By Parker Walker, iChongqing
As anyone who has lived in Chongqing knows, there is something mysterious about the weather here. During many nights, especially the summer, it begins to rain. On many a night, you will be lulled to sleep by the soft patter of raindrops on the buildings and mountains outside. Of course, it has been this way ever since, and many poets’ pens have been moved to write about this “night rain”. One of them was Li Shang Yin as he was coming through the river city of Bei Bei.
Beibei (almost sounds like the English “Baby”) is a small city situated on the Jialing River just north of the main city of Chongqing. Like most areas in Chongqing, the city is constantly shrouded in mist, especially during the winter months. In Beibei, there is a famous mountain call Jin Yun Mountain, that has especially thick mists – so much so that when the sun comes up, the clouds and the mists covering the mountain alight in blazes of purple, red and orange. Thus the ancients called the mountain “Jin Yun” (Jin is a red kind of silk and Yun means “cloud” in Chinese). The beauty of this mountain was known far and wide and attracted many poets and literati. When Li Shang Yin, a famous poet of the Tang dynasty (around 851 A.D.) sailed through the Jialing river on his way to Beibei, he stayed at a guesthouse to pass the night. As he rested, he gazed at the fires of the fishermen twinkling along the sides of the river and listened to the pitter-patter of the “night rain” on the tile roof. It was at this moment that the muses moved his pen to write down one of the most famous poems about Chongqing (my translation).
While you ask when I will return, and I have no other reply,
but the night rains of Chongqing fill the autumn pools
When will we reunite and reminisce by candlelight,
while I hark back to these night rains of Chongqing?
To this day, school children in Chongqing all learn this poem and the people here know it by heart.
The misty mountains of Beibei also hide a rich resource able to sooth the mind and cure the body – hot springs. In October of 2018, China’s First International Symposium on Hot Springs and Climate Health Tourism was held in Beibei District, welcome experts from home and abroad to Beibei to discuss the wellness and medicinal properties of hot springs, as well as discover what opportunities lie ahead in the tourism industry. With a total of more than 20 natural hot springs and more than 6,000 tons of water at a year-round temperature of 38 degrees Celsius, Beibei boasts an abundant, yet undiscovered hot springs resource.
In Beibei, the hot springs are, of course, arise due to the beautiful mountains that surround them. When traveling to one, you often drive along mountain-side roads overlooking sheer cliffs and mountain valleys, finally going up a foggy winding path to a secluded resort where bubbling hot springs await you. Legend has it, emperors of China’s past traveled here to bath and “warm soup”, owing to the medicinal properties of the mineral water. Countless literati and poets have also come here throughout the ages to relax, write, and leave behind their masterpieces for posterity.
Beibei also hides one of Chongqing’s four famous historical walks – Jin Gang Bei. Like many villages along the Jialing and Yangtze rivers, Jin Gang Bei flourished in times past, during an age where important materials from coal to chinaware were shipped along the river to and from bigger cities. During the Qing dynasty (around 300 years ago) Jin Gang Bei reached its zenith, becoming a boomtown for the transportation of coal. During that time, businessman, traveling actors and bards, scholars and normal townsfolk gathered in local tea-houses and pubs, watched fire-breathing Szechuan operas over a cup of rice wine and a hearty laugh before making their way with the wares down the river.
Today, Jin Gang Bei is a peaceful village that retains much of the ancient architecture of hundreds of years ago. Nestled between the misty Jin Yun Mountain and Jialing river, visitors may stroll along the cobbled streets, taste local specialties, sip teas and peruse some Chinese poetry. This peaceful village is perfect for a getaway from the big city and putting your mind at ease. Even though Jin Gang Bei is today a quiet dockside town, you can still imagine their revelry, and almost hear their laughs echo down stone-cobbled streets and old foggy alleys.
Whether it is traveling through night rains and history, nourishing in a bubbling hot springs bath, or strolling along tranquil streets of an ancient Chinese village, Beibei District of Chongqing has much to offer the curious traveler.