Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan Province is one of the largest and most populous cities in the country. Located on the verdant, fertile plains of the Sichuan basin, Chengdu is an economic powerhouse, a prominent epicenter for science, technology, trade, commerce and transportation in China. Chengdu has a rich cultural legacy that goes back more than 2300 years, In fact, it is believed that the world’s first paper currency was invented in Chengdu in 1023, during the rule of the Song dynasty.
Lush, leafy, Chengdu which has a rather mystical air about it, has over the years often been referred to as ‘Land of Abundance’ and ‘Heavenly State’. The city’s fertile environs are the byproduct of the engineering ingenuity of the Dujiangyan Irrigation system, initiated in the 2nd century BC, by Li Bing, the Shu Kingdom magistrate of the Qin dynasty. This system which channelized the waters of the Minjiang River, to irrigate the plains on which the city is located, continues to be used until today.
Modern-day Chengdu is a vibrant city that has much to offer for visiting tourists. Chengdu is home to various historical attractions, entertainment, dining and shopping options. The city’s most famous attraction, however, is actually located on its outskirts, in the green valley that surrounds its urban center. The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center, the only one of its kind in the world, is a zoo cum research center that allows visitors to interact with the cute and cuddly panda bears at relatively close quarters. The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center is a must-see attraction for families planning a visit to Chengdu.
Best time to visit Chengdu
The weather in Chengdu is mild and humid all year round. The city experiences four distinct seasons, though fog, humidity and mild sunshine are constants throughout the year. Chengdu usually experiences a wet monsoon season during the months of July and August. Daytime temperatures during these months usually max out at 30̊ C and storms are also quite frequent. The best times to visit Chengdu are during the months of March to June and September to November, when the weather is slightly drier but still pleasant to allow for sight-seeing expeditions.
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Getting to Chengdu
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) is located about 16kms south of the city. This relatively modern airport has recently upgraded its facilities, to receive new generation aircraft like the Airbus A380 superjumbo. The Chengdu airport offers air connections to numerous domestic destinations along with key international aviation hubs like London, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul, Osaka, Amsterdam and Bangkok. http://www.cdairport.com/front_en/index.jsp
Getting to the city center from the airport in Chengdu is relatively easy and takes about 20-30 minutes by taxi. There is also an airport shuttle bus, which operates at a frequency of twenty minutes from 5am in the morning.
As a major transportation hub in China, Chengdu is also easily accessible from destinations within the country. The city has three main bus stations; Chadianzi, Wuguiqiao and Xinnanmen, which provide connections to many points around the nation. Chengdu is also equipped with three train stations and the main passenger train stations in Chengdu are located in the northern and eastern sections of the city. Transport within the city is provided by an extensive network of taxis, buses and the subway system.
Family-friendly hotels in Chengdu
As a well-established destination on the tourist trail, Chengdu offers an assortment of family-friendly hotels which cater to various budgets.
This apartment hotel offers 360 well equipped, air-conditioned apartments which range from studios to three bedrooms. These apartments are equipped with various modern-day conveniences like Cable TV, a DVD player, a washing machine and a well outfitted kitchen. The hotel offers baby-sitting and child care services for a fee and is equipped with a children’s swimming pool and playground.
The Sheraton Chengdu Lido Hotel
The Sheraton Chengdu Lido Hotel is located in the heart of Chengdu near the city’s main attractions like the Renmin Park and the Sichuan Museum of Science and Technology. The hotel offers 387 air-conditioned rooms, which are kitted out with various amenities.
Shangri-La Hotel Chengdu
The opulent Shangri-La Hotel in Chengdu offers 593 air-conditioned rooms. The hotel is equipped with various family-friendly facilities like a children’s club, restaurants and coffee shops. The hotel also offers child-care services for a fee.
Family-friendly attractions in Chengdu
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a non-profit research facility that is focused on the conservation and breeding of giant pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them back in the wild. The center is located 10 km from downtown Chengdu and extends over 92 leafy acres, covered with fourteen species of bamboo and various other trees and flowers.
