The capital of Sichuan province in southwest China, Chengdu is an important transportation and commercial hub. The fertile plain on which Chengdu is located is called Tianfuzhi guo which when translated means ‘land of Abundance’or ‘Country of heaven.’ Chengdu, China’s fifth most populous city is renowned for its teahouses and its culinary delights, which are representative of the fiery hot Sichuan cuisine, which has red chili peppers as an important component. Some of the famous dishes of the region are Grandma Chen’s Bean Curd, Chengdu Hotpot and Dan Dan Noodles. Chengdu has also witnessed the art of drinking tea evolve here over the past 1300 years. Today many teahouse and restaurant dot the banks of the Fu Hé River that runs through Chengdu.
The location of Chengdu is such that it facilitates access to Lè Shan, which is one of the most important breeding grounds for China’s national treasure the Giant Panda. The Pandas of whom only a thousand remain are found only in the Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces of China. More than eighty percent of the Panda population is concentrated in the Sichuan province. People from all over the world come to Chengdu to see the Giant Pandas. Changdu is one of the economic powerhouses in China as it has a high tech industrial development zone where many an international as well as domestic company have a presence. The city was the location where the world’s first paper currency was founded in 1023 during the Song dynasty. Continuing in the same vein Chengdu continues to remain a center for much financial activity as various banks and brokerage houses establish outlets in the city of Chengdu.
Climate & Best Time to Visit
Chengdu enjoys an average daily temperature of 16°C all through out the year. The ideal time to visit Chengdu is in the spring from the months of March to June and in the fall from the months of September to November. High levels of relative humidity and mist characterize the weather in Chengdu; this makes the average winter temperature of 5°C feel much colder. The weather in Chengdu is characterized by little sunshine especially in the winter months when the days are dull and grey.
Chengdu sees the celebration of a number of festivals in addition to the usual Spring Festival, National Day and International Labor Day celebrations which are celebrated all over the country. In Chengdu, the Lantern Festival is held around the time of the Spring Festival at the Qingyang palace and this festival is celebrated with much pomp and pageantry. The celebrations feature Sichuan folk opera and acrobatics. Other popular festivals, which are celebrated in Chengdu, are the Flower festival, the Dragon boat festival, the Peach meeting and the Settling water festival. These are ideal times to visit Chengdu to enjoy the festive atmosphere, which prevails in the city.
The local currency is the Renminbi, which is made up of the Chinese Yuan. The Chinese Yuan is made up of ten Jiao.
The people of Chengdu speak a local Sichuan dialect, which is an adaptation of pure Mandarin Chinese.
Getting to Chengdu
The city of Chengdu is served by the Chengdu Shuangli International Airport.(CTU). T The airport is located in the south west of the city at a distance of 20 kms from the center of the city. The city has air links with over seventy domestic destinations such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
The scenic tourist destination of Jiuzhaigou is accessible via a forty-minute flight from Chengdu. Chengdu also has a direct air link to Lhasa the capital of Tibet as well as an air link to Nyingchi in south east Tibet. The latter is considered to be the best entry point into Tibet as it is located at a low altitude and has an atmosphere rich in Oxygen will helps one acclimatize to the low oxygen levels of the Tibetan Plateau. However Nyingchi is located in a valley surrounded by mountains, which are covered in low clouds. This this makes landing and takeoff at this airport a challenge. The flight to Nyingchi operates once a week on Fridays. Chengdu has direct air links to a host of international destinations such as Osaka, Seoul, Singapore, Paris and Maccau. Los Angeles, Vancouver, London and Sydney were additional destinations to which air links were opened in 2006. An airport shuttle bus operates at a frequency of twenty minutes from 5 am in the morning. The journey to the city center takes thirty-five minutes and costs CNY 8-10. Taxis are also available outside the arrival hall and a trip to the city center costs CNY 50 after bargaining with the driver.
Chengdu is a large transportation hub of southwest China. Train links exist to major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. A tourist express train links Chengdu to Guangyuan City,Yibin City and Panzihua city. Tickets for the trains can be bought at various locations in the city including the Sichuan University.
Long distance buses operate from the several main coach stations in Chengdu. The Wangui Bridge Bus Station provides bus services to cities on the Chengdu –Chongqing expressway and he Neijiang – Yibin expressway. Gaosuntang Bus.Station is where buses depart for Lhasa in Tibet. The journey from Chengdu takes three days and two nights and costs CNY 616.
Getting around within the City
The city has a network of metered taxis which are manned by knowledgeable taxi divers. The initial flag fall for a taxi is CNY 5 for the first 3 kilometers. At night from 10 pm to 6am the taxis charge an initial flag fall of CNY 6 for the first 3 kilometers. The city is well served by a public bus system. There are two kinds of buses which ply on Chengdu’s roads the Air con and non air con buses. The Air con buses charge CNY 2 while the non-air con charge CNY 1.The bus route nos 901and 902 cater specifically to tourists as they cover most of the tourist attractions of Chengdu. The 901 Double Decker sight seeing bus departs every half hour starting from the New South Gate Tourist Distributing Center. The 902 bus departs every 15 minutes from the New South Gate Tourist Distributing Center and ends at the Chengdu Panda breeding and research center.These tourist buses are manned by bi lingual guides and multi media systems comprising of Mobile TV sets. Pedicabs are another mode of transportation available to the tourists. The uniformed drivers charge a rate, which starts, from CNY 5. One can also rent a car in Chengdu to self-drive or elect to be driven around in a hired chauffer driven vehicle. The normal charge for a chauffer driven vehicle is CNY 50 per person for duration of 8 hours.
