October 2009 • Canon 40D • Canon IXUS 100 IS
As the capital of the Sichuan province, Chengdu is the 5th largest city in China. The city is arguably known for the Panda Research Center, but also for it's cuisine (hot and spicy) and tea culture. At 9 am we left our hotel to stroll through the city to visit Wenshu Temple. We passed by Tianfu Square, famous for having the only statue of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic of China. It was an enormous square and had fountains that was timed to some orchestral music. Quite a lot of families were around.
After a quick Starbucks pit stop (caramel latte) we continued our walk for another 40 minutes through the city to Wenshu Temple. I initially thought the grey skies were due to the cloudy weather. But walking through the city it became apparent that the weather was not the problem: the city had a bad smog problem.
66 Wenshuyuan Street, Qingyang District
Wenshu Temple is the largest preserved open air temple in the city. The famous Buddhist temple has over 190 halls and covers an area of around 13 acres. Local people, worshipers and tourists come to spend time in the many prayer halls, as well as relaxing in the gardens on the grounds. A strong smell of incense filled the air, as there were dedicated incenses burning stands in certain places. In the temple halls, worshipers stand in front of statues of their Buddha and prayed. Some would hold long incense sticks while bowing several times in front of the statue. At the bottom of the statues people had left fruits, such as apple and oranges, on a small table. There are many Buddha statues in the many halls and temples made out of Stone, wood and bronze.
The Wenshu Library building was the standout architectural building in the area. With the beautiful decorated features on the outside inviting you to step in. At the time I was there, a lady was singing/chanting inside with a buddha stature on a table in the center. There were worshipers to the left and right, with circular cushions in yellow and orange colours. At certain times a small bell would ring and everyone would sing/chant something. It was a fascinating experience to witness what seemed to be some thought of prayer. Close to the library, was a vegetarian restaurant. They had so called ‘meat and fish’ on the menu which was cooked out of vegetarian sources (Tofu I imagined) The food was surprisingly really good. I had a baked fish with potatoes slices, french fries and green peppers. It has to be one of the best meals I can remember.
Sichuan cuisine is famous for being hot and spicy. This is due to the world famous Sichuan peppercorn that is grown in this region. In Chengdu you can taste the famous Sichuan Hotpot 火鍋 . It's a soup with plenty of Sichuan peppers, chillies and red chilli oil. This regional cuisine should not be missed when visiting!
9 Citang Street, Qingyang District
We decide to try out the famous Remmin Teahouse in Peoples Park. Chengdu is famous for it's tea houses so it would be a shame if we did not sample some tea while were were here. People's Park is a lively place filled with locals dancing doing the waltz or tango, karaoke to opera singing, and other forms of exercises. Small crowds of locals would form group and participate in one of these activities. There was one group doing some aerobic exercises with some mash up of techno and Chinese beats. While this might seem amusing to foreigners I was struck by the sense of community the Chinese people have.
This is not the first time we have witnessed groups of local people together in chatting, eating together or dancing in public. Their is a spirit of togetherness and happiness that I felt. The teahouse was open air with lots of small wooden tables and chairs. It was nice to drink some Jasmine tea and feel part of the local community.
231 Wuhou Temple Main Street
From People's Park we headed to another temple called Wuhou Temple. It was closed by the time we got there but there was so much to see in the surrounding area. Jinli Street is a famous folk street with shops, restaurants and souvenir stores built in a traditional Qing Dynasty architectural style. Very touristy, but it was a great place to experience and taste the Sichuan cuisine.
There was an area solely for street food stalls. Chilli, garlic and Sichuan peppercorns were naturally the dominant flavorings as that is what the cuisine is famous for. But there was also some sweet snacks to try out too. After tasting some of the snacks we headed off back to our hotel for the night. We had walked and experienced a lot of in one day. And a very enjoyable and interesting one day it turned out to be too.
Chengdu is a big city. With a lot to see and do, packing it all in one day was tiring. If you plan on coming here, I recommend you stay for longer then one day. We were on a tour group of China, so the itinerary only planned one day in the city, with the next day visiting the Panda Research Center. Just visiting the Wenshu Temple can take most of the day if you plan to look around the whole complex. We only spent a few hours in the morning.
If you are a ‘foodie’ then you will definitely enjoy sampling the cuisine here, especially if you are brave enough to sample the street food. We were warned not to try street food as foreigners, but we risked it at Jinli street (it was too hard to resist) with no stomach problems after. There are also many tea houses in the city for you to try out. It was something that we did not get much of a chance to do, but will be on our list to make sure next time we come here.
Visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Uncovering the burried Terracotta Army along with a tea ceremony
A unique Mosque designed and built like a Chinese temple