For hundreds of years, Chongqing stood as an important wharf and outpost in the west of Chinese territory. Straddling the intersection of the Jialing River into the important eastward Yangtze River, it was a valuable strategic location. Evidence of defensive walls surrounding parts of the city have been found dating as far back as 2200 years.

Map of the Ming Dynasty city wall around central Chongqing.

The most famous layer of fortifications dates from the Ming Dynasty. During this time, the wall had an 8 kilometer perimeter around the Yuzhong peninsula and reached up to 30 meters in height at some places. According to varying sources, there were either 17 or 18 city gates.

Of these, only 2 remain.

Tongyuan Men 通远门

Translated loosely as “The Gate to go somewhere far away”, the Tongyuan Men gate lies very near the commercial center of Jiefangbei and is accessible from the Qixinggang subway station. The larger of the two remaining city gates, a good length of wall remains either intact or partially reconstructed. Although not the imposing structure of other city walls I have encountered, such as Xi’an or Hue, the wall at Tongyuanmen reaches an impressive height.

Owing to the geography of Chongqing, the Tongyuanmen gate served as on of the main strategic entryways to the central citadel based near the convergence of the rivers. The city’s expansive hills and small mountains create many areas whereby travel to or from old Chongqing would have been a difficult endeavor. Tongyaunmen is one of those areas with a gradual slope, allowing for a relatively comfortable walk.

Stairway to the top of Tongyuanmen Gate.

This also made it a point that needed defense. The Chongqing city wall at this location is cleverly built with the interior on naturally higher ground than the exterior. This would allow for ancient Chongqing soldiers to easily access the top of the wall and move supplies, while any enemies on the outside of the gate had a steep ascent before hoping to get to the other side.

Recreation of attacking armies from the top of the city wall.

One such battle is reconstructed on the exterior side of the city wall, complete with invading soldiers attempting to scale the wall and being fired at by defending Chongqingers.

The bell tower-turned-teahouse atop the city wall.

Antique gong outside the old bell tower.

Antique (replica?) bell atop the Tongyuanmen Wall.

A small park lines the interior of the wall. Here stand the staple benches, exercise equipment as well as additional bronze statues for taking photographs. From the park, you can take a stairway to the top of the wall to either look down on the battle replica or continue on to an old structure that has since been turned into a teahouse decorated with an antique bell and gong.

Dongshui Men 东水门

Dongshuimen (East Water Gate) is in a more difficult location to find on the Yangtze riverfront. Owing to the changes in elevation of the city, this gate is a small trek from the city’s mass transit system. The trick is finding the right path to take, as so many of Chongqing’s downward stairways will only take you to dead ends and shopping centers.

The actual gate is under the aptly named Dongshuimen Bridge, or as a local Instagrammer called it “Vagina Bridge”. Beneath the orange and white structure is the Yangtze River Hostel and the Huguang Guild Hall, another of the city’s few remaining historic attractions.

Dongshuimen Bridge as seen from the Huguang Guild Hall

Like its name suggests, the Dongshuimen gate served a different purpose than the Tongyuanmen gate, which was one of the main entrances too and from the city by land. Instead, the riverfront streets nearby Dongshuimen give a modern idea of its function in the past. A walk along the Yangtze River between Dongsuimen and Chaotianmen (another important gate in Chongqing’s past) shows many goods being offloaded and being brought up into the markets of the upper city along the elevated Xinhua road.

View from inside Dongshuimen Gate.

Dongshuimen is the more scenic of Chongqing’s two gates, with large grey bricks grown over with green vegetation. The formidable stairway leads up through the intact archway into one of the remaining old sections of the city called the Eastwater Station’s Traditional and Commercial Street.

The Eastwater Station and Commercial Street facing Dongshuimen Bridge.

The Eastwater Station and Commercial Street.

Old architecture near the Dongshuimen Gate.

Old architecture near the Dongshuimen Gate.

Old walkway atop Dongshuimen Gate.

Unfortunately, in the past year, many of the old sections around the Dongshuimen gate have been torn down, only to be replaced with empty lots of walled-off rubble. In a similar fashion to Shibati, it’s likely these areas will be built up with newer development, but for now there are simply decimated relics of the city with no clear future standing beside a few antiquated structures.