At dusk, the mountainous city of Wanzhou was lit up like a huge, glowing lantern.
Seen from ships in the nearby Yangtze River, the city in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality appears dreamy and mysterious as it is enveloped in misty air and drifting dust from the ruins of its old urban center, where demolition work has still to be completed.
Since October, workers have been tearing down most bustling and prosperous part -- the southern half of 1,900-year-old Wanzhou -- to make way for the Three Gorges reservoir.
The city will be submerged underwater next June when the water level of the Yangtze River's Wanzhou section reaches a height of 175.1 meters.
But, before the water comes, the old urban center has been busy and crowded as usual, both day and night.
Wanzhou is the second-largest city in Chongqing Municipality. As early as in the first few decades of the 20th century, Wanzhou (once called Wanxian) was an important port city for both Chinese and foreign cargo ships and a major distribution center for industrial and agricultural products in the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River.
Now it is being reborn to become the largest new development zone for immigrants withdrawing from the Three Gorges reservoir area.
Overall, 250,000 people, including 50,000 farmers, have been relocated over the past 10 years to avoid soil erosion and to retain a sound ecological system in the reservoir area.
Local residents have ambivalent feelings about the changes in the city.
Many regret the vanishing of the old city center, which boasted many time-honored bridges, elegant residential buildings of different periods, and rich local culture.
Many locals, both city dwellers and farmers, once hesitated to abandon their small, old houses and move northward to their bigger, more comfortable new homes.
"We have so many indelible memories of the old city center," said 71 year-old Wan Benliang, a local photographer who took more than 30,000 pictures of the old city center before it was destroyed.
But they, too, marvel at the rise of a new city center that offers improved infrastructure and is still undergoing massive construction work, to the north of the old city center.
So far, at least 10 square kilometers of the development zone for immigrants has been constructed, using combined funding of about 2.1 billion yuan (US$253 million) from the local and central governments.
Tan Hongbin, an official with the Wanzhou Resettlement Bureau, said: "The rising reservoir has brought great losses to Wanzhou but also great opportunities at the same time."
(China Daily November 21, 2002)