The "Mountain City" of Chongqing clings to steep cliffs at the confluence of the Yangtze and a
major tributary, the Jialing River. This bustling city rises high above docks held in the rushing currents by cables lashed to anchor holes cut into the rocky shore. Cable cars glide across to opposite banks and giant bridges carry creeping waves of trucks loaded with the city's varied industrial output. Caves perforate the steep hills, once built as bomb shelters and now busy as garages or naturally cool restaurants and hair salons.
For centuries the main commercial and transportation centre for Sichuan Province, Chongqing is now under rapid transformation due to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The city was granted national status in l996 as a municipal region similar to Bejing, Shanghai and Tianjin with an administrative region that includes the eastern Sichuan counties downriver for a total population of some 30 million people. Chongqing is now proud to be the world's largest metropolitan region.
This area will bear the brunt and possible benefits of inundation by the world's largest dam that
will displace over 1.3 million people. Chongqing is in the midst of vast reconstruction, demolishing many old neighborhoods that had previously been bombed by the Japanese and reconstructed into the traditional ramshackle warrens laced with sandstone staircases. These squalid conditions gave close quarters to the city residents, who are known for their cheerful pleasure in sitting outside on cool summer nights. The folk cuisine of outdoor sidewalk dining is from huo guo or hot pots. These are basins fi1led with bubbling chili oil and huajiao--flower pepper that causes the mouth to tingle, into which are dipped all kinds of meats and vegetables.
Once the river boatmen's campfire meal of leftovers from the day's market, hotpot(huo guo) is now the local favorite, sometimes because opium pods are placed in the brew.
The traditional lifestyle of Chongqing is being transformed by giant shopping and residential
construction complexes that all but eliminate the spicy street life into glitzy boutiques for the parade of newly flush consumers. The centre of town is the Jie Fang Be-a modern tower built to memorialize the martyrs of the civil war----now covered with gaudy advertising. The city is plagued by the worst air pollution in China as industry and traffic jams spew toxins into the humid still air of this landlocked port. The dam project has initiated construction of massive new walls along the river shores with express highways on top to alleviate the thick crawl of
traffic through town.