Category Archives: Chongqing

Urban Issues in Asia and the Pacific Rim

A special issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs, vol 36(1), 309-399 (May, 2014) contains articles on the new peri-urbanisation and urban theory in Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Two articles specifically discuss China-related peri-urbanisation and peri-urban planning: Lin Ye and Alfred W report on their research on urbanisation, land development and land financing in China, and Nick Smith discusses household registration reform and peri-urban insecurity in Hailong Village in Chongqing. In addition, Richard LeGates and Delik Hudalah compare peri-urban planning in Chengdu and Yogjakarta and Douglas Webster, Jiaming Cai, and Larissa Muller discuss the new face of peri-urbanisation throughout Asia, including China. A fifth article by Bill Randolph and Andrew Tice discusses the suburbanisation of poverty in Sydney, Australia. An online version of the special issue may be accessed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/juaf.2014.36.issue-s1/issuetoc.

The JUA articles were first presented as papers in a special track at the 2013 UAA conference held in San Francisco. The UAA welcomes papers on China’s urban planning at their annual conference and submissions of manuscripts to the Journal of Urban Affairs. The UAA website provides information about membership, JUA and the 2015 UAA annual conference (to be held in  Miami, Florida April 8 – 11). The website address is: www.urbanaffairsassociation.org

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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UrbaChina 4th International Conference in Chongqing

 

丝绸之路

From May 28th to May 30th, the University of Chongqing hosted the 4th International Conference of UrbaChina in Chongqing.

Members of UrbaChina’s consortium gathered at the venue to present and discuss the results of their research. Members of Urbachina’s Scientific committee provided further advice and guidance on current and future research work. The University of Chongqing invited relevant speakers, and students and other interested participants joined the dialogue.

The University of Chongqing offered a calligraphy reading “the new silk road” (xin sichou zhi lu-新丝绸之路), suggesting a new route for research cooperation between Europe and China through Chongqing. Calligraphy is an elevated art form in China, which reflects the importance attached to the word in this country.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Chongqing the biggest city?

Reno, Nevada claims to be “The Biggest Little City in the World”. Chongqing is simply known for being “the biggest city in the world”. For Chongqing, just like for Reno, this epithet may be slightly exaggerated.

Yes, on paper, Chongqing looks like a giant: 30 million people officially live in Chongqing and the city is as large as Austria. A city that big would be very hard to live in.

The reality is a bit different. The municipality of Chongqing should be considered only an administrative level, as it covers both rural and urban lands. The “urban city” is still huge compared to European ones, with central districts covering 1,400 km² and home to 4.5 million inhabitants.

Chongqing is still “big” in China for several other reasons. Firstly, Chongqing is considered a strategic hub for energy, water (with the three gorges reservoir) and river transportation.

Furthermore, Chongqing is one of the engines that will bring growth to Western China. Beijing is trying to reduce regional inequalities and rebalance development between eastern and western provinces and Chongqing has a role to play in this plan. Chongqing aims to attract more foreign investments with low labour costs.1

The city is more and more connected to the world, illustrated, for example, by Finnair operating a direct route from Europe to Chongqing since 2012.

Chongqing is also a laboratory for reform. It is in Chongqing where some of the most advanced policies regarding land reform have been implemented with, for example, the establishment of the first rural land exchange centre in 2008. It is for this reason Chongqing was chosen as one of the cities where UrbaChina members should conduct research on urbanisation in China.

  1. Luo Wangshu, Ji Jin (2014). Foreign investment eyes Chongqing’s connections. China Daily, 21 January 2014, accessed 19 May 2014 from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2014-01/21/content_17247691.htm. []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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The Second Conference of Chinese Industrial Architectural Heritage, Chongqing

Bulletin n°55 (2012), The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCH)

Yiping Dong

Since the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) started to pay attention to Industrial Heritage officially in 2006, the academic dis- cussions have grown rapidly and reached some conclusions. The Industrial Architecture Heritage Academia Committee (IAHAC), which is the first organization about IH in China, was founded under the Architectural Society of China (ASC) in 2010’s first conference of Chinese Industrial Architectural Heritage in Beijing. During this first Conference, the IAHAC raised the “Beijing Proposal” about saving Chinese Industrial Heritage, under the Nizhny Tagil Charter in 2003 by TICCIH and Wuxi Proposal in 2006 by SACH, and planned to continue the conferences every year.

