Discreetly tucked away on the Yuzhong peninsula, the People’s Hall人民大礼堂 and Three Gorges Museum三峡博物馆 occupy either side of Chongqing People’s Square重庆人民广场. I’ve included both in this post, as you can easily visit them together as part of the same trip.
There are normally a fair few locals and tourists hanging around the square, with little stalls eager to sell you souvenir photographs in front of either site. In the evenings, you may well find middle aged and elderly ladies during their collective line dance routines, called ‘Public square dancing广场舞(Guang chang wu),’ or ‘Baba wu坝坝舞’ in local dialect. During national holidays, the square might be completely occupied by tents selling local snacks, delicacies and souvenirs.
The People’s Hall 人民大礼堂
The People’s Hall is one of the most recognisable symbols of Chongqing, along with the Liberation Monument, perhaps. It was among the first search images I found back in early 2003, a time when I barely even knew the city even existed.
In April 1954, this ancient style modern structure was completed with a total floor space of 6600 square metres. The central auditorium reaches a height of 65 metres, and has seating for 3400 guests. In 2016, the hall was a listed among the first ’19th century heritage buildings’ in China.
Apart from government extravaganzas, organisers sometimes use the People’s Hall for concerts and theatrical performances. Back in 2015, I once came here to watch the famous Chinese pianist Lang Lang郎朗.
At other times, you can pay 10 Yuan for a visitor’s ticket and explore the hallways and auditorium during opening hours.
The Three Gorges Museum
The original structure opened to the public in 1951 as the Southwest Museum, but as the Three Gorges Reservoir submerged large swathes of the landscape behind the dam, the museum was re-designated as the Three Gorges Museum back in 2000 to display the history, culture and artifacts of the region. The new face, interior and exhibit halls were opened to the public free of charge in June 2005.
Main areas of interest include a section on the geological origins of the Three Gorges造化三峡, the civilisations that developed there山水之间, folklore from the Three Kingdoms Period and Taoist culture三峡风流, and The Immortal Three Gorges永远的三峡 that is focused on the construction of the dam in Yichang, including a seamless 360 degree surround film theatre.
Other than the Three Gorges, there are sections based on the history and culture of the ancient Ba Country 巴渝文化 that once existed in these lands. There’s another section dedicated to civil resistance in Chongqing during the Second World War, and an exhibit covering the past century of urban development in the city.
At any time, there is also a guest exhibition held on the upper floors. A few years ago, the Welsh Tourist Board hosted an exhibition about history, tourism, and modern life in Wales. Perhaps the most interesting exhibit was a thirteenth century printed book claimed to be the first written in the Welsh language.
There are a number of ways to find the People’s Square using public transport. Many bus routes pass right by, but a more tourist friendly route is taking the green CRT monorail line 2 to Zengjiayan Station曾家岩, then walking through a long underpass towards exit A, where you re-emerge right next to the museum.
I would recommend putting aside a whole morning or afternoon to fully take in these two symbolic attractions of Yuzhong District, and Chongqing in general.