Chongqing (1937-1946) / Improvisation: Moving in of the Government Institutions and the Transformation of Existing Buildings

Chongqing (1937-1946) / Improvisation: Moving in of the Government Institutions and the Transformation of Existing Buildings

Early in the morning, 17th November, 1937, nineteen days after the announcement of the relocation of the Capital city, the Chairman of the National Government of China, set off from Nanjing to Chongqing. Together with him who also left for Chongqing were more than one thousand key government officials, employees and relatives (Figure 1).

Figure 1, The Arrival of Lin Sen, the Chairman of the National Government of China

At this very moment of history, both the Chongqing government and the local people expressed an extraordinary enthusiasm and passion in supporting the wartime government. In the “An Announcement for the People”, written and published by the Chongqing local government on 28th November, 1937, the local government aroused the people to “contribute fortune if you are rich, contribute labour if you are able, all to the fight against the Japanese Invasion for the final victory of our nation, our country”. In response to such call, various individuals, groups and insitutions chose to either donate or rent out at a very low price their buildings to the National Government of China to house the large number of incoming officials (Figure 2-7).

Figure 2-7, The List of the New and Old Addresses of the Moving in Government Departments

According to the list, when the government body first arrived in Chongqing, most of the major institutions settled down in the new town district near Shangqing Temple, Zengjia Rock and Daxi Gou. The nature of the buildings they occupied also varied from each other: Some of them were existing public buildings with civic functions like Ancestor Halls of Wu, Shangqing Temple and Guanyin Rock Hall; some were private own villas; the others included naturally formed caves, schools and local banks. After the government moved in, not only did the program of such buildings change, a new relationship between the government building and the surburb was also established in the district.

In an article titled The Grand Tour Around the New National Government Building, which was published on Huaxi Daily in 1937,  it was depicted that “…from the window, beautiful country scenery could be seen. During the breaks, the chairman could see clearly how the farmers are working on the field. What was once hard to notice is now present in the sight of the chairman…”. According to that, it is clear that the National Government Building was located in the middle of a piece of farmland in the surburb of the Chongqing city. Such relationship was definitly very specific in the context of wartime Chongqing. Though it was not clear how such arrangement changed the spatial order in that neighbourhood, it was sure that it was not a carefully planned move. The improvisation no doubt changed the relationship not only between the building and the surrounding, but also between the old city center and the surburb, which became a temporary place of power. Cases similar to this must have occurred in other buildings that housed the officials. From the list we could see that quite a number of private residences, after the government moved out after the war, became public buildings like hospital or school. Though it was not sure if the ownership was changed during this period, the particular function of the building during this period must have changed the image or the identity of the building.


  1. Zhang Gong, The History of Chongqing as Capital City of the National Government of China (Chongqing: The Xinan University Press, 1993).
  2. Hao Mingong, The Culture of Chongqing during the War of Resistance Against Japan (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2016).
  3. Zhang Tao, The Issuance and Development of Building Laws in Provisional Capital Chongqing During the War of Resistance Against Japan, Architecture & Culture (2012) Issue 11, pp.67-69
  4. Chongqing Editing Committee on Wartime Matters, Chongqing Kang Zhan Da Shi Ji 重庆抗战大事记, (Chongqing: Chongqing Press, 1995).
  5. Huai Yingtao, Modern History of Chongqing (Chengdu: The University of Sichuan Press: 1991).

1 Comment on “Chongqing (1937-1946) / Improvisation: Moving in of the Government Institutions and the Transformation of Existing Buildings

  1. This case reminds me of the Palace of Versailles in Paris. It was a small village before the palace was built, but then everything has changed after Louis XIII decided to make Versailles the centre of emperor power. The village became busy with royal family members and aristocrats entering the palace to join meetings, gatherings and parties. The garden of Versailles became one of the largest gardens in the world. However, due to the tyrannies brought by the french kings who lived in Versailles, historians now only remember the place as a symbol of absolute monarchy. It is thus correct to conclude that a single relocation of an official building have the ability to change a place entirely.

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