequent reality here. These secret societies were both good and bad, entangling themselves in the affairs of merchant groups and the common people, but also resolving situations among folks.
At the very center of Fengsheng’s crossroads were the gangster social halls with the names of “humane” (仁, rén), “virtue” (德, dé), and “etiquette” (礼, lǐ). When the
secret societies would be negotiating local disputes, it was custom to flaunt the “humane” character when being lenient, “virtue” when convincing, and “ritual” when offering respect to another. As a matter of fact, though, situations would often turn confused and violent, blood running in the streets. The Renshou Teahouse was the gangsters’ official hall of business. If someone had a problem they could go there to “talk and chat.” It became rather like the local courthouse.
Culture Town Located in Beibei District, Chongqing, Jingangbei Ancient Town is situated between the Jinyun Mountain and the Jialing River. Constructed during the Qing Dynasty, the town has a history of more than 300 years. It was a gathering place for celebrities from various cultural circles.
As a result, the life of the squires in other ancient towns was noticeably absent in Fengsheng. Fengsheng’s squires were those capable of both literary and martial feats. The owner of the Shiquantang store, Liu Zhushan, was the town’s richest resident at the beginning of the Republican period. His main residence was within a natural garden surrounded by pavilions. To contrast the exquisite wood craftsmanship of his home, a six-tiered rock tower was constructed. The building had a stone staircase and slit- windows for watching and shooting. It enjoyed one of the town’s most commanding height points.
Among the myriad versions of ancient towns in China, and those most scenic and mysterious, Chongqing enjoys a superlative reputation. The Ba peoples first founded their settlements on salt, then through scattered wharfs and relay posts and immigration fashioned them into merchant towns, only to finally move them into the realm of fantasy, where pride and patriotism flourished.