Not many people in the Western World have heard of the city Chengdu, located in the legendary Sichuan province of China. But if you’re looking to get up-and-close with pandas, eat some of the best Chinese food in the world and dive head first into Chinese spirituality, then this city has got to be added to your bucket list. If you plan to visit Chengdu China, these are the best things you cannot miss!
1. Hike Up Mount Qingcheng
One of the biggest tourist attractions (and my personal favorite part of the trip) is Mount Qingcheng, the birthplace of Taoism and an UNESCO Heritage site. The Qingcheng Mountain Scenic Area is located about an hour and a half from Chengdu in the southwest of Dujiangyan. To see the legendary eleven, Taoist temples, you must first climb the first half of the 20,000 steps through the lush, evergreen forest. You will reach Yuecheng Lake and take a ferry across where cable cars will be waiting to hoist you high above the trees. You can skip the cable car for a 2 hour hike up the mountain to save money as well. From there, you will see one of the best and beautiful temples in all of Chengdu!
2. Visit the Dujiangyan Aqueduct
You can’t visit the beautiful Qingcheng without first stopping by Dujiangyan! Another World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO, this scenic spot has some of the most beautiful architecture, temples and bridge in the Sichuan Province. Not to mentions, it is the oldest and only remaining functional water conservancy project in the world featuring the dam-free water diversion. You might be overwhelmed with the vast views and sites at this place, so make sure to cross these spots off your list: the Fulong Temple, Two King Temple, the Jade Barrier, Lidui Park, Yuleishan Park, Yunv Peak, Lingyan Temple, Puzhao Temple, Jade Moon Lake, and the Dujiangyan Water Conservancy Project.
3. Try Traditional “Hot Pot” at Shu Daxia Hot Pot
If you’re coming to the Sichuan province to try its legendary food, this must be your first stop! Somewhat similar to fonduing meat in a pot of broth, hot pot is prepared with a simmering pot of soup stock at the dining table. The inner pot was a soup-like dish (perfect for those against spicy dishes) and surrounded by a traditional hot pot broth that is the spiciest thing I’ve ever consumed. Raw meats, innards and even pig’s brain is places around the table for you to cook in the simmering broth. But the best way to cool your hot tongue? Dunk the now-cooked meat in sesame oil or take a big gulp of peanut milk.
4. Wander Around Kuanzhai Alley
This was one of our first stops in Chengdu and felt, while touristy, intrinsically Chinese. Kuanzhai Alley, located close to Changshun Street of the Qingyang District, has three famous alleys: Kuan Alley (wide alley), Zhai Alley (narrow alley), and Jing Alley (well alley). The dark charcoal bricks house touristy shops, restaurants and open markets for you to wander for hours! Try to come here early in the morning as it is quite packed. There are a lot of Asian tourists here, so if you’re a Westerner be prepared for some stares and pictures. We had over 45 people take pictures of us as we took a group photo here and we felt like celebrities!
5. Enjoy a Traditional Chinese Opera at Shu Feng Ya Yun Sichuan Opera
Quite possibly one of the most culturally enriching experiences in Chengdu is the famous Chinese Opera. I unfortunately missed this awesome attraction due to my sesame allergy. However my fellow-travelers told me it was QUITE the site to see. You’re immediately entranced by the historical and distinctive makeup worn by both men and women. The show includes many different acts including hand puppetry, folk songs, dances, talking, antimasque and dialectical music. It’s one of the three oldest dramatic art forms in the world and an absolute must when you visit Chengdu China.
6. Marvel at the Leshan Giant Buddha (The Biggest Buddha in the World)
So just how big is the biggest Buddha in the world? The Leshan Giant Buddha is 233 ft. tall stone statue built during the Tang Dynasty between 713-803 and is the tallest, pre-modern statue in the world. It’s a bit of a drive (almost 2 hours from Chengdu City), but is worth it to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sitting on the Min and Dadu River, the statue is carved out of Cretaceous red blood sandstones. This stone is said to be incredibly cleansing for all of the chakras, instilling good nature, heightening intuition and allowing the real self to shine through happily. Sounds pretty accurate for Buddha, does it not?
