Chongqing revisited through my lens

By Bruce Connolly
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, April 18, 2017
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The staircase streets and tramways down to the former piers along the Jialingjiang have gone - the very streets I photographed in 1994 are preserved only as images and diary notes.

'Modern apartments are gradually replacing the more traditional riverside areas but it is still possible to find tiny wooden, bamboo or stone dwellings clinging tightly to the steep, winding staircase streets. Commerce thrives with small guesthouses, shops supplying essentials for river travellers; repairmen who seemingly can fix anything; entertainers performing for a few kuai! Constant streams of porters, 'bang-bang' men, carry a plethora of goods suspended from bamboo shoulder poles uphill from river boats past compact food stalls and teahouses where locals sit for hours playing board games in the hot, humid air rich with the aroma of spices. These make useful resting places on the climb to witness a way of life increasingly disappearing in modern China'. ( Bruce Connolly 1994)

River boat at Chaotianmen 1994. (Photo taken by Bruce Connolly)


River boat at Chaotianmen 2017. (Photo taken by Bruce Connolly)

River boat at Chaotianmen 2017. (Photo taken by Bruce Connolly) But not all staircase streets have gone. From Shaanxi Road a network of steps lead down towards the Changjiang. Although the temporary bamboo structures have disappeared many aspects of Old Chongqing remain - 'bang-bang' men continue their uphill toil; at regular landings food sellers and tiny restaurants prevail alongside 'walk-up' hotels and souvenir stalls for some surviving 'streets' have become tourist attractions.

Along the Changjiang pontoons landing stages now serve downriver cruise boats. At Chaotianmen crowds of visitors sit on landscaped river embankments looking towards one of the world's longest arched bridges. River boats no longer disembark passengers from Fuling or Fengdu - instead tourists board modern vessels to experience the 'City of Bridges' or at night a 'City of Lights'.

I headed back uphill to a bustling staircase alley, hauled myself up the steps and along the now familiar streets of Yuzhong to arrive at the tranquil Arhat Temple near Jiefang Square.

Chongqing, like most Chinese cities, has developed, it has modernity, a world-leading infrastructure but at its heart it still retains the feeling of vibrancy - a 'People's City' to which I hope to return for there is much, much more to explore.

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