Xiongmao Jidi/Daxiongmao Fanzhi Zhongxin
Located at a distance of 10 km from downtown Chengdu is the Veterinary Lab, park, Giant Panda Museum and zoo. The Center covers an area of 92 acres and is involved in the conservation and breeding of other endangered species as well as the Giant Panda, which is the national symbol and treasure of China. The objective of the center is to breed the captive pandas in a stimulated habitat in order to release them into the wild eventually. Giant Pandas, red pandas, black-necked cranes and white storks are some of the rare and endangered species which are bred here throughout the year in tranquil verdant surroundings covered with fourteen species of bamboo, trees and flowers. The ideal time to spot the Pandas is between 8.30 am to 10.30 am which is the feeding time at the center. The Giant Panda museum was opened in 1993 .It has three main exhibition halls the Giant Panda Hall, The Butterfly hall and the Vertebrate Hall. It is recommended that one set aside two hours for a visit to the Giant Panda Center.
This active Daoist monastery is the prime historical sight in Chengdu. The gate of the monastery has two bronze goats adorning it. The most important exhibit in this monastery is a pair of rare and elegant pear wood printing plates of abstracts of scriptures in the Daoist Canon. The Monastery consists of six halls, one where Daoist texts are printed lies to the east while the room for the worship of Daoist sages lies to the west. The main hall is the Hall of Three Purities while the Bagua Ting (Pavillion of Eight Trigrams) is famous for its upturned roofs, which are adorned in between the roofs by a plaque of the eight trigrams, which have patterns of swastikas. The swastikas are symbolic of the sun. The monastery has a bookshop as well as a teahouse. Next door to the monastery is a vegetarian restaurant.
Sanxing Dui Bowuguan
This museum located 40 km to the north of Chengdu is modern and spiral shaped. The museum opened its doors in 1997 and it contains exhibits of ancient sculptures, masks and bronzes. These relics were discovered in 1986 and controversy reigns until date about their origin. The collection hassome magnificent pieces such as bronze figurines, which port masks, made of pure gold. A tour conducted in English is available to explore the wonders of the museum. One needs about two hours to explore the museum and its wonders.
Sichuan Daxue Bowuguan
The museum belonging to the Sichuan University has magnificent exhibits of carvings belonging to the Han and Tang dynasties, Daoist documents, vestments worn by the shamans from the Eastern Han Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, bronzes from the Ba and Shu regimes and even a shadow puppet theater.
This quirky museum is a small exhibition hall with displays of memorabilia belonging to the Mao era. On display are 57000 badges and pins, busts, posters, photographs and magazines from the 1960’s . The owner of the museum Wang Anting claims Chairman Mao came to him in a dream. The museum is packed with visitors on December 26, which is the late leaders birthday.
This Buddhist monastery dating back to the Tang dynasty has teahouses, which are a center of congregation for the local populace. Gaiwan Tea, a tea drinking style typical of the Sichuan province is served in these teahouses. The local people come to worship at the monastery on the 1st and 15th day of the lunar month as well as the 19th day of the second lunar month. The 19th day of the second lunar month is the day that there are celebrations held at the monastery commemorating the birthday of Guanyin or the Goddess of Mercy who is a popular deity in China. The monastery has a number of wooden and stone statutes.
Thatched cottage of Du Fu
The residence of the famous poet of the Tang Dynasty Du Fu is now a museum. The poet lived here in this cottage for three and a half years and during this period he composed 240 poems.
The Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza used to be the premier hotel of Chengdu but now the Sheraton hotel has usurped its position. The Holiday Inn is located near the city center and can be accessed at www.icohotelsgroup.com for availability and rates. The Sheraton with its warm and cozy ambience can be accessed for its rates and room availability at www.sheraton.com/chengdu. Catering to the needs of individual travelers and backpackers is a new hotel called the Traffic hotel with its popular Anchor Bar. This hotel can be accessed at www.traffichotel.com.
Chengdu’s delicious local fare can be sampled at a restaurant called Baguo Buyi. Here one can partake of the local delicacies such as green turtle stewed with Taro root, yecai ba ( steamed glutinous rice bread with wild vegetable) and the doufu jiyu( a tofu dish).
Chengdu’s main shopping areas are Chunxi Road, Zongfu Road and Luomashi Area. This shopping district features malls, stores and supermarkets selling a wide variety of wares. Chief amongst these wares is the rich brocade fabric of Chengdu. Chengdu was once known as ‘Brocade city’ and as early as the Tang dynasty this rich opulent fabric was exported from here to Persia. Another famous product of this area is fabric embroidered with the famous Shu embroidery. This rich embroidery, which gives products embroidered with it an appearance of having been worked with Chinese ink, is used to embroider quilts, pillowcases, clothes and shoes. Lacquer ware, silver inlaid and bamboo products, pickled beef, jasmine tea are just some of the products, which are typical of this region.