Population: 4.2 million
Province: Sichuan (provincial capital)
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China. The urban area houses 14,047,625 inhabitants. The fertile Chengdu Plain, on which Chengdu is located, is also known as the "Country of Heaven" a phrase also often translated as "The Land of Abundance". Chengdu is the original city name that dates back to its founding over 2000 years ago. Chengdu is the only major city in China that has never changed its location or name for more than 2000 years.
Established during the late Warring States Period, Chengdu boasts a 2300 year history. As early as the 4century BC, the Shu State moved its capital to where Chengdu city is presently located. In 311BC, the Qin people built a city wall of 6 km in circumference and about 25m in height, which marked the formal establishment of Chengdu city.
Over thousands of years Chengdu has been known for its history of silk brocade manufacturing. During the Wudai Dynasty (907-960 AD), the top of the city wall was extensively planted with hibiscus flowers resulting in Chengdu being referred to as Hibiscus City, a name by which it is still called today. The city saw brisk night fairs at the time and today people can still see such names as Business Street and Button Fair Street, a reflection of the city's historical commerce. Chengdu was the first city in the world to use paper money (Northern Song Dynasty, 420-479 AD) and the first to extract and use natural gas (Western Han Dynasty 206BC-24AD). Chengdu is also renowned for its history in lacquer ware making, woodblock printing, irrigation techniques and tea drinking culture. Today Chengdu, is a centre of science and technology, commerce and finance as well as leading hub of transportation and communications in Southwest China.
Chengdu has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate and is largely mild and humid. It has four distinct seasons, blessed with abundant rainfall, and relieved from both sweltering summers and freezing winters. Its favorable climate contributes to the development of agriculture and animal husbandry, making Chengdu a comfortable place for sustained human habitat.
In front of the Exhibition Hall stands Mao staring down on the masses. He marks the geographic centre of town and is a great landmark when walking.
Drinking tea is a nationwide institution, but Chengdu has always been famous for its numerous teahouses. In the past they were a place to meet and finalize deals, hold meetings or relax at the end of a hard day’s work listening to storytellers or watching troupes of performers. With over a thousand years of history, Chinese tea culture is perhaps best exhibited by the bamboo chairs and wooden tables found in the hundreds of tea houses throughout Chengdu, As early as the Western Han period, both tea trade and tea culture were very prosperous in Sichuan when Chengdu became the starting point of the Southern Silk Road. An old Chengdu saying goes, "Sunny days are rare, but teahouses are abundant". Teahouses have played diverse social roles in the history of Chengdu. Locals are passionate about going to teahouses, not only for tea, snacks, and entertainment, but also for social gatherings and business meetings.
Wenshu Monastery 文殊院
Dedicated to the God of Wisdom, and also known as the Hollow Wood Temple, Wenshu is situated in beautiful grounds containing a noisy teahouse and a vegetarian restaurant where the Monks prepare the food.Dating back to the Tang Dynasty, the temple’s 5 halls support beautiful tiled roofs, carved eaves and painted ceilings. Wenshu is also the headquarters of Sichuan’s Chan (Zen) Buddhist sect. It is 1½ km north of ‘Mao’ off Renmin Zhong Lu 人民中路. (5Y entry, 6am-8:30pm)
Renmin Gongyuan (People’s Park) 人民公园
About a 10 min walk west of ‘Mao’, the People’s Park is typical of Chengdu’s open spaces. There’s a small lake at the southern end of the park where, in the warmer months, you can enjoy cruising around in one of the boats for rent. Check out the small children’s fun fair built in a converted air raid shelter! It’s a great place to relax and watch the locals at play, enjoying the simple pleasures in life. It also has one of Chengdu’s most famous teahouses. ( 6:30am-2am)
Du Fu thatched cottage 杜甫草堂
Du Fu was one of the most noted Tang Dynasty poets and is considered the "Sage of Chinese Poets". During the Lushan-Shi Siming Rebellion, he left Xi'an (then Chang'an) to take refuge in Chengdu. With the help from his friends, the thatched cottage was built along the Huanhua Stream in the west suburbs of Chengdu, where Du Fu spent four years of his life and produced more than 240 poems oft-quoted and widely loved. During the Song Dynasty, people started to construct gardens and halls on the site of his thatched cottage to honor his life and memory. Currently, a series of simple and solemn memorial buildings representing Du Fu's humble life stand on the river bank, along with a large collection of relics and various editions of his poems.
