Sichuan has enough museums to keep most visitors happy for a while, but what is the museum junkie who's visited all of the museums in Chengdu, Anren, Pixian, Ping'le, and Wenjiang to do? Hop on the bullet train to Chongqing for some more, of course. Here's a rundown of the main museums in our favorite nearby megalopolis.
Part 1 Museums in Chengdu
Part 2: Museums around Chengdu
Part 3: Museums in Sichuan
White Crane Ridge Underwater Museum
China's first underwater museum lies 40 meters below ground level and houses a viewing cabin that enables visitors to see the now-underwater ancient White Crane Ridge inscriptions made on the stone reefs, where, during the Tang Dynasty, people would track the water level of the Yangtze River by whether the inscriptions could be seen or not. The museum was constructed over the course of six years, before the Three Gorges Dam caused the water level to rise to the point of submerging the ridge under more than 43 meters of water. The stone ridge is 1,600 meters long, 15 meters wide, and up to 138 meters tall. Today the inscriptions are visible to the general public via underwater cameras. The UNESCO-protected site is regarded as the world's only preserved ancient hydrological station.
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Entrance: RMB50/60. 185 Bingjiang Dadao Sect. 2, Fuling 白鹤梁水下博物馆 滨江大道2段185号 Tel. 85688882. From Chongqing, take a bus, train, or taxi (60 to 90 minutes) to Fuling (涪陵).
Three Gorges Museum
The Three Gorges Museum is an expansion of the former Chongqing Museum and covers the history of Chongqing and the Three Gorges, from the Ba-Yu civilization through the mid-20th century. Among the 170,000 artifacts on display are massive stone reliefs as well as engravings that were transported from the Three Gorges area before the flood. The museum also includes halls on currency, sculpture, porcelain, paintings, and an extensive display of textiles and other artifacts from the ethnic minority groups of southwest China, including Tibetan, Qiang, Yi, Tujia, Miao, Dong, and Shui.
Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free entrance for up to 5,000 people per day. 236 Renmin Lu, opposite the Chongqing People's Hall 三峡博物馆 人民路236号 Official website
Chongqing Planning Exhibition Gallery
Anyone suspecting that China's cities somehow spontaneously, organically appear need only visit the Chongqing Planning Exhibition Gallery to be shown otherwise. The museum traces the history of Chongqing's urban development and projects the city's future (by 2020, the municipality will comprise six big cities, 25 medium-sized cities, and 495 small towns). The centerpiece is a scale model of the entire city. The museum's futuristic displays are befitting of a city that plans in the next decade to add six additional monorail lines, both above and underground, and that has at least 130 over-200-meter-tall buildings vying for approval to begin construction.
Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Entrance: RMB20. 1 Chaotianmen Dong Lu 重庆市规划展览馆 朝东路1号 Tel. 023-6373 0777 Official website
Ge Le Mountain Revolutionary War Sites
This corner of the city houses a number of civil-war sites, including the Kuomintang-controlled prisons Bai Gongguan (白公馆) and Zhazi Dong (渣滓洞), where hundreds of Communist prisoners were massacred. As the buildings had been set on fire, they have been reconstructed, and the cells converted to small displays offering readings in both Chinese and English about the prisoners they housed. Much of it is rather poorly displayed, dull propaganda glorifying the Party and the prisoners' martyrdom; however, there are a few original artifacts on display as well as a recreated cell model. In this region, you can also find the Red Cliff Martyrs Memorial Museum (红岩魂陈列馆), Chiang Kai Shek's Hideout (蒋家院子), and the Song Lin Execution Grounds (松林坡). Also related (and along the way, from Shapingba) is the former headquarters of the Communist Party Planning Committee, now converted to the Red Crag Memorial Museum (红岩革命纪念馆/RMB50 entrance), depicting the struggle for power between the KMT and the Communist Party and housing wax sculptures of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.
Daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance: Free, or up to 10 for each or RMB40 for all-inclusive pass. Re-enactments of historical events take place nightly from 7:30 to 10:30 (RMB30). 重庆歌乐山烈士陵园
Flying Tigers Exhibition Hall and General Stilwell Residence
The Flying Tigers was a volunteer air force of American pilots who charged themselves with the task of protecting Chongqing from Burmese and Japanese air raids during World War II. The exhibition hall is small, with a collection of photographs and newsletters of, by, or about the Flying Tigers—a much larger display on the same team is featured in the Jianchuan Museum Cluster. Just across the street from the Flying Tigers hall is the former residence of U.S. General Stilwell, who oversaw the construction of the Sino-Burma Road and lived in Chongqing from 1942 to 1944. Several rooms in the wood-floored house—bedrooms, meeting rooms, and an office, are outfitted with sparse furnishings and objects from that period. Downstairs is a gallery of photographs and prints, some of which are mildewing and peeling off the walls, with captions printed out and sometimes corrected with a ballpoint pen.
Flying Tigers Exhibition Hall and General Stilwell Residence Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance: RMB5/15, respectively. Jianling Xin Lu 史迪威将军博物馆 嘉陵新路
Pipa Shan Museums
Pipa Shan (枇杷山) is on the peninsula and three museums sit at the end of a long, new road that's little traversed by buses and taxis: the four-story Chongqing Science & Technology Museum (重庆科技馆) explains the basics of science through interactive displays that seem mostly aimed at children. Halls include space exploration, transport, disaster defense, national defense, science fundamentals, and a life hall, which includes a delightful "lucky" pinball machine that simulates farting. There is also a section that focuses on ancient Chinese technology as well as an IMAX theater and a "4D" cinema (additional entrance fees apply). The Natural History Museum (自然博物馆) showcases fossils of more than 100,000 specimens, including Jurassic dinosaur bones and pre-neolithic human specimens. The Chinese Folk Medicine Museum (中国民间医药博物馆) is home to nine exhibition halls with statues of doctors, well-known articles, and other artifacts used in traditional Chinese medicine. A doctor is also on site for consultations.
Entrance to the former is RMB40 and to the latter two is RMB10 each.
Other Museums in Chongqing
The Chongqing Police Museum 重庆警察博物馆 is currently closed while its contents are moved to a new location. When it reopens this year, visitors can learn about the history of public security, internal security, the national security agency, the criminal investigation office, the prison hall, and the fire department. Among the items on display are photos of well-known counter-espionage cases. The Chongqing Art Museum (重庆美术馆) is attached to the highly regarded Sichuan Fine Arts Academy and shows revolving exhibits of student and professional works. The small Baoshan Temple (宝善寺) in Ciqikou displays ceramics from the 19th-century production site from which the old town's name was derived, and the Beibei and Shanyangling Dinosaur Fossil Sites (北碚恐龙化石遗址 and山阳岭恐龙化石遗址) showcase some of the many dinosaur fossils unearthed in Chongqing beginning in the 1930s.