Ciqikou is an old town preserved in sprawling modern Chongqing, about an hour's drive from the city centre. It's an old sleepy town built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Although it's preserved as a tourist town you don't have to pay to get in. The town's name, Ciqikou, means porcelain harbor, and the community prospered from the porcelain trade. Today it offers a glimpse of the peaceful laid-back life in the Sichuan countryside and is somewhere to take a break from the busy commercial world of Chongqing.
A number of old courtyard compounds still stand here. Small as it is, the town used to have several temples, and one of them, Taoism temple, had been turned into an elementary school.
What makes the school special is one of its students. Oh, a small class room, small stool and desk, oil lamp, blackboard, and a picture of Doctor Sun Yetsan, that's the custom of the time. Nobel Prize Winner Samuel CC Ding, in Chinese we know him as Ding Zhaozhong once studied here. That's his seat. Hmm, he must be a very good student when he was here. Well, it's kind of late for me to start the quest for Nobel Prize.
The old town has only two main streets and they've been taken up by all kinds of shops. The teahouse puts on a diverse range of entertainment with shows staged from time to time. And this is the famous Sichuan show, 'Changing the face'. The biggest secret is how the performer changes his masks. In this performance, he has to switch masks something like nine times. It's such a difficult trick that sometimes it does not work, but the audience will always forgive him.
There was an old show in Sichuan called Nine Changes and this is from that show. There was a knight-errant called Baiyong who is brings hope to many poor unfortunate people. And when he shows up, he changes his masks nine times. It's a way of indicating that he will help people, but not ask anything in return. He doesn't let people know who he is. Today it's purely a show of skill.
Look at Chongqing's Skyline today, it's all modern highrises and skyscrapers. But more than half a century ago, during the Second World War, the Japanese forces bombed the city for five years. But the Chinese were not alone in fighting against the Japanese, among all the others, is General Joseph Stilwell.'
For two years, General Joseph Warren Stilwell lived here in Chongqing as chief commander of the US forces in the China-Burma-India Theatre during World War II. General Stilwell was a true friend of the Chinese people as well as a Chinese linguist. He is also remembered for directing the road project from Ledo, in Assem, India through India and Burma to Yunnan, in Southwest China. The road was open to traffic in 1945 and it was named after the general. Today his former residence has been turned into a museum commemorating his contribution to the fight for peace.
You will find plenty of war relics in Chongqing. One unusual place is the former site of the provisional government of the Republic of Korea. In 1910, Japan took over the Korean peninsula. Nine years later, the Korean people set up their provisional government in Shanghai. Before these people eventually returned to their country, the government was stationed in Chongqing for five years. It also set up its own army in Chongqing. The small compound housed fully fledged government departments including a Treasury, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Another spot that is linked with history, is well and alive today. The former barracks of the French Marine forces has been turned into a chic bar, coffee shop and restaurant strip. Built in 1902, the compound used to house the French navy soldiers at a time when China was mired in civil war and haplessly fending off foreign invaders. Here in Chongqing, along the Yangtze River, the French set up a base for their marines so they could guarantee military supplies.
The barracks was building in front of the Yangtze River, naturally it was built for the navy soldiers. If you come at night, with friend or without, the cool wind from the river will come over and give you some real treat.
The French being French, they even built a stone wine cellar in the barracks. What better place to start a restaurant. The area blends contemporary style with the remains of history and is where Chongqing's upwardly mobile come for a night out.