Giant Panda Breeding Research Base 大熊猫繁殖研究中心
As China’s National Treasure, the giant panda is one of the rarest animals in the world. The total number is estimated to be 1,500, including those living in the wild, 80% of which are in Sichuan Province. A breeding center for giant pandas was founded in the north suburbs of Chengdu. It is the only one of its kind in the world that's located in a metropolitan area. In operation since 1990 the research station and breeding ground for both Giant and Lesser Pandas was first opened to the public in 1995. The aim is to promote their numbers and eventually expand the site from the current 36 hectares to a more adequate 230 hectares in the near future. There is also a comprehensive museum and video on the pandas history, breeding and eating habits in English. (58Y entry)
Bifengxia Panda Reserve 碧峰峡熊猫基地
In order to better protect wild giant pandas, Sichuan province has established nature reserves in Dujiangyan City, Chongzhou City, and Dayi County. Sichuan Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve, the biggest of its kind in the world, is only 130 kilometers outside Chengdu. Unfortunately the severe earthquake in 2008 destroyed Wolong badly; therefore pandas were transferred to Bifengxia Panda Reserve (150 km away from Chengdu), another well-known core panda habitat with unique natural conditions, complicated landforms, a temperate climate and diverse wildlife.
Mount Qingcheng: 青城山
It is amongst the most important centres of Taoism (Daoism) in China. It is situated in the suburbs of Dujiangyan City and connected to downtown Chengdu 70 km away by the Cheng-Guan Expressway.
Dujiangyan Irrigation System:都江堰
The Dujiangyan Irrigation System (58 km away from Chengdu proper) is the oldest existing irrigation project in the world with a history of over 2000 years diverting water without a dam to distribute water and filter sand with an inflow-quantity control. The irrigation system contains floods and droughts throughout the Plain of Chengdu.
Sichuan Opera: 川剧
Sichuan Opera derives from local religious and folk festival performances blended with Beijing and Guangzhou styles. It dates back about 200 years (not so old by Chinese historical standards) and is immensely popular in Sichuan. The saying “Shu opera towers above all other performances in the world” reflects the achievement of Sichuan Opera and Zaju (an ancient form of comedic drama involving dancing, singing, poetry, and miming). In the city, the first named opera “Bullfighting” was written in the Warring States Period. The first detailed recorded opera was staged in the royal court of Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdom Period. China’s first clearly recorded Zaju was also performed in Chengdu. And face-changing masks and fire breathing remain hallmarks of the Sichuan Opera. Daily at the Cultural Palace Wenhua Gong 文化宫. (10Y entry,
Sichuan Cuisine: 川菜
People from Scihuan province prefer to eat spicy food. Local specialties including Grandma Chen's Tofu (Mapodoufu), Chengdu Hot pot, and Dan Dan Mien (literally meaning, "Noodles carried on a pole" (Dan Dan Noodles) etc. arespicy. MapoDoufu and Dan Dan Mien contain Sichuan peppers (huājiāo; 花椒; literally "flower pepper") to give them additional flavor. Sichuanese cuisine features careful pairings of boldness and subtlety in dishes, snacks, banquets, and hotpot. A characteristic saying goes: 'one dish, one style; one hundred dishes, one hundred flavors; flexible use of hot chilies and delicate flavors.'
The local snacks in Chengdu are known for creative ingredients, skilled preparation, wide variety, and cheap price. Tastes range from sweet and spicy to sour and hot in a range of cooking techniques including frying, stewing, baking, steaming and boiling. Some of the more common snacks found across town include noodles, wontons, dumplings, pastries, tangyuan (sweet rice balls), drinks, salads, and soups.
Currency Exchange 兑换
There is a large Bank of China 中国银行 on Renmin DongLu 人民东路 or Renmin Nan Lu 人民南路, south of the Mao statue, just before the river.
Located in the center of downtown Chengdu, Chunxi Road is a trendy and bustling commercial strip with a long history. It was built in 1924 and was named from stories of Dao De Jing by Laozi. Today, it is one of the most well-known shopping center in Chengdu, lined with shopping malls, luxury brand stores, and boutique shops.
Post Office： 邮局
There is a large post office just south of Renmin Park人民公园.
Taxis are cheap and easy, have your destination written in Chinese.
Tricycles/rickshaws are great in summer; agree on the price before you get in.
Buses also cover all the city sights. Maps can be bought from the hotels.
Eating & Entertainment:
Local Specialties 特色菜
Chilli and oil are the two main ingredients in almost all Sichuanes dishes! Make sure you try hotpot 火锅 and be prepared to breathe fire.
Head south down Renmin Nan Lu 人民南路 and turn left on the far side of the river. Many restaurants along here including Carol’s by the River which also has great Mexican food. Hot pot is available everywhere, just look for the gas bottles under the tables.
Jinli St (alongside Wu Hou Si) is a restored shopping street with a food court selling all manner of local specialties. Also a Starbucks and many bars.
Try Dave’s Oasis near the corner of Hong Xing Rd 红星路 and Bin Jiang Rd 滨江中路 on the river for a relaxing cold beer or MGM nightclub for serious dancing.
Heading south from Mao along Renmin Nan Lu 人民南路 take the first small street to the right. Along here (just past the Rong Cheng Hotel) are two traditional massage places. The 2nd one along is run by John who studied for 5 years at the prestigious Chengdu College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He speaks good English and offers a fabulous 1hr massage for 30Y and 45-min foot reflexology for 30Y.