Though not as well known as the glitzy and glamorous city of Shanghai or the historical sight filled capital city of Beijing, Chengdu which is the capital city of the Sichuan province has its many special attractions which qualify it as a must-do on any visit to China.
Visit the awfully cute Panda Bears
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is located at a distance of 10 km from downtown Chengdu and has a veterinary laboratory, a park, a giant panda museum and a zoo within its environs. The Center covers an area of 92 acres and is involved in the conservation and breeding of other endangered species in addition to the giant panda, 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, the South China tiger and the endangered Golden Monkey are some of the other species of animals and birds which are protected at this research base in tranquil verdant surroundings which are covered with fourteen species of bamboo, trees and flowers.
The best time to visit the pandas which, apart from being considered a national treasure in China, are also the chosen symbol of another world wide conservation agency – the World Wildlife fund is between 8.30 am to 10.30 am. During this time the pandas are fed their favorite foods like bamboo stalks and apple slices by their keepers. You can actually participate in this feeding ritual on the payment of a nominal fee. If however you want to get more up close and personal with these adorable panda bears you must be prepared to shell out approximately $350, a sum whichÂ will entitle you to hold one of these adorable balls of fur.
See the world’s largest stone Buddha
The largest stone Buddha in the world which is also known as ‘Dafo’ is located in Leshan City. Leshan is located at a distance of 162 kilometers (100 miles) from the city of Chengdu and is accessible by various modes of transport from Chengdu. The Leshan Buddha was carved out of a cliff over 1000 years ago by devout Buddhist monks who were led by a monk called Haitong. The Buddha is located at the confluence of three rivers, the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi and it also faces another sacred spot called Mount Emei. This Buddha along with Mount Emei was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
It took ninety years to construct this magnificent Buddha which stands over 233(71 meters) feet high and is 90 feet (28 meters) wide. The Buddha also has a network of drainage passages hidden in its chest, hair and ears which help to drain rain water that accumulates within it so as to prevent serious erosion and weathering but the Buddha is still at risk due to the pollution from nearby factories which might eventually cause the features of this magnificent Buddha to fall off.
Photo Credit: rak
Sample a fiery Sichuan ‘hotpot’
Sichuan province is well known the world over as the birthplace of the spicy ‘Szechwan’ cuisine of which ‘hotpot ‘ is a renowned specialty. The concept of hot pot is similar to that of the European dish’ fondue,’ the difference being that in a hot pot meal, you dip your accompaniments like various meats, fish and tofu into a pot which contains an oily soup base which is flavored withÂ fiery flower pepper chilies, which are known as’ huajiao’ and are native to the Sichuan province. Hot pot is best enjoyed ‘family style’ with a group of friends at one of the many hot pot restaurants that abound in Chengdu. The level of spiciness of the soup canÂ Â be adjusted to suit your taste. Moreover, you can also choose to order a ‘half and half hotpot’ wherein half the hotpot has a milder broth into which you dip your accompaniments which range from the tame likeÂ strips of pork, beef, fish, chicken to the more exotic like intestines, stomach, tendons, frogs and jellied duckâ€™s blood.
Enjoy a ‘cuppa’ of Chinese tea Chengdu style.
The art of drinking tea has evolved in Chengdu for over 1300 years and it is here that the Gaiwan style of drinking tea was created. A Gaiwan tea cup is a tea cup which is thought to peculiar to Chengdu, it is rumored to have been invented by the daughter of a governor of West Sichuan during the Tang Dynasty. A Gaiwan tea cup consists of a lid, tea cup and a saucer and is used to brew fine white and green teas. These tea cups are uniquely designed and are wide at the top and narrow at the bottom and they allow the tea leaves to roll over fully and infuse the tea. The lid also preserves the heat of the tea and at the same time allows you to mix the tea evenly. Teahouses in Chengdu many which are located along the Fu HÃ© River continue to be important centers of commercial events in Chengdu until today.
Find your inner peace at one of Chengdu’s monasteries
Enjoy the peace and tranquility of Chengud’s monasteries like Qingyang Gong which is an active ‘Daoist’ monastery in Chengdu. It is believed that it is here that theÂ ‘Daoist’ god Laozi attained immortality here. The gate of the monastery is adorned with two magnificent bronze goats and it also features spectacular pavilions, 81 carved dragons, and printing plates of rare and important Daoist scriptures. The monastery also has a bookshop and a tea house located on its premises. Another monastery worth visiting in Chengdu is the Wenshu Monastery, which is known for its exquisite gardens and solemn halls.
Pay your respects to Chairman Mao at Chengdu’s Mao Museum
This quirky museum has a small exhibition hall which has displays of memorabilia belonging to the Mao era. On display are 57000 badges and pins, busts, posters, photographs and magazines from the 1960â€™s. The owner of the museum Wang Anting claims Chairman Mao came to him in a dream and he then decided to create this shrine to the late leader which is usually packed with visitors on 26th December, the day of the late leader’s birthday.
No holiday is considered to complete without a visit to the local shops and Chengduâ€™s main shopping areas ofÂ Chunxi Road, Zongfu Road and the Luomashi Area are a veritable treasure trove of gorgeous products. Chengdu’s shopping district features malls, stores and supermarkets which sell a wide variety of wares like lacquer ware, silver inlaid and bamboo products, pickled beef, jasmine tea etc. Chengdu is also well known for its luxurious brocade fabrics and the city was once known as â€˜Brocade cityâ€™. This rich opulent fabric was exported from here to Persia during the Tang dynasty. Another famous product of this area is fabric that is embroidered with ‘Shu’ embroidery. This rich embroidery, gives products adorned with it an appearance of having been worked with Chinese ink and is used to embroider quilts, pillowcases, clothes and shoes.
Chengdu has a number of great hotels, however do check out the attractive ratesÂ Â offered by several Chengdu hotels like the five star rated Homeland Hotel and the three star rated Garden Hotel while planning your trip to this enchanting city.