Chongqin, the City of Fog and “as polluted as almost anywhere in China.” (Lonely Planet) How is it that I find myself here for the second time in less than two months?
My first visit was during the Spring Festival in January. Having visited an exhibition of Buddhist sculptures from Dazu at the museum in Cardiff during 2011, I was determined to visit the place for myself. After a 12 hour train journey to Chongqin and a 2 hour bus ride, I arrived at the Unesco World Heritage Site of Dazu. There, at Treasured Summit Hill, were extensive cliff carvings and statues of great beauty. Dating from the Tang Dynasty (9th century) to the Song Dynasty (13th century), the carvings show Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian influences. The central carving is a 31m long, 5m high reclining Buddha seen entering nirvana. Having seen individual sculptures at Cardiff museum, I was amazed to find so many fine carvings still in situ. I’ll let the photos tell the rest. They also include photos of Chongqin and AnKan.
So why a second visit to this city of 5 million people? I have been working this time. It is strange what one does in foreign lands. I was asked by VSO to give a two day training on Volunteer Management Systems to a group of local NGOs and here I am. Having worked in a Volunteer Centre for only 6 months, I have just delivered a two day workshop to over 25 participants. It was touching to meet so many young people who run NGOs (charities) despite the frustrations of funding and capacity. Many of the NGOs worked on environmental projects and they certainly have their work cut out for them. Others worked with the deaf – there are over 45,000 of them in Chongqin – with special needs children, soldiers’ wives, children from rural areas, migrant workers and the elderly. They gave up a week end to come to the training and participated with enthusiasm and commitment. I was also pleased to hear that the British consulate had sponsored the week end. The training of course was free!
I will leave Chongqin tomorrow with fond memories of the time I spent here as a tourist and a trainer.