The Second Conference in November last year (2011) was held by two Universities, Tsinghua and Chongqing, with support by SACH and ICOMOS China.

There were five sessions: 1) IH with regional perspective; 2) IH Conservation and Urban Regeneration; 3) Case Study on local IH; 4) Space Pattern and Transformation of Industrial buildings; 5) Industrial landscape and Art. Along the meeting, there were two exhibitions, one of old industrial images in Chongqing, and another about conservation design throughout China. Twelve key speeches in the first day were mainly about the survey and conservation of urban industrial sites in Chongqing, Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, which are now facing the rapid urban development, then the session discussion for the second day with 28 papers, following a great excursion about Chongqing’s IH. There were almost 2000 delegates and 75 papers, which doubled the 2010 meeting.

The high density speeches and session discussions show some trends in China’s IH research. Firstly, the geographical region of research has been enlarged, from the highly industrialized eastern coastal area and traditional industrial region to the mid-western such as Sichuan, Yunnan, Henan, Gansu, etc. Secondly, the time frame is no longer focused on the Westernization Movement (ca. 1860-1900) or before 1949, more papers discussing the first Five-year Plan (1953-1957) period and more closer period, the industrial construction aided by Soviet Union. Thirdly, some thematic topics emerged such as railways, including the Yunnan- Vietnam Railway (1889) and Chinese Eastern Railway (1896). Value analysis of IH, survey and recording techniques, and combining Creative Industries with IH, etc. The last but not least is the focus about relation of Reuse and Conservation. Sme argue for Reuse as the final destination, and others insist that conservation is the most important issue, and reuse is just a method. This divergence resulted from the concept misunderstanding. Industrial Heritage is still a vague term in the Chinese context, and needs more clarification, while the selection of IH sites is quite a subjective process, lacking overall technological assessment.

As the organizer and participants and are mostly in architecture and urban planning, the discussion paid more attention to space issues and regeneration, while the historical perspective, especially technological history and social history of industry, are nearly absent from the dis- course. The contamination problem of former industrial area hasn’t got enough attention. The next step should be getting more fields involved.

Other good news about IH in China: The Third National Monument Survey by SACH (2007-2012) is closing, having identified thousands of industrial sites, buildings and machines. The former Capital Steel Plant areas in Beijing, the Chinese Eastern Railway, are selected as the top 100 new discoveries from this Survey.

Oriane Pillet

Intern at the CNRS, UrbaChina project. M.A. in urban local development (IEDES, Paris); M.A. in international development studies (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris – Utrecht University); B.A. in geography and law (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris).

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Representing and coping with early 20th-century Chongqing

Chabrowski, Igor (2013). Representing and coping with early twentieth-century Chongqing: “Guide songs” as maps, memory cells, and means of creating cultural imagery. Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review. E-Journal 6, p. 67-94. Retrieved 19 May 2014 from: https://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-6/Chabrowski.

Chongqing’s “guide songs” form an interesting subgenre among the broad category of haozi 號子 (workers’ songs). These early twentieth-century songs were a form of rhythm-based oral narrative describing Chongqing’s urban spaces, river docks, and harbors. Each toponym mentioned in the lyrics was followed by a depiction of the characteristic associations, whether visible or symbolic, of the place. This article aims to analyze the verbal images of Chongqing presented in these songs in order to understand how the city was remembered, reproduced, and represented. The article deconstructs representations of the city produced by the lower classes, mainly by Sichuan boatmen, and links culturally meaningful images of urban spaces with the historical experiences of work, religion, and historical-mythical memory. It also points to the functions that oral narratives had in the urban environment of early twentieth-century Chongqing. Rhythmic and easy to remember, the songs provided ready-to-use guides and repositories of knowledge useful to anyone living or working there. A cross between utilitarian resource books and cultural representations, they shaped modes of thinking and visualizations of urban spaces and Chongqing. Finally, this article responds to the need to employ popular culture in our thinking about Chinese cities and the multiplicity of meanings they were given in pre-Communist times.

