Chongqing (1938-1945) / Building infrastructure: a transportation hub in the Southwest China

Before the anti-Japanese war, Chongqing had made some achievements in transportation industry, mainly in water and land transportation. By 1937, Min Sheng Company, a privately operated shipping company founded by Lu Zuo Fu owned 47 steamships and opened 3 long routes, 5 short routes, which dominated shipping business of Chuan Jiang River. And after 1935, Chiang Kai-shek took over the administration of Chongqing and designated his MilitaryStaff Committee to manage highways in Sichuan. Out of political intention “Communist Suppression”, Chiang pushed hard on building Chun-Qian highway which was the first road to link Chongqing with external cities; subsequently, by 1937, key sections of highways were completed to enhance communication between Sichuan and adjacent provinces.

Yet, after moving capital to Chongqing, how to relocate all resources and manpower became extremely urgent; and also during the wartime, Chongqing suffered great loss in massive ships;  roads to were cut off by Japanese. But the existing water routes and highways were far from bearing these demands.Therefore a great amount of infrastructure was built or renovated during the wartime.


Emerging infrastructure


In order to connect Chongqing with ShanXi Province,  Han Yu Highway, starting from Xiao Long Kan in Chongqing to Xi Xiang, covering a distance of 952 km was built from 1939 to 1941. This is the main artery and along it plenty of branches were developed for different purposes, as shown in the table, which became a transportation network in the Southwest China.

From 1948 to 1944, 11675 km of new highways were built, and 88901 km of highways were renovated in the rear area by the National Government.

Fig 1. New highways during the wartime.


(2) Shipping facilities

Chuanjiang River, especially from Yi Chuan to Chongqing, was the busiest shipping route during the wartime. In order to help colossal ships pass over the rapid benchlands faster, the government set up 44 warping stations along Chunjiang River and Jialing River. From 1938 to 1949, this helped 142,000 ships to warp and largely reduced accidents. Also compared to 1936, shipping facilitated buildings increased by 65%.  

As the number one port of upstream Yangtze River, the harbour was completed renovated. The anchor ground grew into 3km long. Ports were classified into specific uses, in 1944 44 ships could be contained at one time. New construction was going on as well, ladder streets, warehouses and freight transporting platforms were added. In 1939, Hai Tang Xi Wharf was built; Jialing Wharf and Chaotianmen Wharf built during that time are still in use nowadays.


The emerging infrastructure and take-over of public transportation by the National Government largely facilitated development of transportation.

(1) External transportation

Moved-in factories which located along Yangtze River were quite dependent on water transportation. To fulfill this need, a batch of new shipping routes was opened. Owing to improvements of shipping facilities, the previous shipping routes were able to expand upwards. For instance in 1944, “Min Ting” ship succeed in a trial trip from Chongqing to Nanchong and the route was settled as a routine afterwards.

As for land transportation, several inter-province arteries were put into operation primarily for freight transport. Intercity services were provided mainly for passenger transport.  During 1989 August to December, passenger flow in Chongqing achieved 145,8000.

Apart from these, an innovative way of transportation was born, called ”combined transport”. One prominent case was Chuanxiang-Chuanshan Water-Land combined transport route, opened so as to transport food from Shanxi to Sichuan.  

(2) Inside the city

There used to be 12 roads in the city. To deal with influx of population, the government expanded 6 roads and opened 10 new branch roads. In 1941, the administrative authority established “Chongqing Public Transportation Administration Office” and increased public buses from 2 to 13 to relieve the situation.

Also, due to the special topography of Chongqing, people had great difficulties in climbing the hill slope, a new transportation tool was introduced in 1945, cable cars at Wang Long Yun Wharf.

Fig 2. Wang Long Men Cable Car, 1945.

Although after the war Chongqing was no longer the capital and large amount of people moved back to their hometown, which had a great impact on transportation industry, it is undeniable that the emerging infrastructures contributed a lot to Chongqing as the transportation hub in Southwest China since the wartime and after the war as well. The scope of Chongqing’s influence to other cities were much enlarged by the efficient transportation networks.  



  1. ‘A history of Chongqing as the second capital’ Book Series Editorial Committee. “The second capital became the rear transportation hub in water, land and air”. In The National Government, A history of Chongqing as the second capital, 205-208. Chongqing: Southwest Normal University Publishing House, 1993.
  2. Chongqing Public Utility Chronicles Editorial Committee. Chongqing Public Utility Chronicles. Bureau of Chongqing Public Utility, 1990.
  3. Zhou, Yong. “The third industry of Chongqing (two) —— Transportation Industry”. In A comprehensive history of Chongqing, 1082-1113. Chongqing: Chongqing Publishing House, 2002.

1 Comment on “Chongqing (1938-1945) / Building infrastructure: a transportation hub in the Southwest China

  1. It’s incredible that know that Chongqing managed to build so many infractures during the war time. As you mentioned, the transportation was largely affected by the Japanese and the roads were cut off. I am wondering what kind of strategy did the government adopt in planning the transportation network to avoid the obstacles from the Japanese.

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