Things to Do in Chengdu
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is considered a Chinese national treasure. Opened in 1987 to care for rescued wild pandas, the 165-acre (67-hectare), open-air sanctuary is now one of southern China’s most popular destinations due to its focus on breeding, conservation, and introducing new pandas into wild populations.
Standing 233 feet (71 meters) tall, the Leshan Giant Buddha(Da Fo), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, holds the record as the largest Buddha sculpture in the world. A Buddhist monk—hoping to earn divine protection for the local fishermen—carved the massive statue into a cliff, starting in 713. Ninety years later, the carving was finished.
Regarded as the birthplace of Taoism, and one of its most sacred mountains, Mt. Qingcheng (Qingcheng Shan) has a history dating back 2,000 years. Surrounded by peaks and lush forests, Mt. Qingcheng offers a peaceful escape from the big city of Chengdu, and there are plenty of temples, historical sites, and cultural relics for visitors to enjoy.
Located in central Chengdu, Renmin Park (People’s Park) offers a glimpse into the day-to-day life of local residents who come here to relax, exercise, play games like mah-jongg or chess, sing and dance, or find love matches for their loved ones. It’s a great place to slow down, have a cup of tea, and experience life as the locals do.
Located in Chengdu’s Qingyang district, the three parallel alleys of Kuan Zhai Alley (Kuan Zhai Xiang Zi) offer a lively mix of old and new, with renovated and restored buildings that date from the Qing dynasty. A popular shopping, dining, entertainment, and tourist destination, it’s also one of the city’s three historic conservation districts.
Originally built in 256 BC, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System is the world’s oldest non-dam irrigation facility. A marvel of engineering, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dujiangyan uses the natural topography of the region, as well as hydrological features of the river, to irrigate 1.65 million acres (668,700 hectares) of farmland.
Stretching for 1,148 feet (350 meters), just east of Wuhou Temple, Jinli Ancient Street is one of the oldest shopping streets in Chengdu, dating back to the Three Kingdoms period. Restored in 2004, this historical lane paved with green flagstone still teems with shops, restaurants, and food stalls in traditional architecture.
Located inside Chengdu Cultural Park, Shufen Yayun Teahouse (Shufeng Yayun) has been hosting Sichuan Opera performances for over 100 years. It’s one of the city’s most popular venues for this art form, which involves an exciting mix of music, dancing, acrobatics, martial arts, hand shadows, puppet play, comedic theater, sword play, and costume changes (face changing).
Mengding Mountain (Mengding Shan) is considered the birthplace of the world’s tea culture and home to some of the oldest plantations. Visitors to this verdant and historic locale can tour a tea plantation, soak up spectacular views, and purchase tea close to the source.
Song Xian Qiao Antique Market is the country's second-largest antiques market and an excellent place to shop for souvenirs. With more than 500 separate stalls selling exquisite watercolor paintings, fake Buddha statues, and everything in between, it’s a treasure trove for shoppers and people watchers alike.
More Things to Do in Chengdu
Dating back nearly 2,000 years, the Wuhou Memorial Temple (Temple of Marquis Wu) in a southern suburb of Chengdu is steeped in history and lore. The site is meant to honor Liu Bei, emperor of the Shu Kingdom, as well as his much revered military strategist Zhuge Liang (later Marquis Wu)—two immensely popular figures in Chinese history.
China’s Dujiangyan Panda Base focuses on rehabilitation, disease prevention, and public education for the conservation of the endangered giant panda, one of the rarest species in the world. Tour the panda hospital, enclosures, and educational center for the opportunity to spot dozens of pandas munching on bamboo and playing.
At 10,167 feet (3,099 meters), Mt. Emei is the highest of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China. The UNESCO World Heritage Site includes over 70 temples, monasteries, and attractions, culminating in the Golden Summit, where visitors can take in the giant Puxian Buddha and stunning mountain views.
Located north of Sichuan Province, Jiuzhai Valley, also known as Jiuzhaigou Valley, is one of China’s most spectacular nature reserves and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spanning 278 square miles (720 square kilometers), the valley is famed for its colorful lakes, cascading waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, diverse wildlife, and Tibetan culture.
An early Tang Dynasty classic, Qingyang Palace (also known as the Green Ram Temple) is considered to be one of the oldest and most important Taoist temples in all of China due to its location near the boyhood home of Lao-Tzu, the father of Taoism. Much of the palace was restored during the Qing Dynasty.
Located at Chengdu’s Jinsha archaeological site, the Jinsha Site Museum offers insight into the mysterious Bronze Age Shu civilization. See the actual excavation site and the treasure trove of relics and artifacts that have been unearthed to date, including bronze, gold, ivory, jade, stone, pottery, and lacquerware.
