Perhaps most well known for being one of the oldest shopping streets in Chongqing, the ancient city of Ciqikou not only contains a wealth of history but has turned into one of the landmark attractions in Chongqing. Located in Shapingba District, Ciqikou (磁器口) is centrally located and easily accessible through the city’s public transportation system. Ciqikou embodies what old Chongqing was like, and although there are now many new shops and stalls, Ciqikou will not disappoint you.
Chongqing itself has undergone immense change over the years, Ciqikou, however, has remained a kind of microcosm and a symbol of the “Old Chongqing.” Chongqing is now a bustling and modern city, but Ciqikou remains a reminder of what this historic city once looked like, centuries ago. Ciqikou became a protected cultural site in 1998.
BACKGROUND & HISTORY
The name Ciqikou 磁器口 literally means Porcelain Port, a name given to the city during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, because of their production of porcelain. However, the original name of city was not Ciqikou, but Baiyanchang. The city boasts well over a thousand years of history and houses one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Chongqing.
Located on the west bank of the Jialing River running through Chongqing, Ciqikou was a bustling port and its location is considered auspicious because it has perfect Fengshui. There are three mountains in Ciqikou, Jingbi, Fenghuang, and Ma’an. In addition, two springs run through the ancient town, Fenghuang Spring and Qinshui Spring.
Ciqikou Ancient town has gone by a number of different names throughout the ages. During the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Jianwen was usurped and escaped from the emperial palace to become a monk. His arrival at the temple inspired the locals to change the name of their city to Longyin. Long in Chinese means dragon (龙 Lóng) a symbol used to represent the Chinese Emperor. Longyin town really started to prosper during the early years of the Qing Dynasty. Porcelain had become the main industry of the town and its main export. At the height of porcelain production, there were more than 70 porcelain factories in Longyin Town.
Porcelain production was introduced to Longyin Town originally around 300 years ago during the Huguang Repopulation of Sichuan Migration Movement which sought to repopulate what is present-day Sichuan Province after years of war, famine, and natural disasters.
After the founding of the Republic of China, and especially while Chongqing was serving as the Chinese Wartime Capital during WWII, Longyin town had started to prosper. Not only with the production and export of Porcelain, but Longyin Town had also become a distribution center for agricultural products for various provinces and counties along the upper and middle reaches of the Jialing River. Wealthy merchants started opening branch stores and Longyin Town started to expand into producing cotton, clothing, kerosene, salt, and sugar. But porcelain remained the main business of Longyin town, and over time, people started calling the town Ciqikou, or Porcelain Port.
Ciqikou remains a representation of Old Chongqing, and as such is home to a vast number of historical and cultural locations.
The Ciqikou Wharf
During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the wharf at Ciqikou used to transport goods along the Jialing River. It was originally built during the Tang and Song Dynasties and prospered along with the rest of the ancient town when the production of Porcelain really started to take hold. The old Wharf in Ciqikou has since made way for new and more modern developments but you can still walk along the ancient streets all the way down to what used to be the entrance to the old town from the wharf.
When Ciqikou or Longyin town was at its most prosperous, there were well over 100 tea houses located here. Teahouses traditionally did not only serve as places to relax, but also as places to conduct business. With its many porcelain factories and merchants, tea houses became places to meet for business negotiations. The larger teahouses, some of which remain also hosted Sichuan Opera performances, which you can still experience to this day.
The Imperial Academy
The Imperial Academy is an old private school, located in a small side alley on one of the main streets. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty, the Sun Family ran a private school, that, at the time, was named Lishi Thatched Cottage or simply the Lishi School according to the locals. In the middle and later Qing Dynasty, the school became famous for some of their students passing the provincial-level imperial examinations to enter the imperial academy. Therefore, the small school was nicknamed the Imperial Academy as well.
Baolun Temple, formerly known as Baiya Temple, was built during the Western Wei Dynasty between 535-556 AD. Aside from its long history of around 1500 years, Baolun temple is a marvel of Chinese Architecture, having been built without the use of a single nail.
Zhong Family Family Courtyard
Zhong’s Courtyard was built around 1890. The owner is Mr. Zhong, who grew up in Ciqikou. The entire courtyard has both the charm of the northern courtyard and the exquisite and elegant characteristics of the southern houses. Ancient cultural relics of the Ming and Qing dynasties displayed in the courtyard such as porcelain, beds, and traditional round table, and other traditional household items.
The thousand-year-old pedestrian street of Ciqikou is the busiest part of the ancient area. The old-style buildings on street sides offer a great variety of snacks, souvenirs, and costume shops. You can find stylish bars with young singers singing and a traditional teahouse with opera performances going on. Or you can just find a quiet garden in the alleys to relax.