Chongqing has long been a staging post or river journeys and a gateway to China’s wild west. With its steep hills, raging rivers and spicy food, there's something for everyone. Overlooking the confluence of the Yangtze and the Jialing Rivers, Chongqing is known throughout China as the “Mountain City”. Many of city’s hills are so precipitous that bicycles are scarce and motorcycles a far more common sight. Largely determined by its mountainous topography, Chongqing’s districts are spread over a series of hilltops and separated by major rivers. As your taxi or bus zips across the overpasses linking the areas, check out the precariously stacked apartment buildings clinging to the hillsides. It's possible for one of these buildings to have both the first floor and the fifth floor at ground level.
Although Chongqing's major tourist destination, the Three Gorges, is now being inundated by waters from the Three Gorges Dam, the city has its own inherent charm and the region is worth exploring. Known for its spicy food and hot-tempered people, Chongqing, with its mountains and fog and its bubbling hotpots has secured a place in the Chinese imagination. While the entire Chongqing municipality contains over 30 million people and like Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, reports directly to the Central Government and is no longer a part of Sichuan Province, the actual city itself has a population of only 5.8 million.
Due to its strategic location on the Yangtze River, for over 4,000 years every dynasty has had a provincial capital there. This climaxed during the Second World War when Chongqing, then known as Chunking, was made the wartime capital of the Republic of China. Its population exploded, filling the city with refugees and government of-ficials. During the war, the city endured severe air raids by the Japanese and what followed was an intense period of poverty. Since then, it has rebounded with fervor, Chongqing became southwest China’s key industrial center and a focal point for China’s “Go West” program to bring investment to China’s underdeveloped west. Its rapid modernization can be felt most clearly around the Liberation Monument, Chongqing’s commercial and entertainment center. The actual monument, originally made of wood and dedicated to Sun Yat-sen, was rebuilt in 1945 to celebrate the end of the war with Japan. The monument is within walking distance of most of Chongqing's major hotels and shops.