Chongqing (1936-1946)/ Improvisation: Formation of the Sha Ci Cultural District and immigration of schools

Sha Ci Cultural District was located to the west of Chongqing City, similar as Bei Bei, it was classified into major removal districts for government institutions. In ancient times, “Sha” (Sha Ping Ba) was a peaceful village where farmlands and forest occupied most of the land; while “Ci” (Ci Qi Kou) served as the largest ferry terminal and commercial center of Sha Ping Ba. Cheng Yu Highway was built in 1932 which passed along Sha Ping Ba,  since when Sha Ping Ba developed more communication with the city; After a steelwork was built at Ci Qi Kou later, another road Sha Ci Highway was built for transporting supplies, while the first tertiary education institutions, such as Chongqing University and Sichuan Rural Construction College were gradually moving in along this highway. 

Based on this initiative scale of Sha Ping Ba, in 1936, it was for the first time proposed as a new cultural center of Chongqing in order to cultivate talents by Hu Shu Hua, the head of Chongqing University. This thought received high attention from the society so that in 1938, “Chongqing Autonomous Committee of Sha Ping Ba Cultural District”, consisting of primary schools and other local parties was set up to promote regional construction.

Fig. 1 Institutions of Higher Education immigrated to Sha Ci and Ge Le Shan.

During the wartime, immigration of schools from other affected area played a key role in driving this district into a cultural center. With the help of the National Government in China, educational institutions started great migration from east to west. Among them the representatives are the National Central University and Nanyu (Nanjing Nan Kai) Secondary school. Principals of both schools were highly aware of the tense situations and prepared in advance to migrate manpower, resources and build up dormitories on the new site. Sha Ping Ba was an ideal site in terms of safety, good environment and ample facilities, therefore, in 1936 and 1937, both schools completed construction of the new campus within a few months. Though urgent and simple, the campuses were well planned  and well-equipped. During the war time, the scale of schools both expanded a lot compared to the past.

Fig.2 Plan of National Central University Campus during the wartime.

Influenced by the two reputational schools nationwide, other schools also settled in Sha Ping Ba one after another. Sha Ping Ba naturally grew into a cultural center, well-known as one of the “eight scenes of the second capital”, “schools and dormitories stand one by one; during the night time, looking from the river bank it was full of light lit up in the classrooms”.

Fig. 3 Chongqing Sha Ci Cultural District.

Following that, the urban form of Sha Ping Ba evolved  as well. Along the Sha Ci Highway, in between two points Xiao Long Kan and Ci Qi Kou, dotted with several schools, a linear city zone was spontaneously growing, where commercial potentials were soon materialized, as depicted in “early birds speculated in this piece of land to open shops and build new houses…most are restaurants, bookstores in the second place…Sha Ping Ba became much more modern.”

The ambience of culture also became an attraction to famous scholars. During the war time, plenty of cultural celebrities chose to settle in Sha Ci District, such as Guo Moruo, Xu Beihong, Feng Zikai, Fu Baoshi, Ba Jin and Bing Xin.

The successful development of Sha Ci Cultural District was highly praised by National Government. It is clearly stated in the post-war ten-year urban development plan that “the cultural region of Chongqing should continue to development on site from Xiao Long Kan to Ci Qi Kou, and Sha Ping Ba as the center.”


1. Chongqing Editing Committee on Wartime Matters. Education in Chongqing during the anti-Japanese War. Chongqing: Chongqing Publishing House, 1993.

2. Luo, Jialun. “Moving campus of National Central University during the anti-Janpanese war.” Collected Workds of Luo Jialun 8 ,1989.

3. Shao, Yi. “The Cultural District of New Chongqing.” Jian Wen 1, no. 5 ,1941.

4. Song, Pu. Zhang Boling in Chongqing. Chongqing: Chongqing Publishing House, 2004.

5. Zhang Gong, The History of Chongqing as Capital City of the National Government of China. Chongqing: The Xinan University Press, 1993.

6. Zhang, Jianzhong. History of Chongqing Sha Ci District. Chengdu: Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 2005.

2 Comments on “Chongqing (1936-1946)/ Improvisation: Formation of the Sha Ci Cultural District and immigration of schools

  1. I found it very interesting that education was still attached importance to during the warfare. It is seldomly seen in other countries for the universities and scholars to move in that big number. Chongqing grabbed the chance to create its particular cultural district. I am also curious about how to maintain this area while most institutions moved out after the war.
    Meanwhile, it seems that The zoning of Chongqing grew by developing different functional districts separatly and than to connect them together. The strategy was distinctive compared with most of cities that develop as a cluster and then expand.

  2. The cultural and institutional construction in Chongqing during wartime is quite amazing. The immigration of schools and universities is extremely successful in the modern history of China. And as you said, it was the immigration of those educational facilities that shaped this place to be a culture district while bringing many prominent scholars in. In Seoul’s case, to decentralise the population in Gangbuk area and dispense the population into Gangnam, a thing the Seoul planning authority did was to move some educational institutions to Gangnam. That may give inspiration for current planners to rethink about the role of educational facilities in the cultural development of the certain region.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.