China has opened the Chongqing nuclear plant to tourism. The Chinese 816 Nuclear Military Plant is a decommissioned Cold War-era plutonium and weapons processing facility. It’s buried in the Chongqing mountains that has one of the world’s largest man-made caves.
- Started in 1967
- More than 60,000 soldiers worked on it for 17 years before it was shut down in 1984.
- In 2010, it was opened to the Chinese public but was closed shortly after.
- It is 104,000 square meters and made up of 18 caves and 130 tunnel roads.
China has recently reopened the plant again-this time as a destination for international tourists. This helps boost tourism in the country and draws in people from all over.
A walk through the plant:
Following the nuclear bomb display hall, visitors witness incredible visual effects as they go through a tubular tunnel lined with blue, red, and green lights. Next, staircases lead to rooms with reactor meters and Cold-War Era displays. Important–Anything that could have been radioactive is covered in protective glass (so it’s safe).
Sci-fi like displays light a labyrinth of concrete rooms. There are plaques mentioning heroic engineering in the Cold War while one room features a glass box with Chairman Mao red books and nuclear gas mask and fallout body garb.
Other areas of the mountain are still highly restricted to tourists. But officials are hoping to open more sections to tourists in the future. According to CNN, “It combines interesting science and dramatic history with the thankful sentiment (if set in a deeply Chinese patriotic language) that the Cold War is over.”
More Chongqing info:
After a thirty minute train ride from downtown Chongqing and a one hour drive into Fulin county, 816 sits in the hills overlooking the Wu River, a southern tributary of the Yangtze that flows down to Guizhou. Chongqing is often referred to as “River Town”– the country’s largest municipality.
Over 30 million people call Chongqing home– 10 to 20 million around its multiple riverfront downtown and around 18 million placed across the rolling hills and mountains of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Chongqing tourism has categorized the 816 bunker as one of the several destinations as “cave cool”. The area is also famous for caves owing to the ancient Yangtze river and karst limestone geology. These caves are significant in Chongqing’s culture and history- with some of the most popular ones being turned into entertainment, dining, and tourist attractions.
Being immersed in a constant tourist culture while studying in Barcelona, I’m starting to think more and more about the role of tourism in any culture. I’ve never seen the draw to Chinese tourism, so this topic allowed me to dig deeper into the culture. As illustrated by the opening of the 816 Military Plant, Chinese tourism has expanded over the last few decades since the beginning of reform and opening. It is the third most visited country in the world. According to the WTO, in 2020, China will become the largest tourist country and among the largest for overseas travel. More famous sites in China include the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace.