Chengdu, Sichuan: Capital of the Heavenly State

Bronze animal sculpture from the ancient Shu culture at the Sanxingdui Relic Museum, Chengdu, Sichuan

Bronze animal sculpture from the ancient Shu culture at the Sanxingdui Relic Museum, Chengdu, Sichuan

Chengdu (成都) is the capital of Sichuan province (四川省). It is the 11th largest city in China. Known as the “Heavenly State” (Tian Fu Zhi Guo), Sichuan is richly endowed with natural resources and Chengdu is an example of high production. In ancient times, the Shu culture proliferated here and the city was well-known for its Shu embroideries and brocades. The city was also the beginning of the Southern Silk Road and origin of Chinese bronze culture.

Attraction List:

  • Sanxingdui Relic Museum (August 5)
  • Chengdu Panda Research Base (August 6)

August 5, 2012

In the wee hours of an early morning, we were sent on our way to the airport in Beijing with a pre-packaged hotel breakfast of croissants, salami, cold cuts, and a yogurt drink. Despite the well-planned arrangement by our tour group, the flight was delayed by 1 hour but the airline service still served the promised breakfast.

Lunch at the Golden Hawaii in Chengdu

Lunch at the Golden Hawaii in Chengdu

We finally arrived in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, at 11:40 AM and met our lovely tour guide, Cathy, who will guide us during our stay in Sichuan province. We had lunch at the Golden Hawaii, a formerly prestigious restaurant by the décor but now only caters to tour groups. The service was slow but we tried to be accommodating. For our first taste of spicy Sichuan cuisine, we tried fried pork with beansprouts, kungpao chicken, corn nibblets, Chinese long beans with peppers and eggplant. Although spicy (even though we asked for very mild spicy), the sauce used was very flavorful and had a distinct taste of Allspice.

Bronze Mask, Sanxingdui Relic Museum, Chengdu

Bronze Mask, Sanxingdui Relic Museum, Chengdu

After lunch, we headed to the Sanxingdui Relic Museum famous for the bronze masks, jade ritual items, money trees, bird and animal carvings; and pottery from the Shu people who existed during the pre-Shang period (before 1500-1045 B.C.E.). The ritual items consist of knifes and bowels with the square and circle symbols. The square represents Earth, while the circle represents heaven. In the past, it is believed that the Shu people performed sacrifices using the jade ritual items to their spirits in specific directions, such as to the sky (bi), earth (disk with a hole in the middle), east (gui), and south (zhang or ritual blade).

Bronze masks are among the most well-known in Sichuan

Bronze "Head of Wizards," Sanxingdui Relic Museum, Chengdu

Bronze “Head of Wizards,” Sanxingdui Relic Museum, Chengdu

province with the large ears, long, angular eyes; and sometimes a kui dragon symbol in the forehead. The greatest treasure of all was the bronze man called the “head of wizards.” It stands 172 cm tall and has a crown and ornate dress of dragons, birds, and worms. The encircling hands are large.

After exploring the Shu culture, we went for dinner to enjoy a feast of roasted duck with special sauce, steamed tongho vegetables, fried risk cakes in gravy sauce, a vegetable dish containing Buddha palm melon, peppers, and black fungus; spicy pig stomach with celery, and beef and tomatoes.

Dinner on August 5th, Chengdu, Sichuan

Dinner on August 5th, Chengdu, Sichuan

August 6, 2012

Today, we would have an early morning and later head to Leshan after visiting the Chengdu Panda Research Base. We had an early Chinese and continental breakfast at 6:30 AM, then packed our luggage into the care and headed off. We arrived at the Research Base and spent about 2 hours watching the pandas and learning about how the pandas are bred and raised. The Giant Pandas are found in enclosures with bamboo platforms and in the Moonlight and Sunshine Nursery Houses.

Sleeping Giant Pandas in Chengdu Panda Research Base, Chengdu

Sleeping Giant Pandas in Chengdu Panda Research Base, Chengdu

The average lifespan of pandas are about 17 years old. The oldest living panda is 34 years old. Pandas are mostly active during the day, eating bamboo and playing, especially the younger ones.

Young Giant Panda playing hide and seek, Chengdu Panda Research Base, Chengdu

Young Giant Panda playing hide and seek, Chengdu Panda Research Base, Chengdu

One could also see the Red Pandas in their separate enclosure. These little critters are very active jumping from platform to platform and scurrying to and fro.

Red panda in Chengdu Panda Research Base, Chengdu

Red panda in Chengdu Panda Research Base, Chengdu

 

Additional Comments

Given our schedule, we could only spend one day in Chengdu. It would be nice to visit the other historical sites, namely those referring to the Three Kingdoms Period—Martial Marquis Memorial Temple. Other sites include the cottage of the poet, Du Fu, and Huanglong Valley (Yellow Dragon Valley) for its scenic beauty.

Acknowledgments

Photos are taken by B.M.C.L. and G.D.L. Please ask for permission before using. Thank you.

References

China Internet Information Center. (2001, December 18). Historical Wonders of Sanxingdui Museum. Retrieved from http://www.china.org.cn/e-sanxingdui/jingtai/6.htm

Ebrey, P., Walthall, A., & Palais, J. (2009). Pre-Modern East Asia: To 1800 (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Travel China Guide. (2012, December 20). Chengdu Travel China: City Map, History, Attractions, and Food. Retrieved from http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/chengdu.htm

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One thought on “Chengdu, Sichuan: Capital of the Heavenly State

  1. Chengdu is home to the Giant Pandas, plenty of natural resources and cultural relics. local operas, the authentic flavors and experience Chinese Tea Culture in this laid-back city.

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