Things to Do in Chongqing
In 1938, Chongqing underwent a transformation from a remote walled village to China’s last WWII capital. The expansion came when the Japanese took Hankou and villagers all along the Yangtze River fled upriver to Chongqing. While the city managed to survive over three years of bombings, most of the surviving structures and neighborhoods eventually succumbed to urban development.
Modern Chongqing may look nothing like the wartime capital, but visitors can still revisit the past at the Stilwell Museum, housed in the former residence of General Stilwell of the Flying Tigers; and a few memorials scattered throughout the city. Of course a stop in Chongqing wouldn’t be complete without eating hot pot, a regional specialty consisting of a steaming, bubbling pot of broth seasoned with spicy, mouth-tingling Sichuan peppers and served with an assortment of meats, seafood, vegetables and tofu.
Travelers don’t have to venture out into nature to get an up close look at one of China’s top wildlife attractions. That’s because since 1955 Chongqing Zoo has been showcasing the country’s most rare and most beloved animals—like giant pandas and the South China Tiger—to visitors. This destination is stationed along the Yangtze River and serves as a hub for both research and conservation. It’s home to some 230 species and more than 4,000 animals.
In addition to natural landscapes, protected areas and animal exhibitions, families will find an amusement park, outdoor stage, restaurant and even a dry skating rink. The Chongqing Zoo is the perfect place to spend an afternoon—or even an entire day—getting a unique look at nature without ever leaving the city.
Since 2005 this impressive museum, formally known as the Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum, has been providing both locals and visitors unprecedented access to scientific research, history, cultural heritage and educational resources related to the Three Gorges region near the Yangtze River. Well-curated exhibits showcase traditional arts like painting, calligraphy and porcelain. Ancient coins and sculpture from the Han Dynasty, as well as traditional costumes and artifacts from southwest China are also proudly displayed. The multi-level museum offers visitors historical context of the region with exhibits that tell the story of World War II, the war against Japan and the plight of more than 1 million people forced out of their homes for the construction of a new dam. Visitors who seek a deeper understanding of the culture, geography and history of Chongqing will find the Three Gorges Museum extraordinary.
The former residence of General Joseph Stilwell was converted into a popular museum, the Stilwell Museum (Shidiwei Bowuguan) in 1991. Travelers can explore the three-story home of this one-time commander-in-chief of the American Army in the China Burma India Theater and learn about his life, conquests and death while wandering the 1940s-style halls. The museum offers visitors access to meeting rooms, bedrooms, and a basement where hundreds of artifacts are on display. A private courtyard with a large statue of Stilwell and an engraved message written by Franklin Delano Roosevelt that is translated into both English and Chinese, is a popular stop for visitors.
Travelers say in addition to a bit of history and a slice of Stilwell life, the museum grounds look out over some of the best views in the city. After touring the home and combing through the museum halls, be sure to look out at the spectacular landscapes.
China’s signature river trip, a Three Gorges (Sanxia) cruise is the defining experience of the Yangtze, Asia’s longest river. Famed for their beauty for more than 1,000 years, the Three Gorges have been reshaped by the rising waters of the Three Gorges Dam. But the magic of Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, and Xiling Gorge endures.
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