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Notes on the Geography of China: Chongqing

Depending on your source, Chongqing (Chungking in the old transliteration) has 2.5 or 35 million people.  That's because in 1997 the city was granted the same status as Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin: it became a municipality with provincial status.  Capital cities often have such status--consider Washington, D.C., New Delhi, or Canberra--but for a non-capital it's unusual and testimony to the clout of Chongqing's leaders.  They suddenly saw their "city" boundaries expanded to comprise what had been eastern Sichuan.  The new "city" takes in several fair-sized cities--Wanxian and Fuling are the largest--and perhaps 30 million villagers.


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China: Chongqing picture 1

Chongqing's spectacular rise in the 20th century began in the late 1930s, when the Kuomintang government made it their capital.  Here's a Kuomintang VIP guesthouse, now a museum attracting visitors because during World War II it was the residence of General Joseph Stilwell.  His office looked out the window on the left.

China: Chongqing picture 2

Here it is, from the inside.  Austere as Vinegar Joe himself.

China: Chongqing picture 3

His office looks upstream along the Jianlingjiang or Jianling River.  Here, from a point near his office, we look downstream toward central Chongqing--Yu, colloquially.  On the right is the narrowing peninsula created by the confluence of the Jianling and the Yangtze.  The juxtaposition of old and new is characteristic. The old neighborhoods attract the city's floating--unregistered-- population of newcomers drawn from the countryside.

China: Chongqing picture 4

We've come down to the muddy confluence and are looking downstream, over floating docks for passenger boats.  The Yangtze is on the right.

China: Chongqing picture 5

Cog railways bring passengers up to street level.

China: Chongqing picture 6

Out in the river: the view back up the Jianlingjiang.

China: Chongqing picture 7

From the same spot but looking back to the capacious Chaotianmen booking hall and observation deck.

China: Chongqing picture 8

A mile or so downstream: new Changan vans are parked on the shore.  Behind them is the ship that's going to take them downstream.

China: Chongqing picture 9

Ready to go.

China: Chongqing picture 10

Heading downstream.  We're 1,000 miles from the sea. Chongqing has always been considered a port on the navigable Yangtze, but even larger vessels will be able to reach it now, because the deep waters of the reservoir behind the Three Gorges Dam reach this far--about 400 miles--upstream.

China: Chongqing picture 11

A few miles downstream: Dafushi Bridge, part of a circumferential expressway circling the expanded city.

China: Chongqing picture 12

Ignoring all the progress, a fisherman handles his net on the rocky bank. Some 60% percent of all the freshwater fish caught in China--chiefly carp--come from the Yangtze Basin.

China: Chongqing picture 13

Fish production in the basin, however, has declined from 450,000 tons in 1954 to less than 100,000 tons in recent years. In an effort to reverse the decline, fishing has recently been banned along this stretch of the river from February through March. That may help, but the fishery suffers also from pollution, dams and weirs that block fish migration, and from the destruction of spawning grounds as lakes are reclaimed for farming.

China: Chongqing picture 14

A barge heads towards the river's historic, now flooded gorges.

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