Chengdu–Home of the Giant Pandas

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Chengdu — Chéngdū

Chengdu (Chinese: 成都; pinyin: Chéngdū), is the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China. It holds sub-provincial administrative status. The urban area houses around 14 millian inhabitants.

Chengdu is one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centers in Western 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 in China. It was recently named China’s 4th-most livable city by China Daily.

 

Chengdu Plain 

 

The fertile Chengdu Plain, on which Chengdu is located, is also known as the “Country of Heaven”, a phrase also often translated as “The Land of Abundance”.

The ancient fortress wall (古城墙, Gǔ Chénɡqiánɡ)

 

The ancient fortress wall of Chengdu, 10 meters high and 11 km long, was built during the Qing Dynasty. Surrounding the city, the wall’s bottom measures 10 meters wide while the top measures 6 meters wide, almost equivalent to the width of a street. 8,122 crenels, four octagons and four turrets were built on the wall.

Four gates were constructed on all sides of the wall, with hibiscus trees planted outside. Thus, the city acquired its nickname ‘The city of hisbicus.’Locals were only allowed to climb the wall during the Spring festival when it was believed to help drive away illness and bad luck for the coming year.

The fortress wall was torn down in 1958 and now only remains as scattered ruins across the city. The most complete remaining piece of the ancient fortress wall is a hundred-meter section south of Wu Ding Qiao and northwest of Bei Jiao Chang.

Language

The native language in Chengdu is Sichuan dialect(四川话, Sìchuān huà). More precisely, “Chengdu Dialect” (成都话/成都方言) is widely used in lieu of “Sichuan dialect” due to the largely different accents of Sichuanese speakers residing elsewhere.

Giant Pandas

 

As China’s National Treasure, the giant panda is one of the rarest animals in the world. The total number is estimated to be 1,500, including those living in the wild, 80% of which are in Sichuan Province.

A breeding center for giant pandas was founded in the north suburbs of Chengdu. It is the only one of its kind in the world that’s located in a metropolitan area. Sichuan Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve, the biggest of its kind in the world, is only 130 kilometers outside Chengdu.

 

In 2008, after the release of the Hollywood blockbuster Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and other DreamWorks members visited the city of Chengdu. In addition to seeing live pandas, crew members learned about the local culture. Katzenberg has stated that Kung Fu Panda 2 incorporates many elements of Chengdu in the film. The film’s landscape and architecture also found inspiration from those found at Mount Qingcheng, a renowned Taoist mountain. In an interview with Movieline, Berger stated that ‘we never really thought of this as a movie set in China for Americans; it’s a movie set in an mythical, universalized China for everyone in the world’.

Teahouse (茶馆, Cháɡuǎn)

 

An old Chengdu saying goes, “Sunny days are rare, but teahouses are abundant”. Teahouses have played diverse social roles in the history of Chengdu. Locals are passionate about going to tea houses, not only for tea, snacks, and entertainment, but also for social gatherings and business meetings. Tea houses have also served as unofficial courthouses where local people resolved conflicts under advisement of community leaders.

Traditional tea houses in Chengdu usually feature bamboo chairs and wooden tables and offer jasmine, long jing and biluochun tea.

Modern tea houses can be spotted on almost every city corner. The price for tea varies from 5 RMB to several hundred. Besides tea and snacks, almost all tea houses offer Majiang sets, tables, and sometimes separate majiang rooms. Most locals go to tea houses to play majiang with friends. Some luxury tea houses in Chengdu also offer live entertainment such as Sichuan opera shows.

Mahjong (麻将, Májiànɡ)

 

Mahjong has been an essential part of most local people’s life. Almost every household in Chengdu has at least one set of mahjong. People play majiang at home or in tea houses. On sunny days, local people like to play mahjong on the sidewalks. Most people play with money to make the game more exciting.

 

Mahjong is the most popular entertainment choice among locals for several reasons. Chengdu locals have simplified the rules and made it easier to play as compared to, Cantonese mahjong. A small amount of gambling is regarded as harmless entertainment. Friends and families chat over mahjong tables, making mahjong an important social vehicle. In fact, many business people negotiate deals while playing mahjong.

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