Travel guide to Chengdu, China

Chengdu located in southwest People’s Republic of China, is the capital of Sichuan province and a sub-provincial city. Chengdu is also one of the most important economic centers and transportation and communication hubs in Southwestern China. According to the 2007 Public Appraisal for Best Chinese Cities for Investment, Chengdu was chosen as one of the top ten cities to invest in, out of a total of 280 urban centers.

More than four thousand years ago, the prehistorical Bronze Age culture of Jinsha established itself in this region. The fertile Chengdu Plain, on which Chengdu is located, is called Tianfuzhi guo in Chinese, which literally means “the country of heaven”, or more often seen translated as “the Land of Abundance”. It was recently named China’s 4th-most livable city by China Daily.


In the early 4th century BC, the 9th Kaiming king of the ancient Shu moved his capital to the city’s current location from today’s nearby Pixian. He was said to have been inspired by the ancient story of King Tai of Zhou, Grandfather of King Wu of Zhou, moving his capital. History recorded King Tai of Zhou’s move as “it took a year to become a town; it took three years to become a capital”. Following this, king of Shu named the new city as “Cheng Du”, which means “become a capital” (In Chinese, the word “cheng” means “become”, “du” means “capital”). There are, however, several versions of why the capital was moved to Chengdu, and more recent theories of the name’s origin point to it as stemming from, or referring to, earlier non-Han inhabitants and/or their languages.

After the conquest of Shu by the State of Qin in 316 BC, a new city was founded by the Qin general Zhang Yi (who as a matter of fact had argued against the invasion). This can be seen as the beginning of the Chinese Chengdu. It was renamed Yìzhou during the Han Dynasty.

During the partition following the fall of the Eastern Han Dynasty, i.e. the era of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Bei founded the southwest kingdom of Shu-Han with Chengdu as its capital.

During the Tang Dynasty, both the “Poet God” Li Bai and the “Poet Sage” Du Fu spent some part of their lives in Chengdu.

Chengdu was also the birthplace of the first widely used paper money in the world (Northern Song Dynasty, around A.D. 960).

Two rebel leaders, one around the end of Song Dynasty, the other near the end of Ming Dynasty, set up the capitals of their short-lived kingdoms here, called Dashu and Daxi, respectively.

During the Second World War the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist) government under Chiang Kai-shek fled to Sichuan Province to escape the invading Japanese forces. They brought with them businesspeople, workers and academics, who founded many of the industries and cultural institutions which continue to make Chengdu an important center. However, the city soon became a symbol of Nationalist corruption and ineffectiveness.

In 1944 the American XX Bomber Command launched Operation Matterhorn, an ambitious plan to base B-29 Superfortresses at Chengdu and strategically bomb the Japanese Home Islands. Because it required a massive airlift of fuel and supplies over the Himalayas, it was not a great military success, but it did earn Chengdu the distinction of launching the first serious retaliation against the Japanese homeland.

Chengdu was the last city on the Chinese mainland to be held by the Kuomintang-controlled government. R.O.C. President Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo directed the defence of the city at Chengdu Central Military Academy until 1949, when the city fell into Communist hands. The People’s Liberation Army took the city on December 10 and the remnants of the Nationalist Chinese government fled to Taiwan.

Today the industrial base is very broad, including light and heavy manufacturing, aluminum smelting and chemicals. The textile industry remains important, with cotton and wool milling added to the traditional manufacturing of silk brocade and satin.

Today it is the headquarters of the Chengdu Military Region.

On May 12, 2008, a 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck causing damage to the area, killing about 80,000 people and injuring 26,413 in the area as of May 24, 2008. 4021 of the casualties and most of the property damage were from Dujiangyan and Pengzhou, two suburban cities of Chengdu. While 75 kilometers (48 miles) from the epicenter, the urban area did not suffer any discernible damage.

Geography and climate

Chengdu is situated at the western edge of the Sichuan Basin. It is therefore sheltered from northwest winds from Siberia in winter by the Qinling Mountains to the north. The climate is mild and humid. The short winter is milder than in the Lower Yangtze because of the sheltering effect of the Qinling. Snow is rare but there are a few periods of frost each winter. The summer is longer, but not as hot as in cities such as Wuhan and Nanjing in the Lower Yangtse downstream. Average daytime highs are 10°C (49°F) in January and 30°C (85°F) in July. Rainfall is reliable year-round but peaks in the summer months.

Chengdu has one of the lowest sunshine totals in China (less sunshine annually than London), and most days are cloudy even if without rain. This is especially so in the winter months, when it is typically interminably grey and dreary. Spring (Mar-Apr) tends to be sunnier, warmer and drier than autumn (Oct-Nov).

Previous names

The Brocade City: Jincheng
In the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-23 AD), brocade produced in Chengdu enjoyed great popularity among the royal and elite class in China. Emperor installed Jin Guan (an official in charge of brocade production) to oversee brocade production in Chengdu. Since then, Chengdu has been called “Jin Guan Cheng”(Brocade Official’s City), or in its short form, “Jin Cheng” (Brocade city).

The City of Hibiscus: Rongcheng
In the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (907-960), Mengchang, the king of the Later Shu Kingdom, ordered the planting of hibiscus on the fortress wall surrounding the city. After this, Chengdu started being referred as the City of Hibiscus. Nowadays, the hibiscus is still the city flower of Chengdu. But the last city wall was torn down in the 1960s along with the Royal Palace situated in the middle of the city.

The aforementioned “previous names” are not formal names, however, but are more accurately thought of as nicknames. The name “Chengdu” has never changed during thousands years since the city was founded, and the city has always been in the same location.

Culture and folklore

People from Chengdu (or Sichuan, in general) tend to eat spicy. Many local specialties include Grandma Chen’s Bean Curd (Mapo doufu), Chengdu Hot pot, and Carrying Pole Noodles (Dan Dan Noodles).

An article by the Los Angeles Times (2006) called Chengdu “China’s party city”. Chengdu outnumbers Shanghai in the number of tea houses and bars despite having less than half the population. The inhabitants have a reputation both within Sichuan and in China at large for having a laid back attitude and for knowing how to enjoy life. The carefree lifestyle of Chengdu greatly benefits its local women, who are generally of a sweet and charming nature. A Chengdu- based writer has portrayed Chengdu girls in this way: “Chengdu girls sound delectable and tender, even when they are squabbling.


The main industries in Chengdu – which include food, medicine, machinery and the information technology – are supported by numerous large-scale enterprises, such as Chengdu Sugar and Wine Co.. Ltd., Chengdu Food Group, Sichuan Medicine Co. Ltd., Chengdu Automobile Co. Ltd. etc. Many high-tech enterprises from outside Chengdu are also beginning to settle down there.

The National Development and Reform Commission has formally approved Chengdu’s proposed establishment of a national bio-industry base there. China’s aviation industries have begun construction of a high-tech industrial park in the city that will feature space and aviation technology. The local government plans to attract overseas and domestic companies for service outsourcing and become a well-known service outsourcing base in China and worldwide.


[Source: Wikipedia]