Blink as you turn the bend, and you’d be forgiven for missing the entire complex!
Around halfway between the Golden Eagle and Caribbean Bay (Japanese bath house), a matter of just a few kilometres, you can visit the site of a former Kuomintang (国民党Guo-min-dang) political headquarters in the days when Chongqing was the wartime capital of China.
In 1913, a wealthy merchant by the name of Huang Yunjie黄云阶 bought this plot of land to serve as a summer getaway. The villa and gardens became known as ‘Huang Shan,’ meaning something along the lines of ‘Mr. Huang’s Villa Complex.’
All was well until Chongqing became the wartime capital of China in the year 1938, when the whole site was ‘purchased’ from Huang by the Kuomintang government. After the war ended, not much happened until the Yunxiu Building was renovated in 1991 and set up as an exhibit centre. It wasn’t until 2005 that the whole site was restored to its current glory and opened to the public as the War of Resistance Museum.
Indeed, the restoration obviously succeeded in retaining the site’s historical charm, while all the buildings, offices, living quarters are kept in immaculate condition.
Exhibits are in no short supply, either. There are plenty of authentic photographs, letters of correspondence, historical newspaper articles, and military paraphernalia to check out. Amongst others, I was particularly interested to see an old 1940s British typewriter on display, as well as a small hand powered air raid siren.
An entrance ticket sets you back a very reasonable 20 Yuan. Be mindful to keep close track of it, as a member of staff sits inside the entrance to most of the buildings, and punches a hole into the stub of your ticket, despite the fact you enter through a turnstile checkpoint at the main entrance, and there’s no extra expense at any point thereafter. It’s hard to imagine they would really deny you entry were your ticket to mysteriously disappear.
These staff members sit leisurely over a small desk, usually reading a newspaper or with eyes glued to their mobile phones over a mess tin of canteen food. Since there are so many people in China, the point is mainly to keep the excess number of staff occupied with any superfluous role, whether it be control of a carpark barrier, filling unnecessary paperwork by hand rather, or clapping loudly outside shops to attract attention. When you set foot in one of the villas, the key is to smile politely and just let them perform their assigned task.
The downside for overseas tourists is that the majority of exhibit information is displayed in Chinese only. Nevertheless, the average foreign visitor will still feel perfectly contented to stroll around the grounds, offices, meeting rooms and living quarters. Many of the photographs and exhibits here don’t necessarily require explanation for tourists to appreciate them.
It’s possible to see everything in an half and half, and I’ll briefly go over some highlights printed on the back of the entrance ticket.
Air raid shelters 防空洞 – Unfortunately, the door was shut and bolted at the time of writing. There are photographs of important dignitaries inspecting the inner quarters, but the privilege wasn’t extended to us.
Riverview pagoda 望江亭 – A short walk up a dirt track rewards you with a great view over the river and main city. Definitely worth a look.
Yunxiu and Yunfeng Buildings 云岫楼 云峰楼 – Beautifully maintained reception buildings, complete with meeting rooms and living quarters. I particularly liked the lovely wooden floors that creak under your feet, and also used for wall panelling. In fact, it seems they used the same kind of wood in La Marine Francaise.
Song Hall 松厅 Here, you can walk in the steps of Jiang Kaishek (蒋介石Jiang jieshi) and his wife Meiling Song (宋美龄) in this homely feeling villa overlooking a picturesque landscaped garden from a wide open balcony upstairs.
The unusual tree – An eye catching botanical feature is the 苏铁, otherwise known as a sago cycas, or cycas revoluta. I had never laid eyes on or heard of this variety of tree before, and had to research this English name for this article. Check it out in the photos.
All that walking had worked up an appetite. Fortunately, outside the main gate, slightly hidden away to the left on the hillside, is a cosy coffee shop and restaurant called Yinyue Nanshan Canting 隐约南山餐厅, a place I’d recommend to unwind after a thorough visit to the museum.
I spoilt myself to a small latte and the Sichuanese fry-up. Not the coronary busting English breakfast, but thinly sliced fried pork mixed with chillis, leek and lotus root, and some splashes of soy sauce. One of my healthier favourites for taste and simplicity.
After sweating it out a good few hours here and at the Golden Eagle, I was ready for the Japanese baths next door, again, only to find it closed that day, thanks to a bust water pipe. That being the case, I got back in the car and called it a day.