7. Tour the Wenshu Monastery
Another beautiful (and best-preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu) can be found at the Wenshu Monastery. Get lost in the history of this beautiful spot initially built during the Tang Dynasty from 618-907. It’s home to some amazingly precious relics, such as paintings, calligraphy and statues as well as a piece of the broken skull of Xuan Zang, a renowned monk of the Tang Dynasty. But tourists love to enjoy the garden and tea house while listening to music by local folk artists.
8. Explore the Jinsha Site Museum
Have you ever planned to create a huge building only to discover 3000 year-old ancient artifacts beneath your feet? Ya, me neither. But you can see this for yourself at the Jinsha Site in the heart of Chengdu. Your first stop is an archalogical digging site filled with antlers, elephant tusks and an old Banyon tree trunk. Wind your way throughout the exhibit and you’ll discover several jade pieces, burial grounds, and the famous Golden Sun Bird disk that is the very symbol of Jinsha itself.
9. Marvel at the Wuhou Site
Another personal favorite of mine (and one of the most photogenic spots in Chengdu) is the Wuhou Shrine. As the dedicated memorial to Zhuge Liang, the Prime Minister of Shu Kingdom, it is quite grand! Enter the main building and find yourself surrounded by statues of generals, politicians and other notable relics of the Museum of the Three Kingdoms. This one area is tricky to take pictures in for some locals believe that you are stealing the souls from the bellies of the statues with every photo you take. But make your way down to the insta-famous red wall between the Hui Mausoleum and Wuhou Shrine. The high bamboo and bright colors perfectly encapsulates the very essence of China.
10. Hang with Pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
This just might be the biggest tourist spot in all of Chengdu. I mean, who wouldn’t want to chill with baby pandas for an afternoon? Founded in 1987, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a non-profit research and breeding facility for giant pandas and red pandas with the goals researching and educating the world about pandas. While I was originally skeptical that this place would be zoo-like and harmful to the animals, the initiatives here are actually quite astounding! For example, the survival rate of baby pandas in the wild is only 30%. This number has increased to 79% of panda survival thanks to the research center. The research base has even made partnerships with zoos around the world to help breed this endangered animal, including Adventure World in Japan, the San Diego Zoo in California and the University of Liverpool in England!
11. Take a Stroll Through People’s Park
Where can you find matchmaking parents, fortune tellers and dancing and karaoke-ing locals all in one place? All can be found at People’s Park in the heart of Chengdu. The beautiful park covers 1,212,440 square feet and has everything here from tall bamboo pathways, a large lake with boats to cruise on, a tea house, coy ponds and flowers on flowers. But the most interesting part of this park are the several “ads” parents post of their children trying to set them up with Mr. or Ms. Right! (Dunno how I feel about that one, but hey, we’re traveling here.)
12. Culinary Institute
I was a tad hesitant to put this one up, mostly because I couldn’t enjoy most of the food on this trip due to my sesame allergy. But if you’re coming to visit Chengdu China for the Sichuan foodie scene, this has to be on your list. Not for the tour and not to pray to the culinary gods (yes, that’s a real thing), but it’s a must-see to stir your own doubanjiang, also known as “the soul of Sichuan” and buy some of the best pixian doubanjiang in all of China.
Where to Stay in Chengdu?
Lucky for you, Chengdu lodging is incredibly affordable. You can stay at a well-known hotel brand for $150 USD or even get away with spending $2 in a trendy hostel. Here are some of my favorite places to stay if you plan to visit Chengdu China:
The Ritz Carlton Chengdu (5 star)
The Temple House (5 star)
Somerset Riverview Chengdu (5 star)
The St. Regis Chengdu (5 star)
Dorsett Grand Chengdu (4 star)
Tianfu Sunshine Hotel (3 star)
Dreams Travel International Youth Hostel (3 star)
Chengdu Mix Hostel (2 star)
*Thank you to the Chengdu Tourism Board for hosting me during this trip to Chengdu. As always, thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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The post Here Are The 12 Best Things You Have to Visit in Chengdu China appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.