The Toughest Porters in China

Ever since the first Chóngqìngers couldn’t bear the thought of carrying their buckets of water from the river up to their cliff-side homes, there’s been a need for a special kind of porter. A porter who can lift more than his body weight and lug that load up and down hills all day long. A porter who can’t use a trolley like in other cities, or a bike or a rickshaw, but instead works on foot using only the cheapest of tools: a bamboo pole – or ‘bangbang’ – and a length of rope.

Known as the Bangbang Army, these porters have been bearing the city’s weights on their shoulders for hundreds of years, but their numbers really exploded in the 1990s when the government began resettling millions who lived along the Yangzi River. Many came from the countryside with little education and no relevant skills, and soon became part of the 100,000-strong workforce.

‘Bangbang’ porters earn around ¥50 per day to work in one of China’s hottest, hilliest cities, lugging heavy loads up and down steep hills, although you'll also see them carrying people's shopping home on the subway.

Despite the wealth that’s been pumped into the city in recent years (just look across the river at the Grand Theatre), the Bangbang Army continues to be an integral feature of Chóngqìng and porters are especially plentiful in the area close to the docks.