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Hidden Dragon: Museums of Chongqing

By Elaine Pang , eChinacities.com Add your comment Newsletter

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Photo: flickr.com

Throughout history, Chongqing was swallowed up by neighbouring cultural heavyweight, Sichuan Province. Although it has always been famed among the Chinese for being the convergence point for both the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, Chongqing has remained largely unknown to most foreign tourists. Lacking a strong identity, little attention has been given to Chongqing’s cultural side, and tourist guidebooks frequently gloss over museums and cultural attractions in favour of talking about Chongqing’s mountainous scenery and spicy cuisine. A pity really, considering Chongqing’s chequered history, most notably its reputation as the wartime capital of China. A number of museums and historical sites remain a silent reminder of those tumultuous times. Having finally emerged from the shadow of Sichuan, Chongqing now resembles a more modern metropolis complete with towering skyscrapers. But efforts to preserve the past are underway, with museums and conservation buildings both seeking to preserve a facet of Chongqing’s bygone eras. As such, there is no excuse to head directly for the cruise ships that tour the Three Gorges. The few days taken to uncover the embedded historical secrets of Chongqing will prove to be time well spent.

1) Three Gorges Museum  三峡博物馆 View In Map
Keeping in line with Chongqing’s modern image, the recently constructed Three Gorges Museum’s imposing glass-covered façade belies the history and culture housed within.  To veterans of China travel, undeniably, all Chinese museums start to look the same after a while. However, Chongqing’s unique location and history make for some interesting exhibits. They are divided into various halls spread over five floors, showcasing the history and culture specific to the Three Gorges Area, the history of Chongqing city and its years of Anti-Japanese resistance. Among the more memorable exhibits are vivid reconstructions of life at home and the trades of yesteryears, the Tujia minority boat trackers pulling their cargo-laden boats down the Shennong Stream and the unearthed skeletal remains of an entire family found buried together. With more than 170,000 cultural relics spread over its 23,000 square metres, seeing everything could easily take the better part of a day at a leisurely pace. Nearby attractions include the Great Hall of the People, a circular theatre and the People’s Square, where ladies congregate for mass street dances on cool evenings.

Add: 236 Renmin Lu, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
地址:重庆市渝中区人民路236号
Opening hours: 09:30-17:00

2) Chongqing Museum  重庆博物馆 View In Map
Located at the scenic Pipashan area, visitors to the Chongqing Museum should definitely take a few moments to enjoy the beautiful panorama outside. Originally named Southwest Museum, the Chongqing Museum is not as well-known as the newer Three Gorges Museum. Its focus is also slightly different – ancient relics dating back to the Han Dynasty. These include paintings by renowned painters, porcelain, stone rubbings, stone tablets and currencies from various dynasties. Those interested in Chongqing’s ancient Ba-Yu culture and folk culture will find the Chongqing Museum to be an invaluable resource. Nearby, you can also visit Pipashan Park.

Add: 77 Pipashan Zhenjie, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市渝中区枇杷山正街77号
Opening hours: 09:30-17:30


Photo: flickr.com

3) Huguang Guild Hall  湖广会馆 View In Map
Mega-cities are like magnets the way that they draw people in from all over the country, and Chongqing, strategically located in central China is no exception. The Huguang Guild Hall is a cultural footprint left behind by migrants from Hunan, Hubei, Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. Construction began during the Qing dynasty in 1879 with other additions completed throughout the years, finally forming the largest ancient guild-type of architecture on this side of the Yangtze. Migrants from the Hu and Guang areas were ordered to move into the then-sparsely populated Sichuan province. In this guild house, they found solidarity in a strange new land while conducting their various business, cultural and social activities. After viewing the carious rooms that have been converted into a migration museum, take the time to wander through the site’s elegant complex of serene courtyards, open-air theatres and on-site temples.

Add: Bajiao Lu, East Shuimen Jie, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市东水驿传统商业街
Opening hours: 08:30-18:00

4) Stilwell Museum  史迪威博物 View In Map
Until now, Chongqing has been a city largely shielded from outside influences, with Western culture viewed as both a corrupting influence and a necessary evil. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a museum dedicated to the American contribution to fending off Japanese forces is largely unknown to the average local. This museum, the former residence of General Joseph Stilwell (1883-1946), Commander of the U.S. forces in China, is the only standing evidence of the cooperation between China and the United States in fending off Japanese intrusion. Stilwell, having achieved fluency in the Chinese language, also led the Chinese Expeditionary Army to fight against Japanese invaders. Beautifully preserved in serene, manicured grounds and constructed in typical Chinese architecture of that time, this museum offers a glimpse into Stilwell’s life while he lived in China. The museum also houses a substantial collection of wartime photographs, including photos of the U.S. volunteer forces known as the “Flying Tigers”. Mostly visited by American tourists before embarking on a cruise of the Three Gorges, this three-storied attraction is largely unknown to tourists of other nationalities.

Add: 63 Xin Jialing Lu, Lizhiba, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市渝中区李子坝嘉陵新路63号
Opening hours: 09:00 to 16:50

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Keywords: Chongqing museums Chongqing Three Gorges Museum Chongqing Stilwell Museum Chongqing Huguang Guild Hall

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