 

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Unauthorized use change of the industrial buildings

Li, T., Liao, H. P., Zhuang, W, Sun, H., Li, C. (2014). Unauthorized use change and control system of China’s industrial buildings : taking S district of Chongqing as an example. Canadian Social Science, 10 (4), 130-135. Available from: http://www.cscanada.net/index.php/css/article/view/4475.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/4475

This paper uses both theoretical research and empirical research in analyzing the changing scale and characteristics of spatial-temporal variations of the unauthorized change of the use of the industrial buildings in Chongqing’s S District. Through the in-depth exploration of the driving factors and mechanism of China’s unauthorized change of the use of the industrial buildings, this paper finally builds scientific and reasonable use change control mechanism for industrial buildings. It has been found through the empirical study that unauthorized use change causes great loss of state-owned land resources and serious impact on commercial real estate and leads to very baneful social consequences. Use change of industrial buildings includes five driving factors: economy, structure of land supply, laws, industry development and system. To avoid such use changes, we must improve the existing laws and regulations and vitalize the industrial building resources; optimize both land supply structure and the spatial arrangement of industrial buildings; explore to develop supervisory control system based on the building certification process and principle of rent-to-grant; construct multi-sector linked supervision system for the use change of industrial buildings; effectively use economic levers to squeeze the profit brought about by the use change of industrial buildings; and know clearly about the industry direction and settled businesses.

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Chongqing, urban path dependence

The next UrbaChina conference will be held in Chongqing on May 28-30, 2014. From now and up to this date, the UrbaChina blog team will publish several posts related to this city.

In 1997, Chongqing was granted the status of provincial level municipality. Since then, the city has been through intense transformation and has seen its significance increase with the implementation of the “Go West policy”.

Last year, Michela Bonato (Heidelberg University) published an article of the urban transformation of Chongqing since 19491. According to this author, the roots of this evolution should be traced back to the period between 1949 and 1980, and Chongqing’s 1997 upgrading should not be seen as a mere policy to develop the Western provinces, but as a continuation of Chongqing’ s unique place in Chinese urban scenery.

Bonato argues that thanks to industry relocations from Dongbei and the Coasts, Chongqing remained a large industrial city. Her study also shows that the influence of Soviet communism on urbanism was weaker in Chongqing than in other large Chinese cities, because of the distance between Chongqing and the central authorities in Beijing, and the fact that Chongqing lost its rank of provincial capital in 1954. So Chongqing retained some pre-war classical urban principles. Bonato uses the example of the “Dalitang building” in Chongqing, where some traditional architectural features can be observed to illustrate this argument.

The most important point of Bonato’s paper is the path dependence influences Chingqing greatlyt, and the city’s current urban trends and political situation (this last point is only briefly looked at by Bonato) can be partly considered legacies from the past.

  1. Michela Bonato (2013). Structural Reasons of Current Upgrading: Urban and Industrial Images of the Chinese City Chongqing from 1949 until 1980. Scientific Annals of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, University of Iasi – Geography series, Vol. 59, No. 2, pp.95-110 []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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The Three Gorges Dam

Katiana Le Mentec, Post-doctorate researcher, associate member (CECMC) has joined the the University of York in March 2014 to work within the research team of Sharon Macdonald.

She has written a PhD entitled Life through the Three Gorges upheaval. Anthropological analysis of interpretation tools and processes of resilience (China) .

Publications related to The Three Gorges Dam in English

to be published in 2014

The Three Gorges Dam and the demiurges: Myth elaboration in contemporary China, in Katharina Lange and Jeanne Féaux de la Croix [Dir], Big Dams in Asia, Africa and Middle East, Water History.

