China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Jiangbeicheng is a latecomer in the atlas of China’s imperial cities. Although it functioned as a transportation node at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers as early as the Qin-Han era, the city did not take shape until the early nineteenth century. Construction of the city wall started in the eighteenth century and did not complete until 1860. The walled city was a political deliberation. It symbolized the state’s presence and defined the boundary of a local power center from 1754 until it was challenged in 1890 when Chongqing became a treaty port open to the West. Since then, missionaries, entrepreneurs, late Qing reformers, local warlords, republican and communist governments all experimented with their agendas in order to transform Jiangbeicheng from a late imperial river town into a modern urban district. This process includes the state manipulation of religions, reshuffle of guilds, maneuver of encountering the West, and violence against the environment. Through an examination of local and international archives, this paper examines the construction and transformation of Jiangbeicheng by focusing on the changes of its religious landscape, in particular, the interaction of religions amid a mosaic of political forces operating throughout late imperial and modern times. It reveals events and trends of national significance in the history of building urban China as experienced at a local level.