Sightseeing in Chengdu
Welcome to Chengdu. Let me begin by giving you an overview of the city. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province and the hometown of the giant panda, our national treasuer. It is the centre of politics, economics, culture, science and technology, commerce, trade and finance for southwest China. It is also the transportation and communication hub for the region. It is located in the western part of the Sichuan Basin and in the middle of the Chengdu Plain. It covers an area of 192 km long from east to west and 166 km from north to south. As an inland city, Chengdu is 1,600 km away from the East Sea, and 1,090 km away from the South Sea.
Chengdu is a very big city, covering a total area of 12, 400 sq km. With a population of 11 million, it's the fourth largest mega-city in China, next only to Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing. Chengdu governs 9 districts, 6 counties and 4 county-level cities.
Chengdu enjoys a subtropical monsoon climate, having warm and humid weather all year round. There are four discernable seasons, with an average annual temperature of 16 degrees centigrade and an average annual rainfall of 1,000 mm. Chengdu enjoys a frost-free period of over 300 days a year, experiencing sunshine for an average of over 1,200 hours yearly. Because it has long been endowed with a mild climate that is free from flood or drought, it has a vast amount of fertile land, rich in produce and prosperous industries. Therefore, Chengdu has been referred to since ancient times as the "Land of Abundance".
The historically and culturally renowned city of Chengdu is one of the origins of the splendid Bashu civilization. In addition, it is an ancient capital that dates back more than 2,300 years. In the Han Dynasty, the making of brocade flourished here, and a special official was appointed to manage the industry. Since then, Chengdu has been known as the "City of Brocade". During the Five Dynasties Period, it was the capital of the Former Shu and the Later Shu. Meng Chang, an emperor of the Later Shu, had hibiscus trees planted on the city walls of Chengdu, hence the name "City of Hibiscus".
At the end of the reign of Emperor Jingdi in the Western Han Dynasty (143 BC and 141 BC), Wen Weng, governor of Shu (Sichuan), opened a school in the southern part of the city on the site of what is now Chengdu Shishi (Stone Chamber) Middle school. It is the first government-run school in China. Chengdu also gave birth to the world's first paper money, "Jiaozi". Its paper-making technology, woodcut printing technology, lacquer-wares, Shu brocade, Shu embroidery, opera, music and dance were once very popular throughout the country.
Chengdu also has several unique advantages for tourism: First, there are many cultural and historical sites; second, there is a wide range of landscape and natural beauty; third, the various tourist attractions are relatively close in proximity; and fourth, its relative geographic location within the country is excellent.
Take the cultural and historical sites as an example. You may visit the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, which was built 2,250 years ago by Libing, the Shu governor of the Qin Dynasty, together with his son and their subjects. It was constructed in order to tame the floods plaguing the Chengdu plain. This project is still functioning today. People of later generations have often put this tremendous achievement of Li Bing and his son on a par with that of Wen Weng's signal contribution of establishing a school to promote the cultural development of Shu. Li Bing's taming the floods and Wen Weng's educating the Shu people are the two immortal contributions from the Qin and Han dynasties of Sichuan. They have brought benefit to all posterity. Because of their achievements in advancing the development of their local economy and culture, Li Bing and Wen Weng have been eulogized and respected by people for thousands of years.
You may also want to visit Wuhou Temple (Temple of Marquis Wu), which was built to commemorate Zhuge Liang, prime minister of the Shu of the Three Kingdoms Period. Or perhaps you'd enjoy the Dufu Thatched Cottage, residence of the Great Tang Dynasty poet. You will need only one day to visit both sites as they are both located in the downtown area. Within a day's journey, you can also travel to the city of Guanghan, 38 km from Chengdu. There you can visit the Sanxingdui Museum, which was built on the ancient Sanxingdui ruins, dating back about 5,000 years. On this site you can find the largest ancient city, part of an ancient kingdom containing the oldest collection of ancient cultural ruins unearthed to date in China. They have survived the longest period of time and possess the richest cultural connotations.
If you prefer natural scenery, then you have come to the right place! Chengdu is surrounded by numerous renowned mountains and lakes. One example is Mount E'mei, the famous Buddhist mountain found on the World Natural and Cultural Heritage List. There is also Mount Qingcheng, the birthplace of China's Taoism, as well as housing a famed summer resort. In addition, there is Longchi National Forest Park with its many breath-taking views. If you have three days available for travel, you may wish to fly to Jiuzhai Valley, located in the Aba Autonomous Prefecture of western Sichuan. Jiuzhai Valley is a world of water, bringing the most enchanting views and considered the soul of Jiuzhai. The serene lakes and plunging waterfalls are simply unforgettable sights. Jiuzhai has been listed as one of the world's natural heritage sites and is a famous tourist destination in Sichuan.
As everyone knows, Sichuan is the hometown of the giant panda, our national treasure. However, not all pandas are living in the wild. About 10 kilometers outside the city is the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding where the natural habitats of giant pandas and many other rare wild animals are simulated and recreated. There are dozens of pandas housed there throughout the year. Each year many tourists come from home and abroad to visit the panda base. The year 2006 alone saw 250,000 such visits by overseas visitors.
Of course, we all know that China enjoys the world-wide reputation of being the "Kingdom of Cuisine". Well, Sichuan is accredited as the "Kingdom of Delicacy". No wonder it is said that "You find the best food in China and the most delicious flavor in Sichuan". There are eight major schools of cuisine in China, and Sichuan cuisine is one of them. It has a very long history. Sichuan food is famous for its numerous varieties of delicacies and strong flavors. It is best known for being hot and spicy. Sichuan hotpot can be spicy hot or tongue-numbing spicy, both fresh and tasty. The dishes are great in both variety and creativity. The various snacks of Chengdu are also a specialty, such as Long Chao-shou (or wonton of the Long's), Zhong Shui-jiao (boiled dumplings of the Zhong's), Lai Tang-yuan (the Lai's sweet dumplings made of sticky rice), Han Bao-zi (the Han's steamed bun with meat and vegetable stuffing), Husband and Wife beef slices, and Mapo toufu ( or spicy bean curd with shredded pork meat). I could go on and on. Most people in Chengdu love good food. The local TV and newspapers provide coverage on delicious dishes everyday. Friends and colleagues often chat about eating and the streets are dotted with numerous big and small restaurants, delicious yet all with reasonable prices. So it's very convenient to find a place to eat, and most of the time you don't need to make a reservation.
Chengdu is also known as a city of leisure with many old-fashioned teahouses as well as modern style bars which can be found both along streets and along rivers. If you don't have other commitments in the evening, you may enjoy going out for a sip of tea or a drink of beer to personally experience the leisurely lifestyle of the local people. A final bit of trivia that you may find interesting is that the city flower of Chengdu is the hibiscus and the city tree is the gingko. Reading books and newspapers or chatting with friends in the shade of gingko trees is a way life enjoyed by the people of Chengdu. No matter how you choose to spend your time, I hope that your stay in Chengdu is pleasant!