Large-scale infrastructure projects seem to have the tendency to be attached with legendary dimension narratives. In the case of the Three Gorges Dam, a myth of progress was widely developed by the Chinese authorities. Alongside the facet emphasizing modernity and discontinuity, there is a second one,     complementary, that underlines a continuity of the past and an achievement included in a “Chinese     tradition”. Taking into account the specificity of the cultural and political context as well as conflicting perspectives, this paper presents the elaboration process of the Dam official narrative. It demonstrates how     officials have dip into ancient references to glorify and legitimize an infrastructure     including huge social, territorial and ecological consequences but also to fill up the need to relate to a certain vision of the past     and the tradition in a time of deep upheaval. The analysis focuses on the use of Yu the Great, one of the most famous hero-demiurge of China. The first part of the paper introduces the comparison developed by the authorities between the dam construction and Yu’s demiurgic act of world creation and, especially, the shaping of the three gorges landscape. The second part shows how and to what end, this infrastructure is also paralleled with Yu’s politic act of foundation of the first Chinese Dynasty. The last part is dedicated to discourses of people from the Three Gorges area and especially the ones elaborated around legendary references that narrate the Three Gorges Dam through a different point of view.

2006

The Three Gorges Dam Project – Religious Practices and Heritage Conservation. A study of cultural remains and local popular religion in the xian of Yunyang (municipality of Chongqing). China Perspectives 65: 2-12. Full text 

All publications in French and in English

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Construction of Chongqing Industrial Museum, Dadukou district

The old industrial district of Dadukou, located in the south of Chongqing, is being revitalised after the Chongqing Iron and Steel Company Limited, Chong Gang, moved out 65km away from the inner-city in 2006. The project of urban renewal will preserve the site’s history with the construction of the Chongqing Industrial Museum, and will establish spaces for new creative industries and develop urban systems and services. The Chongqing Industrial Museum Company is in charge of the project with international architects and designers partners. For this occasion, the Statue of Chaiman Mao will be moved inside the museum.

A worker on the scaffolding prepares to move a statue of Chaiman Mao in Chongqing while two men are watching as cranes move the statue covered in red . This is the first time that the city moved a Mao Statue. The cement-made statue was built by a factory in the city in 1968 during the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976). It was abandoned when the factory moved in July 2012. The site around the statue is being rebuilt into a storage yard of a logistic company. The statue will be moved to the newly built Museum of Chongqing Industry, which showcases the city’s industrial history and achievements.[Photo/icpress.cn]

Chongqing moves Chairman Mao statue

Source: ChinaDaily

Oriane Pillet

Intern at the CNRS, UrbaChina project. M.A. in urban local development (IEDES, Paris); M.A. in international development studies (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris – Utrecht University); B.A. in geography and law (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris).

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City of smiles

Chongqing market, Elosua Miguel

Photo taken at a local market in Chongqing in November 2013.

Sichuan province is known in China as a land of abundance (tianfuzhiguo-天府之国), particularly the fertile plain of Chengdu. This has probably contributed to its fame as a place for leisure. Chongqing lost this label when it was separated from the province to become a municipality in 1997. However, the promotion does not seem to have changed the identity of Chongqingers. It is indeed a place that prizes recreation. The city teems with mahjong parlors (see previous photo of a mahjong parlor in Chongqing) and teahouses. In the evenings, family and friends gather in restaurants, creating a cheerful atmosphere that is hardly matched in megacities like Shanghai. The historical isolation of the region due to its geographic barriers ended at the stroke of a pen with its urbanisation. The city has been completely re-engineered, particularly since it joined Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai as the only cities not under the thumb of a regional government: bridges, tunnels, a light train system with a planned total network of 18 lines, a high speed train reaching Chengdu in two hours, and the expansion of its international airport, have all succeeded in  “flattening” the mountain city. Although the GDP per capita has almost quadrupled in the last ten years, it still lags behind the other big urban agglomerations of the East. In 2012, the GDP per capita was roughly RMB 40,000, less than half that of Beijing (one of the reasons for this disparity lies in the fact that the municipality of Chongqing is still eminently rural, as we will discuss next week). Nevertheless, residents do not seem to be excited about moving to these cities. Having asked the same question many times, whether they would move to a richer city or not, I have often encountered a lack of interest. People do not seem willing to sacrifice family or friends for better work opportunities.

