City Profile: Chongqing, Chongqing Municipality

Chongqing (重庆) is regarded as the industrial capital of Southwest China. With a population of just under 30 million people, Chongqing Municipality is the most populous of the four direct-controlled municipalities in China. An ancient regional trade center, Chongqing today is still a major manufacturing and transportation hub. But, don’t let that scare you off—despite being known as an industrial city, Chongqing is extremely pleasant and livable, with parks and green areas all over the city.

Chongqing has a long standing historical background—the city dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period—around 316 BC. At the time the city was known as Jiangzhou; its current name was given to the city in 1189 with the crowning of Prince Zhao Dun, who described his crowning as a “double celebration”, the literal meaning of “Chongqing”.

Regarded as one of the “Four Furnaces” of China, Chongqing has an incredibly hot and humid summer. Temperatures reach the high 30’s and the humidity is often more than 80%. At other times of the year, however, the climate is characterized by mild winters, and warm spring and fall seasons.

Unlike most big cities in China, Chongqing is considered to be a sprawling countryside, rather than a city. The lifestyle isn’t as hectic and stressful as coastal mega-cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Unlike many of the Tier I cities, Chongqing has remained affordable to live in. Eating local Chinese food is inexpensive, and a good meal will cost as little as CNY 7 (just over $1). Taxis are also affordable for getting around downtown, and the city’s thirteen districts are well connected by four major subway lines. Access to long distance buses, train stations and the airport are all convenient and cheap. A trip across the city on the subway, will set you back less than CNY 10.

The people in Chongqing don’t usually speak Mandarin, but rather a distinct dialect called 重庆话 (Chongqing hua) or Chongqing Language. It’s a local dialect similar to that spoken in Chengdu and across Sichuan province, also called “Sichuanese”. It’s common for Chinese who speak Mandarin to not fully understand people in Chongqing, and vice versa.

Chongqing is also home to the famous “hot pot” or 火锅 (huǒguō), a selection of sliced meats, fish, and vegetables, typically served in a very spicy (hot) broth. The name hot pot (literally: fire pan) comes from the spicy peppers. While hotpot is the most famous cuisine in Chongqing, you’ll find a lot of interesting and varied food in this mountain city. Their love for spicy food is apparent, but restaurants are nice enough to ask foreigners if they can handle the heat—they’ll prepare a toned-down version of the dish for those who aren’t fond of spice. In Chongqing you’ll also find 小面 “xiǎo miàn or small noodles” and other delicious and spicy foods such as 串串 ” chuàn chuàn” and 干锅 “gān guō or Dry Pot”.

Being a modern city, you’ll also find plenty of western-style restaurants and coffee shops, along with a variety of western supermarkets where you can buy imported food. If you buy a lot of food at once you can go to Metro; plus, one of the biggest IKEA’s in China opened just last year. You can buy Scandinavian furniture for your apartment, or enjoy traditional Swedish meatballs! For shopping and nightlife, most people find their way to Jie Fang Bei or Guan Yin Qiao where you’ll find a myriad of western restaurants, bars and places to kick back and relax.

Chongqing is the kind of city that mixes a little bit of everything. There’s a great mix of business and pleasure within each district, and though some parts feel a bit like a concrete jungle, you can also find quiet parks that overlook the rivers and give you amazing views at night. Chongqing has an eclectic blend of lifestyles—old and new China living side-by-side. It’s common to see business people wearing crisp suits on their morning commute walking alongside the street vendors and 老百姓 “laobaixing, or common people”. It’s a “big, small city”—it has everything without having too much of anything. Chongqing has a friendly spirit and strikes a perfect balance of old and new, making it an amazing city to live, work, and play.

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By: Mikkel Larsen

Mikkel Larson

Mikkel is a Chongqing based teacher, blogger, and photographer. He has lived in China since 2010, and can be found blogging here, here, and here

City Profile: Shenzhen, Guangdong Province

Gone are the days when every aspiring teacher wanted to go to either Beijing or Shanghai – Shenzhen is the hottest destination for today’s TEFL crowd. Just thirty-five years ago Shenzhen was nothing more than a small village adjacent to Hong Kong Island. But, Deng Xiaoping’s great “Reform and Opening” brought swift change. Shenzhen became China’s first Special Economic Zone, and the economy subsequently took off. Today, Shenzhen is a boomtown – the first ‘Mega-City’ to spring up in the Pearl River Delta. It boasts a thriving economy specializing in international trade, foreign investment, manufacturing, and financial services offered by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

Because of the city’s humble beginnings as a fishing village, it doesn’t have as many cultural or historical attractions as Beijing, Nanjing, or Xi’an. But there’s an offset to this drawback; because of the many opportunities here, it attracts job-seekers from every corner of China. As a result, Shenzhen is one of the most diverse cities in the mainland. Regional cultures, customs, and cuisines from various parts of China blend seamlessly. Not to mention, Shenzhen has loads of modern sights and places of interest, such as the Window of the World, Xichong Beach, Happy Valley Theme Park.

Being a cosmopolitan city with a large expat community, there’s no shortage of western restaurants, bars and nightclubs; plus, plenty of parks, temples, theaters and museums. Shenzhen is a symbol of China’s modern economy, and the birthplace of the entrepreneurial spirit that is now found even in the most remote parts of the country.

