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As Exquisite as Porcelain


Text by Wu Zhen

For many, the most alluring piece of a city is its older streets soaked in the strongest local flavor. The greater vintage orthodoxy the street preserves, the more mesmerizing it becomes for visitors. Ancient Ciqikou stands out as a miniature version of old Chongqing, a major Chinese municipality known as “mountain city.”

Ciqikou lies on the Jialing River in northeastern Shapingba District, 14 kilometers west of downtown Chongqing. Initially named Longyin Town, it was built during the Xianping reign (998-1003) of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The town had become a bustling port by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). A local ballad recounts its prosperity at that time: “A thousand merchants greet each other in the daytime, while ten thousands lanterns light up the sky at night.”

The city’s porcelain industry grew so strong that the town was eventually renamed after it ‘Ciqikou translates literally to “porcelain mouth.” Early in the 20th Century, local merchants embraced cutting-edge techniques and jointly established Sichuan Porcelain Factory. Its exquisite and diverse products sold well both in Sichuan Province and beyond. In its heydays, the town was packed with more than 70 porcelain factories, and countless cargo vessels squeezed into its wharfs, injecting vitality into the local economy.

Most buildings still standing in the town retain architectural styles of the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Its main street is paved with stone slabs and lined with shops. At its entrance, Zhong’s Compound combines architectural elements of quadrangle residences of both northern and southern China. It was constructed 120 years ago by Zhong Yunting, who served as an officer under Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty. All its structures are situated symmetrically along the central axis of its spacious courtyard, a typical feature of northern quadrangles. Meanwhile, the exquisite black tiles and tenon frames reflect traditional architectural styles unique to southern China.

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