Two adjectives that aren’t normally used together to describe a Chinese city: Huge and laid-back. With over 10 million people in the greater metro area, Chengdu is the sixth biggest city in China (and that’s saying a lot). But somehow this capital of Sichuan province has maintained a reputation among the Chinese as one of the country’s most cheerful and livable cities.
Culture of Chengdu
Always quick to generalize about a population based on geography, the Chinese like to stereotype the people of Chengdu as being “lazy.” Personally, I prefer a lazy population when I travel. In fact, even when I’m not traveling. Maybe because I myself am a slacker.
To illustrate this point, the favorite pastime of the jovial people of Chengdu is relaxing outside one of the city’s many teahouses, where locals pass the time with games and caffeine-fueled conversation. Many teahouses and snack bars also offer free Sichuan opera or other music performances to entertain customers. Ah, my kind of folks.
Food in Chengdu
Chengdu is loved by tourists for many reasons, which one of the main reasons being its local cuisine. The food in Chengdu is one of China’s four most famous food styles. Known as Chuan style food, it is well-known for its delicious spiciness. It is not spicy, just to be spicy, but each dish is unique and flavorful.
Did you know that in Chengdu, one of the resident’s favorite ways to eat dinner is to do so while taking a walk? Kinda wild right.
A couple or an entire family will walk through the streets of Chengdu in the evening. Along Chengdu’s streets you will find many small stands selling local favorites of fresh produce or spices. The majority of these small stands sell dishes that can be conveniently carried, so people walking along the streets will stop at one stand to pick out something, and continue on their walk and then stop at another. It is quite the way to spend an evening.
Chengdu’s favorite and most popular food is the sweat-inducing hot pot (literally “fire pot”), which they can’t seem to get enough of. Walking around town, a sight that’s common and humorous (to me anyway) is to see sweaty men in hot pot restaurants eating with their shirts off (I guess I’ll have to stick with eating topless at the local KFC).
Things to See & Do in Chengdu
Adding to the leisurely atmosphere of Chengdu are the city’s many outstanding gardens and parks, where locals and tourists wander down windy paths peppered with willow and ginkgo trees. Built on flat ground, the compact city (4miles/6km) and its colorful old streets are easy to explore on foot or bike.
When it comes to attractions in Chengdu, it is most well known for having PANDAS. Yes that’s right…take a trip to Chengdu and you will be able to see Panda’s up close and personal.
Located just 10 km (6 miles) away from downtown, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding has been created and imitated the natural habitat of giant pandas in order that they might have the best possible environment for rearing and breeding.
The giant pandas are not only a Chinese national treasure but are also loved by people all over the world. They are found only in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. In total there are fewer than 2,000, of which 70% are distributed within the territory of Sichuan Province. Therefore, when tourists travel to Chengdu, Sichuan, one of their main goals while in this city is to see this lovely animal for themselves.
More Info & History
Chengdu is also main transportation hub of southwest China and the gateway to Tibet, where you should apply for your permit and stock up on travel supplies.
Chengdu’s history goes way back to around 400BC, when the city was already the region’s biggest and most important center. But it wasn’t until around 220AD that it became a capital city.
Much later, Chengdu developed a reputation for silk and as a printing center. In fact, Chengdu has the distinction of being the first city in the world to produce paper money.
Travel to Chengdu
Chengdu has much more to see than just its famous sites. Just spending a little time with the locals in a teahouse, or at an opera will give tourists a glimpse into the lifestyle that the residents of Chengdu love treasure. It is a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, so when planning your trip to China…make sure you include a stop in Chengdu!