Chongqing in Brief

Standing at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze rivers, Chongqing is known as "the City of Fog", "the Mountain City", and "the River Town" as well. Surrounded by mountains, the city is hot and rainy in summer, so it is sometimes called "the Furnaces". Even the megacity of Chongqing may not be tops on most itineraries, but this economic hotspot—millions have poured in from the countryside in recent years to get in on the boom times—is well worth the visit if you want to see what the "real China" is up to in the 21st century.


With well over 30 million inhabitants, Chongqing, one of China's four provincial-level municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin are the others) is all about building the prosperous and modern nation that generations of Chinese have aspired to. It can be a dirty, raucous affair—construction dust and noise are primary features of today's Chongqing landscape—but the hope and energy in the air can be almost as palpable as the strong smell of Chongqing's dominant spicy Sichuanese cuisine and diesel exhaust.


The "Mountain City" lies at the intersection of the Yangzi and Jialing rivers and, surprisingly for a city so far inland, is a major port, having long played the role of a transfer point for Sichuan's agricultural riches (and more recently its prodigious industrial output) en route downriver to eastern China. This has given rise to the city's notorious dockside culture—blamed for everything from swearing to the creation of hot pot—make for a lively spectacle.


Take a few hours to wander down to the Chaotianmen Docks for some street noodles and to take in the colorful comings and goings along the wide river's banks, crowded with massive cargo vessels. Climb back up the steep hills—or cheat and head up on the funicular rail—and explore the remaining parts of Ciqukou Ancient Town with its narrow streets and picturesque buildings (wartime bombing and recent construction have left little of Old Chongqing). There are plenty of attractions in and around Chongqing's urban core, but it seems you always come back to the Yangzi, which provides the best way to move on from Chongqing, via a cruise down to the Three Gorges.



Now home to a population of over 2 million, stone tools excavated in the area provide evidence of human settlement in Chongqing since 1000 BC. Once called "Gongzhou", the city was renamed "Chongqing" in 1190 by Emperor Zhaodan (which means "double happiness"). Double happiness has hardly defined Chongqing's long tradition of being a stronghold against hostile powers—from a 36 year long defense against invading Mongols to the Japanese invasion.


Once part of Sichuan province, industrialization began in 1928 when Chongqing opened as a treaty port. But it was not until after 1938 when Chongqing became China's war time capital that the city really took off economically. In the present day, the city is deeply influenced by its relationship and proximity to the Three Gorges Dam both for tourism and the inexpensive electricity provided by the dam. Cruising up the Three Gorges is high on the tourist hit list for visitors to China. The city is famous for its heavy fog which was used as a tool of protection during World War II. Due to the great amounts of coal burning without any controls on pollution, air pollution is a large problem.



Chongqing has a semi-tropical climate with two-seasonal monsoon variations. Compared to other parts of China, Chongqing's climate is relatively mild with an annual average temperature of 18°C. Nearly 1200 total hours of sunshine and roughly 45 inches of rain are seen each year. The summers are uncomfortably hot, humid and sticky.

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