For many years following its official unveiling in 1987, locals depended on this means of transport across the Yangtze River as a matter of necessity.
With few bridges connecting the Yuzhong Peninsula to surrounding districts in the past, offering an extremely circuitous and time consuming journey simply to reach the opposite bank.
In the late 1980s, the issue of crossing the Yangtze长江 to Nanan District南岸区 (Literally ‘South Bank District’) was resolved to some extent by the construction of a ropeway for pedestrian traffic. A terminal was built either side, connected by two sets of cables from which a considerably spacious vehicle was attached to each, allowing people to cross in either direction at the same time, with a daily capacity of over ten thousand passengers.
In the past, there was another ropeway that crossed close to where Hongyadong洪崖洞 is now, and provided an identical service across the Jialing River嘉陵江 to Jiangbei District, not far from the Grand Theatre.
Due to development needs, and new bridges rendering the Jialing River Cableway more obselete, it was finally dissembled in the first decade of this century.
However, the Yangtze Cableway continued to enjoy high levels of usage, both from locals who still relied on it as a means of transport, but also increasing numbers of tourists, domestic and international, enhanced even further by multiple appearances in well known Chinese films and TV shows, such as ‘Hotpot Hero火锅英雄’ and ‘A Taste of China Series 2 舌尖上的中国’
Whilst the cableway was mainly used by commuters, like when I first arrived in 2003, the ticket price was a mere two Yuan from a single windowed office. As contact payments gained popularity not that many years ago, a journey across the river could be combined with other transport options as a single trip, meaning that no extra cost would be incurred when crossing.
Eventually, as many new bridges were constructed, especially the pairing of Qiansimen千厮门大桥 and Dongshuimen Bridges东水门大桥, that connect through Jiangbei, Jiefangbei and Nanan in as little as a few minutes, the Yangtze Cableway began to lose its significance to commuter traffic.
Fortunately, the Yangtze Cableway won’t meet the same fate as the previous version over the Jialing River. In 2009, it was officially named the youngest cultural relic in Chongqing Municipality, and was classed as a 4A rated tourist attraction as of 2018. The main entrance in Yuzhong was given a facelift, with modern ticket booths added and walkways to guide tourists inside in an orderly manner.
The original building and cablecar systems have been well preserved, offering tourists a truly authentic experience of old Chongqing, and great views at either day or night.
While the Yangtze Rive Cableway is perfectly walkable from Jiefangbei, the simplest way to find the entrance is leaving Xiaoshizi小什字 Subway Station at exit 5B, and you’ll literally find yourself right outside the main entrance.
Despite being a normal Wednesday morning on my first visit in many years, I noticed straight away the large number of obvious tourists holding cameras, and speaking in clearly non Chongqing accented Mandarin or unintelligible dialects.
That small ticket window has been replaced with a large office with multiple counters, but most tourists were using their ID cards to buy tickets in the many electronic self-service booths.
Unless you have a city transport card, in which case you can just head straight for the lift queue without buying a ticket, you will need a form of ID to purchase a single ticket for 20 Yuan, or 30 for a return. This rule was introduced in 2018 to put an end to ticket touting outside the attraction. Incidentally, the popular Chinese term for a ticket tout is Huangniu黄牛, meaning literally ‘yellow-cow’ word for word, or more practically, just an ox, or a term for cattle.
The days when you could waltz your way inside uninhibited are long over. Even on an average day, you’ll probably have to wait twenty minutes to scan your bags and wait for one of the four lifts to carry you up.
Interestingly, people expect the lifts come down automatically, but you actually have to push the button manually. Whilst the masses of tourists waited to pack inside the first two lifts, I quietly walked over to the outermost and pushed the button. The doors opened, and I furtively slipped inside unnoticed while the others pushed, shoved and squeezed themselves in like sardines in a tin.
Once upstairs, you queue to present a ticket or swipe the transport card once the batch of passengers in front have boarded the cablecar, then simply wait for your turn.
I took a number of photographs of the crossing which I’ll share below. The journey takes just over four minutes to cover the 1166 metres of cableway. Despite its age, the cablecar is remarkably quick and stable, and windows all the way around afford you great views of the peninsula, Nanan District and the Yangtze itself.
Once on the other side, the workers will shout out repeatedly that there is a good viewing platform down below, as tourists would otherwise hang around the platform area taking photos and holding up the passenger traffic.
The same principle goes for the four lifts on the Nanan side, too. People assume that only the first two lifts operate for some reason, but you can slip by them and bush the buttons to call the other two.
You’ll notice outside the cableway station in Nanan that tourist numbers are drastically lower, so you could perhaps consider traveling to Nanan District first using alternative transport, and making the cablecar ride part of your return journey to Jiefangbei.
While the tourists often go straight back to Jiefangbei using their return tickets, you can turn left out of the slightly remote station and walk down to Nanbin Lu南滨路, the road accosting the south bank of the Yangtze. You can head southwest towards the glittery and golden twin towers of the Sheraton, but my choice for this day was north, along the less trodden paths that lead to Danzishi弹子石, and more specifically, the newly restored French Navy Barracks法国水师兵营, the subject of my next post.