Chongqing History & Culture

Street Sculpture in Chongqing Chongqing is located at the center of the ancient Bayu Area which is also the birthplace of Bayu Culture, a historical and cultural city in China with more than 3,000 years of history. About 20 to 30 thousand years ago, human beings had moved to this area, thereby marking the start of Chongqing's long history.


Name Origin of Chongqing

It is located at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers and is nestled among the gently sloping surrounding mountains. Although the name of the city has changed several times including Jiangzhou, Ba Shire, Chuzhou, Yuzhou and Gongzhou, kingdoms, shires, prefectures and counties. Most names involved the name Ba because this city was the center of the Ba Kingdom established by Ba ethnic groups and local aborigines who were conquered in the areas near the Yangtze, Wujiang and Jialing rivers. The Wendi Emperor of the Sui Dynasty (581-618) changed Chuzhou to Yuzhou and the mountainous city was called Yu for short for a long while. In the year of 1189, Song (960-1279) Guangzong was crowned as Gong King and the emperor of the whole country in succession. He gladly renamed Gongzhou to Chongqing meaning 'double gaiety'.

Statue - Enjoy Chongqing Hot Pot


Ba Kingdom

Western Sichuan was called Ba Fang during the Xia Dynasty (21st - 16th century BC) and Ba Dian during the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th century BC). Ba Dian delivered a tribute to the Shang Court every year. Ba people did not accept oppression under the Shang and bravely joined the Zhou (11th century BC - 221BC) Army in a crusade against the last king of the Shang Dynasty. Shang was finally defeated and the Ba group was authorized to be Ba Kingdom, one of the seventy-one vassal states of the Western Zhou. This city was approved to be its capital during the 11th Century BC.

The Ba Kingdom reached its heyday from the last years of the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC) to late Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC), during which it's bronze culture had reached its zenith. However, the fortification of Chongqing didn't start until 316 BC according to the annals of history. At that time, Ba and Shu rivaled each other and Ba asked for help from the Qin State. The Qin conquered the Shu Kingdom and spared Ba Kingdom, too. The general of the Qin troop, Zhang Yi, conducted major new construction projects. He was the first person in history to truly build the city including the impressive fortification of Chongqing. Until the year of 316 BC of the middle Warring State period, the Ba Kingdom had existed for 800 years.

War Ruins

Ba Culture

During the early Warring States Period, the Ba Kingdom moved from the upper reaches of Hanjiang River to Eastern Sichuan around the main stream of the Yangtze River. Bronze culture assimilated with local aboriginal Neolithic culture, forming the Ba Culture, and the origin of Bayu Culture. This city is the epicenter of this culture.

Representatives of Bayu Culture

Bayu Dance is a kind of folk martial dance of ancient Bayu Area.
Ba people were well known for their bravery and dash as well as being good at singing and dancing. It was said in ancient records that Ba troops always sang and danced while marching to their crusade against the Shang Dynasty. During the early Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), Bayu Dance was introduced to the imperial palace, becoming a royal court dance for appreciation, reception of envoys and guests and also official rites. This kind of dance gradually disappeared after the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and yet it was still popular among common people.

Folk songs of Ba people were also famous not only in local areas but also in the neighboring Chu State in ancient times. Chongqing people still sing of their lovely mountains and rivers. Work songs of boatmen are a part of the colorful folk civilization of Chongqing.

Bayu dance and songs are considered to be the most important elements of this culture. Additionally, Ba people brewed their own fine wine, had their own burial ceremonies (boat coffin, hanging coffin and other kinds of burials). They had symbolized character, totems, bronze sculptures, fascinating legends and myths. These are all symbols of this culture.

Chongqing as a capital

In its some 3,000 years history, it had been a capital city three times.

Capital of Ba Kingdom: in 1066BC of the Zhou Dynasty.
Capital of Xia Kingdom: In 1363, the general Ming Yuzhen of peasant rebel army cleaned up the power of the Yuan Court in Sichuan and proclaimed himself emperor of the Xia Kingdom.
Secondary capital of the Republic of China: In 1937 when the Sino-Japanese War erupted, the National Government moved to Chongqing later and made this city as the assistant capital.

- Last updated on Aug. 20, 2019 -
Questions & Answers on Chongqing History & Culture
Asked by Irene Brown from USA | May. 19, 2015 12:46Reply
I would like information about the House of Wishes in Chongqing
We visited a museum near the river that had a name like the House of Wishes. Could you please direct me to information about it. Thank you
Answers (1)
Answered by David from INDIA | May. 19, 2015 20:21

Do you refer to the Museum of Joseph Stilwell? It is located at No. 63 of Jialingxin Road, Yuzhong District. It is a museum to commemorate the American general Joseph Stilwell, and the museum is built on his old dwellings.
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