Happiness is something that could be measured by the number of free smiles that residents offer to the passer-by. If some are reluctant to visit the city after learning about nicknames such as “city of rain” or “fog city” (the city gets more than 100 days of fog per year), all these preconceptions suddenly vanish when they are met with a smile like the one in the photo. As the Spanish saying goes, “al mal tiempo buena cara” (put on a brave face for bad weather).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Industrial renovation and transformation of old Chongqing Dadukou district

One of the twelve downtown districts, Dadukou is located in the significant metropolitan area in Chongqing. In 1938, Hanyang Iron Factory, the predecessor of Chongqing Iron & Steel Group, was founded in Dadukou. The district developed rapidly ever since and is renown as the “Iron city” in the Southwest of China.

Nonetheless, the “Iron city” image has become less fitting in the face of the development of urbanisation nowadays. In 2011, Chongqing Iron & Steel Group moved their production chain, which helped transform the image of the district. In 2013, Dadukou district is the only place in Chongqing that is included in a national renovation plan proposed by the National Development and Reform Commission. The goal of the plan is to transform Dadukou into an “urbanised, social, economic” area.

The plan divides Dadukou into three areas:

  1. An old iron factory area (老重钢片区) of about 8100 acres is planned to become a new residential area.
  2. Diaoyu zui Peninsula area (钓鱼嘴半岛), an untapped land in Chongqing that will be turned into a recreation zone.
  3. Gold Aoshan – Small South Sea Area (金鳌山-小南海片区), a construction site of around 10 million square meters, which will be built into a tourism and recreational hotspot.

However, the transformation and renovation of this area will certainly have some difficulties, such as financing. Also, what is the reaction of citizens to this transformation and its relationship with the residents? How can this plan combine a strategic economic redevelopment of the area with the preservation of the place’s authenticity? These questions are worth investigating.

Dadoukou

Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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老舍笔下的重庆影像/The Image of Chongqing in Lao She’s Words

陈娟, 老舍笔下的重庆影像/The Image of Chongqing in Lao She’s Words, Thesis, 2013.

Abstract

老舍来到重庆时正值民族危亡之际,他以一个流徙文人的身份介入了重庆的“都城化”过程。重庆在抗 战时期的特殊身份使其从西南边缘城市过渡到时代强音响彻的中心地,她在老舍笔下有一个独特的城市影像,不仅是城市外观上多山多水多雾的特点,还有城市内部 的经济发展状况以及市民生活状态。老舍是一位重视隐喻的作家,他对重庆气候环境的描摹暗示了重庆山民的精神状态,以流亡为契机,老舍用文字呈现出了20世 纪三四十年代重庆的自然景观和城市人文风貌。老舍与重庆的交集中有重庆由“山城”到“都市”蜕变的轨迹:“催熟”的临时都城先天不足,流徙难民是城市的市 民主体,畸形的经济繁荣背后隐藏着因贫富悬殊引发的社会分化。虽然日本的“重庆大轰炸”战略让这座城市满目疮痍,轰炸造成的恐慌和死亡成了陪都市民无法磨 灭的精神伤痕,但是重庆像凤凰涅槃般一次又一次在战火中重生。文化机构和文化名人纷纷入渝,以“文协”为中心形成了一个重庆作家群,他们建构和演绎了陪都 文学。 以新中国成立为界,老舍前后期的重庆叙事里出现了城市影像的错位,包括对重庆“雾都”意象、国民政府以及陪都市民的表现。错位影像的实质是老舍文艺思想的 大转变,造成这种转变的因素有三:一是变换的时代背景,二是政权更迭引发的政治气候的变幻莫测,三是老舍创作心理的变化。因此,探究老舍离渝前后的心理变 化是解答历史疑问的切入点。关于老舍与重庆的研究,学界集中在对老舍此阶段的生平资料的整理上,对重庆作为“陪都”的特殊身份,只是史书里平淡客观的文字 记录。老舍笔下的重庆影像,是老舍文学世界的重要组成部分,也是这座城市的历史记忆,具有超越作家传记和地方志的意义。

