Zhongshan Old Town, Chongqing
Photos by Brian Wytcherley
There are a handful of well-known Zhongshans (中山) in China, but the one that falls under the administration of southern Chongqing's Jiangjin District (重庆江津中山古镇) dates back to the Song Dynasty, when it was a prosperous port town along the Sunxi River and a favorite of imperial court members.
Today, some original structures remain, including four remarkable stone arc bridges, one of which is the country's second longest, and nine ancient manors, which feature two distinct architectural styles and traditional fengshui principles. Temples and engraved tombstones built hundreds of years ago can also be found in the town.
Zhongshan's original 1,500 meters of streets have been reduced over the years by planners and natural disasters to only a portion of what they once were, but a leisurely stroll through the entire town—old and new—can take half an hour. Locals live in old wooden houses that jut out above the river, where, below, women do the day's washing in depressions in the rocks.
Some of the households have been converted into small showrooms displaying the collections of the families that lived there, including ancient coins and antique furniture.
Other storefronts sell traditional medicine or offer fortune-telling services.
Local specialties include smoked tofu—served in "sandwiches," stone-flattened glutinous rice, and rice wine in bamboo flutes.
Town residents operate small guesthouses; a stay in one costs around RMB150 per night.
At night a paid bellman keeps tradition alive by walking around the town warning villagers to go home and stay warm.
From Chengdu, take the bullet train to Chongqing (重庆 approx. 2,5 hours/RMB100). From the Chongqing Railway Station, walk to the neighboring bus station (菜园坝/Caiyuanba) and take the bus to Jiangjin (江津/RMB/19). From Jiangjin, take a mini bus to Zhongshan Zhen (RMB9.5, approximately 1 hour).
Alternatively, take the overnight train K139/141 from Chengdu East to Jiangjin (approx. 8 hours/RMB65/116) and then a taxi (approx. RMB35, including bridge toll) to the Jiangjin Passenger Station. Or take a bus from Chengdu's Shuangqiaozi or Wuguiqiao Stations to the Jiangjin Bus Station (approx. 5 hours/RMB88/several buses per day until 3 p.m.).