We remembered to ask Royce what that tower was in the square. Chongqing was the capital of China during WW2, after being moved from Nanjing which was occupied by the Japanese. As it was the capital, major portions of the city were bombed flat. When the war was won they put up the “Anti Japanese Tower”. When Chairman Mao came to power in 1949 it was renamed Peoples Liberation Tower (a little more PC).
Almost all the city is new because of the bombing. It got a reboot after the war. About 20 years ago there were very few cars and no bridges over the rivers. Just a cable car. Now there are 20 bridges and 3 million cars. One new bridge gets built every year. Guess a one party system can get things done when needed.
WW2 also had another benefit. Namely the discovery of some cave carvings. A farmer was fleeing the bombing and ran up into the hills to hide in a cave. Lo and behold he found some ancient cave carvings, long since forgotten. Sometimes it’s amazing how stuff gets rediscovered.
It was about a 2-hour drive to the city of Dazu. We visited two of the more popular grottos. Beishan grotto was started in 892 in the Tang Dynasty and continued over many years with many sculptors and some differing styles. The ‘cave’ depicts the Buddha as Shakyamuni with ‘generals’ guarding and defending him against Mongolian invaders (often the generals have angry faces because they are preparing for war).
The Baodingshan Carvings is an atypical Buddhist site carved into a limestone outcropping during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279). They cover a variety of Buddhist schools of thought. The carvings also include scenes of Taoism and Confucianism.
The whole site is thought to be carved by one sculptor, Zhao Zhaifeng, over a period of 70 years. He carved a likeness of himself (“his way of saying Kilroy was here”). It was about a 2 km walk from the parking area to the cave and Royce was concerned that Kris didn’t have an umbrella for shade (must protect that alabaster skin after all!). A vendor tried to sell us an umbrella too. We were covered in sunscreen and don’t mind walking, but Royce decided she needed to buy us a ride on the electric golf cart. We’re pretty sure it was because it was darn hot and she didn’t feel like walking!
The sculptor’s self-sculpture. The uppermost sculptures have been repainted, the ones on the lower level have been left as they were found.
After driving back to Chongqing we boarded the Victoria Jenna for a three night river cruise. The Yangtze River is also known as Chang Jiang or “Long River”. It is the 3rd longest river in the world (after the Amazon and the Nile). It is 6397 km long, flows over 11 provinces and passes through 3 gorges. It is kinda cool we’ve now been on the 3 longest rivers.
The three gorges are Qutang (which is narrow, 500 meters wide, and short, 5 miles long), Wu (25 miles long with very steep cliff sides, so the sun doesn’t even shine on the water) and Xiling (41 miles long).
The boat is very similar to the Nile boats we were on in Egypt and our room has a balcony. Much to the chagrin of the check-in staff, we chose not to upgrade to the larger cabin ‘suite’, as our room is fine and they wanted to charge us $200 USD. They were quite surprised we said no, and asked several more times if we were sure. I guess most people go for the hustle.
We finally had a chance to try the Great Wall wine we first saw in Beijing. It’s not bad but likely not to win many awards. We had a buffet dinner of “white people chinese food”. Wonder what the Chinese on board think of it. The spicy chicken wasn’t so much. Our boat has 380 passengers and 150 crew. But we’re no longer the only white people – the passengers are maybe 50% Chinese and 50% North American / Australian. We’ve met a nice group of folks from Ohio, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
We leave Chongqing sometime later tonight and tomorrow we visit the Ghost City.