Lao She arrived in Chongqing just during the anti-Japanese war, to step in the urbanization process of Chongqing by using his identity of an exiled scholar. During the anti-Japanese war, from a poor southwest city to a central city, Chongqing became a special image in Lao She’s words, including the mountainous, water-rich and foggy characteristic of the natural landscape and the economics and civic life. Lao She was a writer who attached importance to metaphor, his depicting of Chongqing’s climate and environment hinted the citizens’ psychosis. Forced to leave his hometown, Lao She presented a special image of Chongqing in 1930s and 1940s. The overlaps of Lao She and Chongqing showed the trail how the “mountain city” became a modern city. The “wartime capital” which had been forced to ripe was congenitally deficient, and a majority of the citizens were refugees. What was behind the malformed economic prosperity was the serious social differentiation. Although the “atom bomb” threw Chongqing in a chaotic condition and made citizens panic, Chongqing revived again and again like Phoenix Nirvana. Many cultural institutions and culture celebrity moved to Chongqing one after another, so a Writers Group around “Cultural Association of China” in Chongqing formed, which constructed and deduced the culture of the wartime capital. With the bound of China’s liberation, narration of Chongqing in Lao She’s early and late periods appeared city image dislocation which included the performance to Chongqing “foggy city” imagery, National Government and Wartime Capital citizens. Essence of image dislocation was the big change that Lao She had made in his literary thought. This change contained three factors. The first one was the transform of the background of the times. The second was the treacherous political climate caused by political changes. The third factor was the change of Lao She’s creative psychology. So, the entry point of solving historical questions was to probe into Lao She’s psychological changes before and after leaving Chongqing. With regard to studies about Lao She and Chongqing, educational circles usually committed to arranging Lao She’s life documents at that stage. As to Chongqing’s special identity of “Wartime Capital”, there was only some flat and objective written records in history books. Image of Chongqing described by Lao She was not only an important part of Lao She’s literary world, but also historical memory of this city, which had a great meaning of exceeding authors biography and local chronicles.

Xiamen University Institutional Repository  Restricted access. All papers in this database can only be accessed by faculties and students of Xiamen University (Campus network should be used). Off-campus users are not allowed to get fulltext. CALIS users can innitiate ILL requests through CALIS ILL system.

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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The burlaks of the Yangtze (qianfu – 纤夫)

重庆2

Photo taken at the Three Gorges Museum (sanxia bowuguan - 三峡博物馆)in Chongqing, in November 2013.

We will be publishing a series of articles dedicated to the city of Chongqing, the venue of the next UrbaChina conference, which will be held at the end of this month.  A good reason, therefore, to pay homage to the barge haulers of the Long river (or Chang Jiang(长江) in this article. The mighty Yangtze river, the longest in China and the third longest in the world, bends around the peninsula of Chongqing where the tributary Jialing River (嘉陵江)joins it at the tip of the horn. The city, surrounded by both rivers, was originally called Jiang Zhou(江州)or city of rivers, a label that continues to be used today(hecheng - 河城).