Situated on Lingyun Mountain, Lingyun Temple is also called Great Buddha Temple because of its location at the head of the Leshan Giant Buddha, the largest stone Buddha in the world. Four monuments flank the entrance to the temple, which contains the Heavenly King Hall, Precious Hall of the Great Hero, and Scripture Collection Hall.
The former home of Du Fu, one of China’s most revered and influential poets, this 24-acre (10-hectare) park and museum is now dedicated to his life and legacy. Inside, you can see examples of his work, while the ground’s lush gardens and pretty streams provide a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of Chengdu.
The picturesque Haoshang Bridge leads travelers visiting the Leshan Giant Buddha across a river to the steps of Wuyou Temple, situated on the slopes of the mountain of the same name. Built in the Tang Dynasty, the site consists of seven Buddhist palaces, including the Arhats Hall with its 500 clay figures of the Buddha’s disciples.
Learn about the ancient and mysterious Bronze-Age Shu culture at the Sanxingdui Museum. Located on the grounds of the Sanxingdui archaeological site north of Chengdu, the museum displays relics unearthed at the site, including more than 1,000 bronze, gold, jade, and other artifacts dating back 3,000 to 5,000 years.
An ancient town located about 18.6 miles (30 km) southeast from Chengdu, Huanglongxi Ancient Town is named for the Huanglong River, which flows through it. The town consists of seven well-preserved, ancient streets, which were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and also includes three temples: Gulong, Zhenjiang and Chaoyin. These three, along with two others in the immediate area, are what attract visitors to the site. Pay particular attention to the preserved stilt houses (built in levels to hold livestock on the ground floor), which are remnants of the Shu people, as well as the ancient 800-year-old banyan trees.
Also near Huanglongxi are the Ancient Buddha Cave; the Buddha Weir, a narrow, stone-walled canal that leads fish into a closed tank where they can be caught; and an old military encampment called the Old Battlefield. Huanglongxi is also home to cliff tombs, which are burial sites of the Han Dynasty that have received architectural interest in recent years. The picturesque landscape and preserved buildings have also attracted filmmakers (more than 200 movies have been filmed here). With this, Huanglongxi has earned the title of the "Hollywood of China."
Learn where Sichuan got its spice at the Museum of Sichuan Cuisine (Chuancai Bowuguan). Located about a 1.5-hour drive by car outside of downtown Chengdu near Pixian Old Town, the museum not only gives a history of Sichuan cuisine but is also home to a tea house and a restaurant where guests can sample typical Sichuan food and, possibly, prepare a dish of their own.
The museum consists of halls that show various elements of Sichuan food, from antique tools used for processing to a collection of more than 3,000 bronze, pottery, porcelain and wooden cookers that span 2,000 years. Perhaps most intriguing are the giant open-topped clay pots containing fermenting chiles and beans that are on their way to becoming douban jiang, a red, fermented paste of erjingtiao chiles and broad beans that is responsible for the deep umami flavor and penetrating heat in famous Sichuan dishes. A visit to the Museum of Sichuan Cuisine gives a guest a unique look—and taste—into one of China’s most popular palates of flavor.
Situated on the banks of the Jinjiang River in Chengdu, Wangjianglou Park (aka Wangjiang Tower Park, Wangjiang Pavilion Park, or occasionally Wangjiang Park) is dedicated to Xue Tao, a Tang Dynasty female poet who penned some 500 poems. Her marble statue sits amid a bamboo grove. The similarly named Tomb of Wang Jian sits nearby and serves as the final resting place for the emperor of the short-lived Shu Kingdom.
Visitors flock to Luodai Ancient Town, an ancient town located in the Sichuan area of China, about 12.8 miles (20 kilometers) from Chengdu City. Situated at the base of Er’eshan Mountain as part of the Longquanshan Mountains, Luodai is considered the largest and best-preserved Hakka ancient town in the western part of the country. Ninety percent of Luodai’s inhabitants are Hakka, and the Hakka language is still spoken here.
Built more than 1,000 years ago, Luodai has a long history and, now, a vibrant tourist culture. The architecture and layout of the ancient town preserves the typical styles from Ming and Qing dynasties, with old streets, Hakka folk houses and narrow alleys. There are also several parks, a museum and four guildhalls, which add great historical and artistic value. Created in the typical architectural style of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the guildhalls feature exquisite carvings of Chinese motifs like dragons, flowers, phoenix and other birds. Be sure to check out the picturesque Yudai Lake and Jinlong Great Wall and Temple.
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