Chongqing (1940-1943)/Bei Bei: Urbanization Experiment in the suburb
After the anti-Japanese war broke out, to deal with rapid growth of migrated population and keep safe from Japanese air attack in the city center, the National Government of China claimed the suburbs from Cheng Yu highway to Qing Mu Guan and from Qing Mu Guan to Bei Bei as major districts of evacuation and removal. Bei Bei was the key land for relocating government, education and medical institutions.
Yet Bei Bei was a place of poor and desolate villages with bandits emerging from time to timeuntil 1927, when the industrialist Lu Zuo Fu was committed the director of the Gorges Defence Bureau in order to clear bandits by the local commander of National Revolutionary Army Liu Xiang. Lu Zuo Fu not only maintained the public security, but envisioned and executed an experiment of modernization on Bei Bei as well. He put emphasis on economic development by building more infrastructures to facilitate transportation which lead to a great leap on output of mineral resources. In the meantime, public spaces such as Civilian’s Park and People’s Sports field and research institutions such as China Western Academy of sciences were greatly promoted.
This village urbanization experiment was intensified during the war time. After 1937, relocation of government institutions and migration of population caused a great rise in the administrative significance of Bei Bei. Therefore, in 1942, Bei Bei Administration was established to manage local operations. Among these operations, great changes took place on the urban layout of the Bei Bei market from 1940 to 1943 . The civic market was located on the only plain land of Bei Bei alongside the river and used to suffer from hygiene issues because of narrow streets. Before the war, it was once renewed by Lu Zuo Fu however without enough budget it was intervened only in minor details. However, owing to the air raid, one fourth of the market became ruined. Therefore a brand new plan was enabled to turn it into the local commercial center. First, new houses were built up on ruin site according to the principle of disperse in order to keep a safe separation distance for potential air raid. Streets were taken under unified management , “ longer streets should be 150 meters, short streets should be 50 meters; depth of the wide ones should be 100 meters, the narrow ones should be 30 meters.” Moreover, a combination of grid layout and radiating main roads was implemented. The orientation of roads was deliberately considered to maximize covering area of natural light. Furthermore, the street image was beautified by new plazas at road crossings and roadside trees.
These actions were in effect responding directly to the urgent need of air defence. Not only did the management over street size and building distance serve for this purpose, but also public spaces and gardens of various forms offered convenience for evacuation and fire fighting. Yet at the same time, advanced urban ideas were integrated into the redevelopment, which built up a image of garden city in Bei Bei. The urbanization of Bei Bei paced even faster instead of being stopped during the war time.
1. Liu, Chonglai. Lu Zuofu and Study on construction of country in the Republic of China. Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2007.
2. “Overview on Experimental Area of Village Construction in the three gorges of Jialing River. ” Bei Bei Monthly, 1938.
3. “Working Plan of the Thirteenth Year on Construction.” Bei Bei Monthly 3, no. 8 ,1941.
4. Xie Xuan, Study on the Urban Construction and Planning of Chongqnig (1947-1949), PhD diss, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, 2011, China Academic Journal Electronic Publishing House.