The Yangtze has played a crucial role in the development of Chongqing as the most important inland maritime port. Throughout history, the river has represented a formidable geographic (and sometimes political) barrier dividing northern and southern China. At nearly 3,000 kilometres long, the Yangtze did not have a single bridge crossing it until 1957 when the first one was built in Wuhan. Chongqing had to wait two more years to see its first (railway) bridge, in 1959. Thus, river trade was essential to the economy due to the poor network of roads and railways. Passengers travelling by train from Beijing to Shanghai and Guangzhou in the south had to disembark to cross the river by ferry, before continuing their journey by train. The river now counts more than 60 bridges and three tunnels, the majority of which were built during the 1990s.1

Sampan (from sanban, or three planches - 三版) and junks were the predominant means of transportation in maritime trade. Many of them were powered by the muscle power of the qianfu (tow-rope worker), especially when they have to negotiate the region of the three gorges. They pulled the boats from the river banks, pushing against the stream. It was backbreaking work, done mainly by peasants. Typically they performed the job naked, as clothing would hurt their skin and also because it would make them more vulnerable to illness since they were constantly getting in and out of the water.

The word “burlak” comes from Russian, where barge haulers became a sort of popular hero before the industrial revolution and well until the beginning of the twentieth century when they disappeared (in the nineteenth century there were about 600,000 burlaks working on the Volga and Oka rivers).

Ilia_Efimovich_Repin_(1844-1930)_-_Volga_Boatmen_(1870-1873)

Illia Efimovich Repin – Volga Boatmen (1870-1873)

Pilots passed instructions to the harnessed qianfu with the beat of a drum that was played at different rhythms. Large junks required up to 400 haulers. Judy Bonavia and Peter Neville-Hadley give a compelling picture about the Herculean job in their book “The Yangtze River”, including an account by an American passenger and his wife who spent several weeks on a Chinese cargo boat in 19222):

“If the boat happens to turn about when it is struck by a cross-current, a call from the pilot
 brings all the trackers to their knees or makes them dig their toes into the dirt. Another call makes them either claw the earth or catch their fingers over projecting stones. Then they stand perfectly still to hold the boat. When it is righted, another call makes them let up gradually and then begin again their hard pull.”

There are still some haulers who pull tourist boats through some stretches of the Shennong stream(神农溪), another tributary of the Yangtze. Otherwise, traces of these brave men remain only in rocks along the Long River, the so-called  qianfu rocks(qianfushi-纤夫石)where one might observe rope marks, as well as their footprints.3

fd039245d688d43f86886dfc7d1ed21b0ff41bd5ad6e03a6 Qianfu rock (纤夫石)

 

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yangtze_River_bridges_and_tunnels []
  2. The Yangzi River, Judy Bonavia, Peter Neville-Hadley, Odyssey Publications; 5th edition (July 1, 1999 []
  3. http://baike.baidu.com/view/953273.htm []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Household registration reform and peri-urban precarity in China

Smith, N. R. (2014). Living on the edge: household registration reform and peri-urban precarity in China. Journal of Urban Affairs. doi: 10.1111/juaf.12107

China’s household registration system divides the nation into urban and rural populations, conditioning life chances and producing widespread inequity. Recent reform experiments in Chongqing have met with mixed success, as many residents have declined to convert to urban registration. This article ethnographically investigates the rationales and strategies of residents in Hailong, a village in Chongqing where residents were reluctant to participate in household registration reform. For Hailong residents, the state-sponsored welfare offered through urban registration was perceived as a source of exploitation and precarity. In search of stability, Hailong residents developed informal welfare strategies, including mutual support networks and economic diversification. By forcing residents to give up their land rights and adopt urban roles, household registration reform threatened these informal strategies. The article concludes by exploring the policy implications of this analysis, including the possibility of developing formal welfare programs that complement—rather than replace—informal strategies.

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Urban Farmers in Chongqing

Between a Rock and a Hard Place 

Credit:  Tim Franco1, ChinaFile.

It’s a feature of the landscape one sees throughout China. On the sides of roads, at the edges of construction sites, on the steep banks of rivers, and in pastures that wrap around the fat pylons of future highways, Chinese people are farming, tilling tiny jewel-like plots that may only last a season, or rushing a herd of goats or a flock of ducks through traffic.

  1. Tim Franco, a Shanghai-based photographer. []

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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