Tourism in Chéngdū (成都) China
Is a sub-provincial city which serves as the capital of Sichuan province, People’s Republic of China. It is one of the three most-populous cities in Western China, the other two being Chongqing and Xi’an. As of 2014, the administrative area housed 14,427,500 inhabitants, with an urban population of 10,152,632. At the time of the 2010 census, Chengdu was the fifth-most populous agglomeration in China, with 10,484,996 inhabitants in the built-up area including Xinjin County and Deyang‘s Guanghan City. Chengdu is also considered a World City with a “Beta +” classification according to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
Is no great draw when it comes to major tourist sites – pandas excepted, of course – but many visitors find its laid-back pace and diversity of cultural scenes unexpectedly engaging. It could be its relaxing teahouse culture, with favourite local institutions serving the same brews across generations. Maybe it’s the lively nightlife, with a strong showing of local partiers bolstered by large student and expat populations that gather at craft beer bars and super-hip clubs. It might be the food: famous for heat, history and variety even in the cuisine-rich cultures of China; and very much a point of pride. The surrounding Chengdu Plain is also known as the “Country of Heaven” (Chinese: 天府之国; pinyin: Tiānfǔ zhi Guó) and the “Land of Abundance”. Its prehistoric settlers included the Sanxingdui culture. Founded by the state of Shu prior to its incorporation into China, Chengdu is unique as a major Chinese settlement that has maintained its name (nearly) unchanged throughout the imperial, republican, and communist eras. It was the capital of Liu Bei’s Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms Era, as well as several other local kingdoms during the Middle Ages. It is now one of the most important economic, financial, commercial, cultural, transportation, and communication centers in Western China.
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, a hub of Air China and Sichuan Airlines is one of the 30 busiest airports in the world, and Chengdu railway station is one of the six biggest in China. Chengdu also hosts many international companies and more than 12 consulates. More than 260 Fortune 500 companies have established branches in Chengdu.
Places to visit:
Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
One of Chéngdū’s most popular attractions, this reserve 18km north of the city centre is the easiest way to glimpse Sìchuān’s most famous residents outside of a zoo. The enclosures here are generally large and well maintained. Home to nearly 120 giant and 76 red pandas, the base focuses on getting these shy creatures to breed.
Jialebi has a thriving expat area bursting with bars, clubs and KTV bars. Fifteen of us— an assortment of hostel roommates, friends from Shamrocks and Jellyfish bars and friends made in between— bundled into three tuk tuks and were whisked away to one of the many KTVs in the area.
KTV is where you hire a karaoke room with your friends to sing the night away, and groups over six or so are likely to have free alcohol thrown in too. It’s the sort of place where you’ll make friends with everyone in the other rooms, and by the end of the night you’ll be serenading one another in all of the wrong notes.
This Tang dynasty monastery is dedicated to Wénshū (Manjushri), the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, and is Chéngdū’s largest and best-preserved Buddhist temple. The air is heavy with incense and the low murmur of chanting; despite frequent crowds of worshippers, there’s still a sense of serenity and solitude.
The temple’s popular vegetarian restaurant and teahouse are a lovely attraction all of their own. The ‘old’ neighbourhood streets surrounding the temple are crowded with teahouses, snack stalls and shops; touristy, yes, but fun to wander through.
Sichuan culture: Qintai Road
Okay, it’s pretty touristy, but jump off at Tonghuimen metro and wander down Qintai Road for an experience of ‘old China’ with its traditional-styled architecture and statues.
You’ve got to try the Sichuan hotpot whilst you’re here – if you like spice, good, and if you don’t, good luck. The hotpot is a communal pot of spicy broth that bubbles away at the centre of the table. You dunk in various meats and vegetables to cook, and whilst there are regional variations of the hotpot, Sichuan is notorious for being the spiciest.
Jīnshā Site Museum
In 2001 archaeologists made a historic discovery in Chéngdū’s western suburbs: they unearthed a major site containing ruins of the 3000-year-old Shu kingdom. This excellent, expansive museum includes the excavation site and beautiful displays of many of the uncovered objects, which were created between 1200 and 600 BC.
On weekends, locals fill this park with dancing, song and t’ai chi. There’s a small, willow-tree-lined boating lake and a number of teahouses: Hè Míng Teahouse is the most popular and atmospheric.
Located adjacent to Nánjiāo Park and surrounded by mossy cypresses, this temple (rebuilt in 1672) honours several figures from the Three Kingdoms period, namely legendary military strategist Zhuge Liang and Emperor Liu Bei (his tomb is here). Both were immortalised in the Chinese literature classic, Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sān Guó Yǎnyì).
Spanning ancient Shu and pre-Qin to the Revolutionary era and modern Chéngdū, this five-storey museum (completed in 2016) is packed with historical and cultural relics of the city’s past. Don’t miss the two ‘Puppetry and Shadow Plays of China’ galleries on the top floor, with excellent examples of the art from across the country.