Chengdu, the hometown of the giant panda
It's not capital as Beijing or modern star as Shanghai, but Chengdu has many attractions which make it a must-do on any visit to China. Let's put things in perspective: Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is one of the 30 busiest airports in the world, and Chengdu Railway Station is one of the six biggest railway stations in China. It is home to 12 consulates and more than 260 branches of Fortune 500 companies. In other words, another example of lighting-fast development of China.
The progress is visible not only in big companies: Chengdu was the first to develop a new business model known as Nong Jia Le where suburban and rural residents convert their houses into restaurants, hotels and entertainment spaces. For staying here it is good to find a place near the center from which you can go to any direction while searching for attractions. You may rent an e-bike or purchase a transit card and use a public transportation to go sightseeing.
The first thing you definitively must see is a national treasure in China: The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Located a few miles from downtown Chengdu it has a veterinary laboratory, a park, a giant panda museum and a zoo. Take pictures while you are feeding pandas! Another must see is Dujiangyan irrigation system built in the 3rd century BC, also a UNESCO World Heritage site, that is still un use. It is the most favorite summer resort for Chengdu people famous for its abundant vegetation.
Another part of the Chinese culture you should see is Dafo, the largest stone Buddha in the world. It's not in Chengdu but some 100 miles away in Leshan City, however it's easily accessible and such a distance is nothing unusual for China. The Leshan Buddha was carved out of a cliff over 1000 years ago. It is located at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers and it took ninety years to make this statue over 233 feet high and 90 feet wide.
Sichuan province is known as the birthplace of the spicy cuisine of which hotpot is a specialty. The concept is similar to fondue, you dip meats, fish and tofu into an oily soup flavored with pepper chillies. The art of drinking tea has been present here for more than 1300 years. The Gaiwan style is known by uniquely designed tea cups wide at the top and narrow at the bottom to allow the tea leaves to roll over fully and preserve the heat of the tea. Teahouses are places where serious business deals are made in Chengdu.
Along with tea, there goes tranquility. Qingyang Gong which is an active Daoist monastery in Chengdu where, it is believe, the Daoist god Laozi achieved immortality. The gate of the monastery is embellished with two magnificent goats, and along with its spectacular pavilions, you can see 81 carved dragons, and plates of rare Daoist scriptures. It also has a bookshop and a tea house. Another monastery worth visiting is the Wenshu Monastery, which is known for its beautiful gardens and halls.
No visit to any place is complete without some shopping, preferable in local, authentic shops, and your destination here are Chunxi Road, Zongfu Road and the Luomashi Area. Chengdu’s shopping district features New Century Global Center, the world's largest mall, that has water park, beach, concert space and whatnot. And, of course, the local will say there is another must: the Mao museum. On display are 57,000 artifacts and the owner of the museum claims Chairman Mao came to him in a dream and he then decided to create this shrine.
China being China, it can't go without colouful festivals and one of the most popular, especially among children since it rarely snows in Chengdu, is the South China Snow and Ice Festival. For calming down after all those excitements, you may visit urban gardens on the city's borders, a tradition of this Land of Abundance that survived all turbulence. And for the final touch, pay a visit to Dufu's Thatched Cottage, a museum for Dufu, one of China's most famous poets, in city's western suburb. This is Chengdu at its best: fertile land, thousands of years of history and immortal Chinese poetry. ■
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