Walking the City Peaks

Fotuguan Ridge spans a good length of the Yuzhong Peninsula, where narrow, windy lanes pass through time forgotten communities upon the slopes, and buildings hug tightly to the hillside, staking claim from foot to crest.

Naturally, the tranquil elevations that stand aloft the daily bustle has attracted more than local dwellers in times past.

Despite a modest scale in comparison to the ridges surrounding Chongqing, its central location, panoramic vantage points and thick canopy enticed a concentration of diplomatic activity lasting through the wartime period of last century.

At the summit, you can find Eling Park 鹅岭公园, built in the late Qing Dynasty, and opened first to the public in 1958. The highly recognisable landmark of Feige Pagoda stands on the peak, visible for miles around, and affording great 360 degree views from the upper floors.

A day parked up at Testbed 2 gave the perfect opportunity to explore further hillside attractions on foot, a trail I’m sure most visitors would enjoy following at least half a day.

 

The Former American Embassy

 

This eye catching, earthen wooden-brick structure began its days as Zhongzheng hospital, which later incorporated the American Consulate in 1896, the first diplomatic relationship between Chongqing and the US.

After serving a number of years as the embassy from the late 1930s, the diplomatic mission moved on to Nanjing following the war.

As with many old buildings of historical significance, the city has restored the site to its former glory.

Inside, one half is dedicated to the history, personel and great deeds of Zhongzheng Hospital, which now occupies a large, modern complex down the road.

The other side contains wall mounted photographs that detail the tribulations of wartime Chongqing, with a limited number of exhibits in the centre of rooms or in display cases.

While there are few exhibits that relate directly to the former embassy itself, the attraction is open free of charge, and worth a look as part of a walking tour in the area.

 

The International Village

 

As I strolled back up the road towards Testbed 2, I came across a stone gateway beyond which flights of sharply inclined steps led upwards through a dilapidated residential community.

Placing faith in tourist signs assuring me that a former US press building, Royal Navy Club and Radio Station lurked within, I began my steep climb alone, the only signs of life being the suspicious looks of elderly women peering from behind the dark interiors.

Low and behold, there were indeed three small, rather anonymous looking structures around a tiny courtyard. The press building and radio station were bolted up and unattended, while the Royal Navy club appeared to be a private dwelling which I decided against prying any further.

Arrows pointing in the opposite direction led back to Testbed 2 through a few hundred metres of deserted, moss covered walkways, cutting past more antiquated properties, and eventually to the back of Testbed 2 up a makeshift scaffold staircase.

Visitors could easily spend hours exploring this formerly derelict Republic of China era banknote printing factory, but now refurbished into a fascintating cultural enterprise park which attracts endless streams of domestic tourists each day.

In my case, I could almost navigate the alleys and exhibits blindfold after all these years, so I cut through and headed up the road towards Eling Park.

 

Eling Park 

 

Prior to now, my first and only visit to Eling Park was an overnight stay in the adjacent hotel on New Year’s Eve, when a friend generously invited us to see in 2007 with her lawyer colleagues.

Eling Park used to be the private residence of Yaoting Li, a rich businessman of the late Qing Dynasty. The ‘Li Garden’ became a park in 1958, and reached its present scale in 2008, when it merged with the neighbouring Fotuguan Park.

The first sight of interest is the former Australian resident mission, as attested by a plaque unveiled in 2006. The interior is usually off limits, but visitors are free to explore the gardens.

Next was the Lotus Pond and traditional covered walkway that runs along one side, a pleasant location for restbite, with crystal clear waters making a welcome change to the more turbid, algae infested features I usually see close to home.

Closeby is a tall stone monument and resting place for a pair of wartime Soviet pilots who fell in defence of the city. The memorial is kept in good condition, and park officials seem to lay out fresh flowers every day.

The main attraction is Feige Pagoda, a tall structure that tourists are free to climb and enjoy fantastic panoramic views of the city and both rivers.

Another feature that caught my interest during my prolonged stay were the imaginative uses of local apartment rooftops, which owners have turned into nicely tended gardens replete with small, private conservatories.

In the past, there have been extreme cases where top floor property owners have built extensions that appropriate entire rooftops, and without planning permission or consent of neighbours. Ultimately, domestic and international exposure has led to stricter regulation of these amusing personal additions.

At the foot of Feige Pagoda is the Hiroshima Garden, actually designed by landscape artists from Japan as a gesture of friendship in the early 90s.

I appreciated the immaculate beauty of the garden’s layout, gravel pathways, carvings, fish pond, bridge, native plants, bonsai, and the wooden coridoor beneath which couples like to take wedding album photographs.

Should you ever take in a full visit of Testbed 2 as part of the walking tour, Fotuguan Ridge offers plenty of enjoyment for one day.

 

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