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Ma'an Hill: Old Neighborhood Keeps up with the Times

By SHIHAN YANG|Sep 27,2022

There is a hill in the shape of a saddle in the Nan'an District of Chongqing, known as Ma'an Hill. A glance from Nanbin Road provides a picture of residential buildings on the top of the hill, half hidden in trees. The layers of residential buildings often serve as a background for the prosperous Nanbin Road.

The view on the street at the foot of the hill is becoming increasingly prosperous, yet that at the hilltop stays the same. The steep, long stone stairs and the layers of old houses beside them look the same as in the old photos, as if they are trying to tell us that here is the starting point of prosperity for Nan'an.

Modern buildings in the distance contrast sharply with the old roofs on Ma'an Hill. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

The road up the hill

Ma'an Hill Community Park was noticed by the public only two years ago. People are so eager to share with others its nostalgic scenes. It was not until people came onto the top of the hill that they saw Nanbin Road and found the place a background long ignored.

Art installations on old buildings in Ma'an Hill. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

People who visit Ma'an Hill know that the entrance can hardly be found if they don't check travel guides.

Many fashion stores were still closed in the early morning after the rain. Only the convenience store owner sat at the door upstairs, chatting with an old lady in an apron.

The long stone stairs up Ma'an Hill. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Deep in the alley, a man was cooking on a balcony while his wife was hanging clothes out behind. The open terrace also functions as a kitchen and can only be seen in such a neighborhood. Life here is no different from that a few decades ago for old residents, even after Ma'an Hill became popular.

One will see the Yangtze River running eastward from the top of Ma'an Hill. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

A photographic exhibition on Ma'an Hill

At the intersection in the middle of the stone stairs is a small terrace, which serves as the social center of Ma'an Hill. One may encounter a local orchestra at night. A corner called "Yuqu Yayuan" below the terrace deserves a visit in the daytime. There is a permanent photographic exhibition showcasing the past of Ma'an Hill. The photos on display were mainly taken by Guo Zhenming, a volunteer to protect cultural relics in Chongqing, and Yu Ping, owner of "Yuqu Yashe."

Yu Ping grew up in Ma'an Hill, and her mother used to be a teacher at Shanghao Kindergarten. Guo Zhenming was her mother's student and her "senior fellow" in the kindergarten.

Guo Zhenming is in his 70s. He has devoted himself to cultural relics protection for life and mainly focused on Ma'an Hill.

In 2016, Yu Ping returned to Ma'an Hill, turned her old residence into a tea house, and named it "Yuqu Yashe." With the support of the Sub-district Office, she transformed the garbage dump outside the door into "Yuqu Yayuan," where old photos are displayed, and the memories of Ma'an hill are shared. These photos are fixed on wire meshes without frames and have attracted many visitors. Yu Ping encouraged other residents to contribute pictures of the old Ma'an Hill neighborhood other than hers and Guo's old ones. Photos on display have been changed several times.

In 2016, Yu Ping returned to Ma'an Hill and opened a tea house called "Yuqu Yashe." (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Prosperous again

Walking over Ma'an Hill, one may see old buildings undergoing alterations. It was the earliest gathering place for foreign companies when Chongqing was open to the outside world. Villas and western-style houses were not uncommon for residents here in the past.

During the War of Resistance, many Chinese industrial and commercial enterprises moved inland and built factories and residences. Lanes and houses were on the rise. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, Shangxin Street at the foot of the hill became the administrative center of Nan'an District and Ma'an Hill, a residential area for family members of government organs' employees. It was lively and vibrant. Later, as the government of Nan'an District was relocated out of Shangxin Street, more residents came down the hill and moved into commercial housing, and the Ma'an Hill neighborhood declined.

A unique hot pot restaurant in Ma'an Hill. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Around 2020, an increasing number of young people opened stores here. After some decoration, the old houses turned into coffee shops, barbecue restaurants, fashion stores, and those for escape games. These stores became popular online as soon as they opened.

Road signs stand at the intersection covered with vines on Ma'an Hill. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

The construction of Chongqing Port Opening Cultural Heritage Park started two years ago. With the renovation and protection of many historical buildings and relics, Ma'an Hill has returned to people's vision. Yu Ping has paid constant attention to the heritage park. She expects this place to be lively again and keep up with the times soon, with its memories properly restored and appreciated.

A coffee shop owner moves the objects around. (Photo provided to iChongqing)


A Tour in Chongqing, A Gain in Vision

A Land of Natural Beauty, A City with Cultural Appeal

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