If it’s for three days or a year, experiencing Shenzhen should be high on everyone’s ‘to-do’ list when passing through China.

Have a look at our China job board for more information about working in Shenzhen (or anywhere else in China)!

City Profile: Nanjing, China

With over 2,500 years of written history, Nanjing like the Chinese empire itself, has fallen and risen many times. A city nestled in the heart of China’s Jiangsu Province, Nanjing is steeped in history and in the midst of yet another transformation – into a thriving, modern city and a hub for education, tourism, research, the arts and transportation.

Known as one of the “Four Great Ancient Capitals of China”, Nanjing is home to over 8 million people. China’s “Southern Capital”  is also the Provincial capital of Jiangsu, located in China’s fertile Yangtze River basin. Bordered by Zhejiang and Shanghai Provinces in the South, Nanjing within a stone’s throw of some of China’s most sought after tourist destinations.

Nanjing’s cultural importance in Chinese history is almost without parallel. The earliest record of the city dates back nearly 500 years B.C. – over the years it’s served as the capital of the Southern Tang Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty.

Nanjing experienced dark times, first as the place where the Opium War culminated into the first of several “Unequal Treaties”, later as the birthplace of the Taiping Rebellion, and finally with the awful pillaging by Japan during World War II. Later, Dr. Sun Yat-sen helped restore the city to its earlier prominence by naming it the capital once again after the Xinhai Revolution.The city was razed and restored several times, hence the construction of the city wall (中国门 or “China Gate”) which stands as the longest of its type in the world.

In spite of its turbulent past, Nanjing has developed into a young and energetic city. The city’s many parks and lakes offer a haven from the bustle of the city life. In fact, you can find rolling hills and lush subtropical forests just thirty minutes outside the city. Nanjing’s green spaces are famous throughout the region and give you a taste of a more traditional, rural China.

Nanjing is brimming with arts and culture – some of China’s leading art performance groups are based in the city including several dance companies and famous Chinese opera institutes. The Nanjing Library is the third largest in the country and keeps over 7 million printed volumes. In addition to Nanjing’s many museums, temples, pagodas, open spaces and parks, Nanjing also has a great restaurant scene and a jumping nightlife. Both short and long-term visitors to the city will never run out of things to do and places to see.

Nanjing has long been a transport hub in China, a role which it still fulfills to this day. Referred to “the door of the east and west, throat of the south and north” – with its proximity to the Yangtze River and to China’s  financial epicenter, Shanghai – Nanjing has always been crucial a gateway. There are 17 railway stations in Nanjing, including a high-speed rail line, plus an intricate highway system which connects the city to Beijing to the north, Chongqing to the west and Shanghai to the south. There is an international airport with direct flights to Korea, Japan, Germany, Thailand and Singapore, among others.

While most people instinctively flock to Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou – Nanjing has quietly become one of the most interesting, lively and livable cities in China. A growing metropolis surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, Nanjing is an attractive destination for wanderers looking to experience a great mix of culture and modern comforts.

For ESL Teaching jobs in Nanjing and other exciting teaching jobs in China, visit the ESL Suite Job Board!


City Profile: Tianjin, China

Tianjin is best known as the main port of entry for China’s northeastern manufacturing corridor. It’s the largest coastal city in the north and is just a stone’s throw from the capital – going to Beijing is a 30-minute ride by high-speed rail.
Ex-pats find Tianjin to be a very livable city – it has all the amenities from home including shopping malls, western restaurants and coffee shops. In fact, there are four Starbucks locations on one city block! Tianjin has a modern and efficient subway system that includes four lines (several more are under construction) and getting around by taxi or bicycle is very easy. Bikes are the preferred mode of transport for most locals and expats usually pick up a good, sturdy Flying Pigeon at the local supermarket for about $40-50.
In spite of rapid modernization – there is still very much a sense of community here – the locals are often seen mingling in front of their apartments and they’re  not shy to chat up a foreigner if they spot one! Tianjin has a reputation throughout China for being extremely friendly, safe, and for its delicious food! Street vendors can be seen day and night selling savory dumplings and exotic looking snacks – there are hundreds of great restaurants all over the city that feature foods from various regions of China. Sometimes a delicious and generously portioned dinner for two will cost less than a value meal at McDonald’s!
Tianjin has a rich history and has many examples of old British and Italian architecture. The famous Italian Concession Area has the largest cluster of Old Italian architecture outside of Italy. Other local attractions are the Huanyaguang section of the Great Wall, the Tianjin Eye and Tianjin’s Ancient Culture Street. Outside the city centre is Binhai, which includes Tanggu and TEDA (Tianjin Economic Development Zone). These areas are home to much of Tianjin’s commercial activity and is one of the engines driving the smoking hot Tianjin economy.
While rapidly becoming one of the most developed cities in north China, Tianjin still has maintained its charm. You can soak in the culture by meandering about on a bicycle through one of the small alleyways, dropping into a “mom and pop” store or just by sitting in a quiet park and watching the locals play a friendly game of majiang (mahjong). There are many gorgeous Asian parks in Tianjin including the Tianjin Water Park, Central Park and Renmin Park (People’s Park). Walk through one of these in the morning and you’re bound to see old-folks doing calligraphy, practicing martial arts and playing traditional music.
While living in Tianjin, you will definitely get the full Chinese experience!
For more information about finding teaching jobs in Tianjin, contact ESL Suite today! (