The sun rose on day five of the National Holiday, and familial duty led me to spend most of my time amongst the rather mundane surroundings of Yangjiaping杨家坪, the pedestrianised centre of Jiulongpo District九龙坡区.
Not to worry, though, as there are still keen points of interest to keep the reader interested.
On a side note, Jiu-long九龙 uses the same two characters as the Cantonese name of Kowloon in Hong Kong, while the characters in Jiulongpo read like ‘Nine-Dragon-Slopes.’
It’s important to bear in mind that individual districts in Chongqing are almost like cities in their own right, on account of the geographical area they occupy and the dizzying population statistics. The equivalent of Leicester, my home town, could theoretically settle in a neighbourhood in any part of Chongqing.
Unlike English cities, where you usually find one main pedestrianised focal point around the centre, many districts in Chongqing are expansive enough to warrant at least one to themselves. Yuzhong has Jiefangbei, Nanping has Wanda Square, Jiangbei has Guanyinqiao, Shapingba has Three Gorges Square.
Yangjiaping Zoo杨家坪动物园 is the greatest crowd puller in Jiulongpo, but is far from being the only attraction, as the more distant attractions of Grafiti Street, Ba Country Town and Huashengyuan Castles feature in the Baidu top 30 for the city.
Perhaps I should have known better, as I saw the zoo was packed with visitors from the moment the square outside came into view. I luckily managed to find a small carpark nearby just off a narrow side street I accidentally turned into, and headed towards the main entrance armed with a push chair and feisty two year old.
I’m going to keep this section very brief.
The zoo is good value for a mere 25 Yuan adult ticket, you can see the typical range of animals, and there are pandas kept in decent enclosures, including newborns tourists can look at through glass screens. The grounds are nicely tended, facilities are adequate, and there’s more than enough to keep the visitor interested for half a day.
I can say from personal experience that the panda experience is nowhere near as good as the breeding facility in Chengdu, but you can see them in Yangjiaping if you don’t have the chance to fit Sichuan into your schedule.
My only cause for dissatisfaction is the lack of accessibility for parents with very young children. The underpasses and monorail station entrances have you risk life and limb, and the nearest road crossing is few hundred metres up the road.
Once inside, there are steep mossy steps and long sharp inclines to offer you a good workout, with no alternatives to breaking sweat or simply giving up on the high inner reaches.
There’s an antiquated funfair inside the zoo near the entrance, and it’s better value to fork out 60 Yuan cash for a through ticket giving you the free choice of five rides from a total of eleven.
Yangjiaping Pedestrain Street is only a kilometre or so from the zoo, so it’s feasible to check out both during the same trip.
The monorail trains zip past every few minutes on the tracks that cross the square overhead, and at ground level, you can find some perculiar aethetic additions that give cause to raise eyebrows.
At one end of the square, there is a six foot high sculpture of a crumpled blue and white milk carton by the Chinese dairy brand name Tianyou天友. The recepticle stands upright while the bronze figure of a young boy dangles from the top by his fingertips, the back of his trousers hanging low enough to expose his buttocks.
On another innocuous corner, you might trip over a bronze ninja turtle if you’re not watching your step. I can’t tell which of the quartet it depicts, but the sculpture features one the turtles holding up a manhole cover while he beams out a friendly smile to passers-by.
Another unusual feature is the blue Incredible Hulk lookalike holding a branch of the native ficus virens tree, known commonly in Chinese as ‘Huang-ge-shu黄葛树,’ or ‘yellow-vine-tree.’
Unknown to many, what the oak is to England, the magnolia to Korea, or the cedar to Lebanon, the huangge is the official tree of Chongqing Municipality, just as the camellia japonica (山茶Shan cha) is the official flower.
I’ll leave some photos of both the tree and flower in the photos below.
This choice of decor is not without precedent. For many a year, the street outside Marriott Hotel was home to a ten foot green
The name Yangjiaping
The final point of interest for my post today is a commonality between places names in Chongqing.
杨家坪 Yangjiaping translates as ‘Land of the Yang Family.’ In history, such a clan may have bossed the area once upon a time, and there are many places around Chongqing named in similar fashion, especially for major transport intersections.
Familiar examples are Chenjiawan陈家湾(Chen Family Bay) in Shapingba, Xiejiawan谢家湾 (Xie Family) in Jiulongpo, or Zhaojiaxi赵家溪 (Zhao Family Stream) in Yubei.