After Chongqing Iron and Steel (Group) Co., Ltd. moved to Changshou District for environmental protection, Dadukou District, the former steel city, went quiet.
At the former steel factory of Chongqing Iron and Steel Group at Lizilin, Dadukou District, several buildings have been preserved between 3 chimneys which are more than tens of meters high. One of the buildings was the workshop of the steel factory relocation committee. In 2013, as part of the Cluster of the Former Arsenal Site in the War of Resistance in Chongqing, this building was announced by the State Council as one of the seventh batches of essential heritage sites under state protection.
The former site of the relocation committee’s workshop is also part of Chongqing Industrial Culture Expo Park, such as the theme pavilion of Chongqing Industry Museum. For this pavilion, the exhibit arrangement will be completed in early July, and it will be opened to the public in October.
In the workshop, some production facilities have been preserved as they were, but the roar of the machines is now quiet. The site has been restored with pictures, words, and scenes. It silently tells a grand history of the relocation committee from its founding to its westward relocation to Chongqing. After, the workshop produced and supported the military industry in the rear area of the War of Resistance.
The War of Resistance
Supplying 90% of steel raw materials for military enterprises in China
In the former site of the relocation committee’s workshop, which is 107m long, 27m wide and 23m high, there is a vast relief wall showing the production scene of the relocation committee. The figure “1938” in the upper right corner and “1945” in the lower-left corner echoes with each other, symbolizing the seven years of the relocation committee in Chongqing.
The theme exhibition hall, which is subject to commissioning, is named “Steel Soul.” “The steel soul symbolizes the soul of the nation, of the steel, of the War of Resistance and Chongqing’s industry,” said He Zhiya, an expert of the Expo Park project and a historical and cultural scholar. The Expo Park has been eventually built at the former steel factory of Chongqing Iron and Steel Group, covering an area of 152 mu and reaching a construction scale of 140,000 square meters.
The history of Chongqing Iron & Steel Group can be traced back to the Hanyang Iron Works, which was founded by Zhang Zhidong in 1890 when the Westernization Movement was proceeding. At that time, Hanyang Iron Works was seen as the pioneering modern iron & steel complex in China and even Asia that integrated steel smelting, steel producing and steel rolling, thus, gaining the reputation of the “Cradle of China’s Iron and Steel Industry.”
Responding to the full-scale outbreak of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, the relocation committee was established in March 1938 to bear the significant responsibility for relocating westward Hanyang Iron Works and other major steelworks nearby Wuhan to Chongqing, the home front of Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression.
The relocation committee commenced the thorny project in early June 1938 and eventually completed it till the end of 1939. The “Yichang Grand Withdrawal” that lasted only 40 days has preserved the essence of Chinese industry. Of 37,000 tons of equipment transported, 32,000 safely arrived at Dadukou.
Historical records reveal that the relocation committee had 15,699 staff at its heyday. Thus, it supplied 90% of iron & steel raw materials to domestic munitions factories for their production during the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, known as the largest iron and steel complex in the home front. Respectively on September 14, 1940, August 22, 1941, and September 1, 1941, the Japanese troops sent 45 planes to bomb the plant area of the relocation committee, causing 163 casualties.
Reconstruction: Build the Modern Museum on the Site of Dilapidated Workshop
Being listed as an “important heritage site under the state protection” in 2013, the former site of the relocation committee workshop that was already decrepit to some extent was concerned by plentiful people about how the renovation should be conducted for this old factory building. The construction team repaired the former site from January 22, 2017, to May 11, 2018.
On the premise of bringing no structural hazards to the former site, it remained the original appearance as much as possible during the repairing. The internal traces years of renovation and damage were kept to endow the site with more readability, identifiability, and sense of history. For example, a bath brick wall built in the 1970s has been preserved. Even though its color and texture are somewhat different from the black brick used in the initial construction of the factory building, nearly 40 years of history has vested the historical atmosphere in it. In the future, tourists will be allowed to visit the underground tunnel.
Exploration: Revitalize the Industrial Heritage to Generate More Possibilities
Today, with the continuous adjustment of urban industrial structure, expansion of urban scale and relocation of industrial enterprises, as well as the gradual decline of traditional industries, proper preservation of industrial heritage and protection of valuable industrial heritage are of great practical significance for preserving the memory of the city, extending the life of the city and meeting the high emotional needs under the influence of high technology.
In Chongqing, such cultural creativity parks as Testbed 2 Arts Center and Beicang are all transformed from industrial plants, attracting many tourists to visit. Tian Qi, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Chongqing University, said that in addition to cultural creativity parks, there are also many possibilities for the transformation of old industrial plants, and we can think about their use after modification from more points of view, including public stadiums, long-term rented apartments, scientific research bases, etc.
Chongqing has determined the construction goals of five major museums themed on history, revolution, war, industry, and nature. After its completion and opening, as a cultural tourism landmark with industrial culture as the main body, Chongqing Industry Culture Expo Park will not only become the leader of the city’s industrial museums, promote the improvement of the city’s cultural quality, but also become a new destination of urban tourism in Chongqing.