Late autumn has transcended into winter, but although the damp and mist has accordingly set in, the seasonal climes have been overall generous to us city dwellers here in Chongqing. But while many are naturally averse to drab overcast skies, the real thought one should harbour is looking beyond the superficial, and towards a magical side that lurks concealed beneath the surface.
My latest involvement with iChongqing led to an impromptu, yet fruitful afternoon exploring the peninsula in search of locations that have featured in recent Chinese film releases.
Retrospective inspiration came in the shape of a Weibo topic, where netizens discussed a spate of films produced in Chongqing, most recently ‘Better days少年的你,’Vortex铤而走险’, and ‘Ash is purest white江湖女儿.’
These films have starred big names in the Chinese film industry, like Deng Chao, Bo Huang and ???, so we spent an afternoon tracing their steps, and even imitating famous scenes on location that I will soon share for your viewing amusement.
A focus of discussion was the unique features of Chongqing that make such a great backdrop for cinematic productions.
At this point, I’ll share a few highlights of an iChongqing article I co-authored with their journalist, Wu Xiao;
An iChongqing Excerpt
In a nutshell, the dramatic terrain, breathtaking skyline, along with the intriguing blend of modernity and folk tradition, all combine to form the distinctive charm of Mountain City.
The vertical topography means that usual conventions in urban planning cannot apply. Your satnav can mistake your position on roads that overlap a hundred feet apart. The experience of losing your way on the steep, windy streets and alleyways are as delightful as they can be confusing.
You can appreciate the incredible skyline and verdant mountainous background, all huddled around the mighty Yangtze and Jialing rivers, from many vantage points in the city. In the depths of winter, clouds often envelop the hilltops, instilling a sensation of beauty and wonder.
As one explores the antiquated, yet deeply charming alleyways and neighborhoods, you can witness the traditional lifestyles that have survived to this day.
The manual laborers who carry bamboo poles over their shoulders, a timeless symbol of Chongqing that locals call the ‘Bangbang’ army, continue to haul wares up and down steep alleys.
You can walk past bustling teahouses, see locals tucking into hotpot in former air-raid shelters, and hear the familiar grinding sound of mahjong tiles.
Chongqing has always been used to welcoming visitors due to its long status as a commercial hub, so perhaps the friendly inhabitants needn’t feel surprised on how tourism has exploded in this fascinating and gorgeous city after all!
A brief filmography of Chongqing
The ‘Yangtze Cableway,’ a local tourist hotspot, features on the cover of ‘Chongqing Blues.’
‘Hotpot Hero’ took inspiration from the culture embodying the delicious and fiery specialty for which Mountain City is known far and wide.
A popular Chinese saying goes, ‘You discover you married too early when you come to Chongqing,’ an adage befitting the film ‘Chongqing Girl.’
The natural beauty of ‘Yongchuan Bamboo Forest’ served as the backdrop in the film ‘House of Flying Daggers,’ a successful international release back in 2004.
The rich variety of city streetscapes provided many gritty ‘down to earth’ settings that brought audiences closer in ‘Crazy Stone’ and ‘Passing around the World.’
Riverside Flower Garden Cafe
Our schedule was tight, so the main objective was to shoot an imitation scene from the 2016 release ‘I belonged to you从你的全世界经过,’ then quickly film some extra clips on the monorail, Huangguan escalator, and a roadside outside Gongmao Station.
Riverside Flower Garden Cafe (江畔寻花咖啡小筑) is my rough translation of the picturesque hillside terrace that sits perched on the steep slopes of Eling Ridge鹅岭, near Jiefangbei.
The open, spacious layout stretches nicely across two rooftops, tucked in closely by the electric monorail line, and over trains quietly whizz past every few minutes.
I’m sure most would normally shudder at such a thought, but here, the beauty of the surroundings, coupled with an expansive over the Jialing below, means that, however strange it may seem, this novel feature manages only to add further charm and romance.
At one end, a discreet wall mounted display publicises the fact a scene from ‘I belonged to you’ was filmed here. At the other is a two floor structure housing the cafe, where you can choose from a selection of tasty homemade beverages and snacks. Walking up the metal stairway, there’s more seating available indoors, with enough room available to even host meetings among the attractively whitewashed exterior and wooden floorboards.
While the scene itself was obviously shot at dusk on a warm, clear summer evening, we had to make do with the cold, misty drizzle that typifies the winter climate in Chongqing.
Nevertheless, the visitor needn’t feel discouraged. The quiet surroundings are no less appealing, and I still love to sit under the parasols as wispy cloud obscures the moutaintops above, while below, you watch on as daily city life continues to nonchalantly unfold.
Should you wish to come here on day, you can take the second monorail line to Fotuguan佛图关, then walk out through exit A, cross the narrow windy road, then spot the entrance a few metres up.
It’ll be worth it.