Based around a hilly, comma-shaped peninsula at the junction of the Yangzi and Jialing rivers, CHONGQING is southwestern China's dynamo, its largest city both in scale and population. Formerly part of Sichuan province and now the heavily industrialized core of Chongqing Shi, the city is also a busy port, strategically located 2400km upstream from Shanghai at the gateway between eastern and southwestern China. For tourists, it's mainly of interest as the departure point for the two-day cruise down the Yangzi and through the Three Gorges to Yichang. In many other respects the city has little appeal, plagued by overcrowding and oppressive pollution.
During its Qing-dynasty heyday, the peninsulawas Chongqing, an enormously rich port with mighty walls, temples, pagodas and public buildings. Civil war through the early twentieth century, the Japanese occupation of eastern China, and the subsequent flight to Chongqing of the Chinese government and millions of refugees brought an end to those days, however; after three years of Japanese bombers following the Yangzi upstream to the junction and unloading their cargoes, much of the peninsula was reduced to rubble. The peninsula as a whole remains grimy and shambolic – most development seems to be targeting Chongqing's newer, western suburbs – though it's being modernized to resemble a miniature Hong Kong, complete with skyscrapers, hills and a profit-hungry populace. Over two million people rub elbows on the peninsula, with five times that number in the ever-expanding mantle of suburbs and industrial developments spreading away from the river.