China Picture of the Day: Chongqing's Porters

The city's famously hilly terrain has long required men to carry items—and sometimes people—on their shoulders.
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Earlier today, Business Insider published a collection of color photographs taken by American soldiers in China during 1940s, focused on cities that typically escapes Western attention: Kunming and Chongqing. The latter city, which served as the Chinese capital during World War Two, is characterized by steep hills, some rising from the Yangtze River which flows through the city. In order to ferry goods (and people) through the town, Chongqing relied on a small army of porters who used bamboo poles to carry huge burdens on their back. In this photo, porters carry an elegantly-dressed woman up one of the city's infamous hills:

William L. Dibble

Everything—from the woman's dress, to the hats worn by the porter, to the thatched roofs of the nearby buildings—seems to date this photo to the distant past. And it goes without saying: Chongqing has changed a lot in the past seven decades, turning into a typical skyscraper-filled Chinese metropolis.

But the porters—called bangbang men—are still commonly used today. Here's a contemporary porter in Chongqing seen hauling up goods from the Yangtze:

Teakdoor.com/beerlaoddrinker

Which just goes to show: The Chinese Communist Party can move mountains, seed clouds, and accomplish many other miraculous feats—but it cannot do away with Chongqing's hills. So 70 years from now, I'd bet bangbang men will be every bit as handy as they are today.

 

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Matt Schiavenza is an associate editor at The Atlantic

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