Aside from giant pandas, the center also hosts other endangered species like red pandas and black necked cranes.
It takes approximately two hours to walk the grounds of the panda research center but if you are visiting this world famous Chengdu attraction with young children in tow, you may want to use the tour cart provided by the park, to explore its many enclosures.
The Wenshu Monastery is one of the most popular attractions in Chengdu. The original building was built during the Sui Dynasty (605BC – 617BC) but it was destroyed by a fire during the rule of the Ming dynasty.
The present day structure, which is located in the northern part of the city, was built under the supervision of the renowned Buddhist monk CiDu HaiYue in 1697, during the Qing Dynasty. It is believed that the bodhisattva Manjusri appeared to CiDu HaiYue during the time of construction and the temple which was initially known as the XinXiang Temple was renamed Wenshu, the Chinese name for Manjusri. The Wenshu Monastery is one of the best preserved Buddhist working monasteries in China today and offers many exhibits of Chinese paintings, calligraphy and artworks. The temple is also equipped with a simple tea house and a vegetarian restaurant, which serves excellent Buddhist cuisine, definitely worth sampling on any visit to the temple.
The Jinsha Museum
The Jinsha Relics Museum is located at a distance of 5 km from downtown Chengdu. The Jinsha site was discovered in 2001 by construction workers working on a real estate project in the village of Jinsha. The museum which extends over 300,000 square meters is the largest museum in Chengdu and is set up like a theme park.
The Jinsha museum is divided into five main sections; the Tourist Centre, the Relic Hall, the Exhibition Hall, the Protection Centre of Cultural Relics and the Garden District. The museum’s collection includes instruments, jade and stone sculptures, gold plates, bronze, wood and ivory artifacts and a Golden Phoenix, which is its star attraction. Some of the relics displayed at the Jinsha museum are more than 4000 years old and date back to the Shang and the Zhou dynasties. The excavation at the Jinsha site is an on-going affair and yields valuable and historically significant finds periodically.
The Wuhou Shrine or the Temple of Marquis Wu was built during the West Jin period (265-316) to commemorate Zhuge Liang, a famous military and political strategist, who was the Prime Minister of the Shu Han State in the Three Kingdoms Period (221 – 589). The shrine has within its folds various points of interest like the Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple, the Hall of Liu Bei and several statutes of various prominent figures of the Shu Han State. Also located with the shrine, are various other historical and cultural relics like archways, urns, and stone tablets. The shrine is set amongst lush gardens and is equipped with chambers where visitors can don ancient costumes and have their picture taken. Children are bound to enjoy this aspect of their visit to this ancient Chengdu attraction.
The Thatched Cottage of Du Fu museum
The attraction of the Thatched Cottage of Du Fu museum is located in a western suburb of Chengdu. The cottage, which is located in the midst of verdant settings, is a wonderful exponent of traditional Chinese style architecture and features many classic Chinese pavilions and bridges. The cottage was constructed by famed poet, Du Fu who lived during the reign of the Tang dynasty and fled to Chengdu from Henan Province during the An-Shi Rebellion, a major societal disturbance which took place during the rule of the Tang dynasty. It is believed that Du Fu lived at the cottage for four years, during which he wrote more than 240 poems.
Family-friendly activities in Chengdu
Take a trip to the theme parks in Chengdu
Chengdu is equipped with a few western style theme parks, which are worth visiting especially if you need to take a break from sightseeing. The Chengdu Polar Ocean World is a water park equipped with an aquarium. It offers whale and dolphin shows and features displays of marine creatures like killer whales, great white sharks, sea lions and walruses. Yet another amusement park worth visiting with your kids while on holiday in Chengdu is the Happy Valley theme park, which features rollercoasters and water rides as well as various local attractions along with food stalls and more
Chengdu is renowned as the home of delicious but fiery, hot Sichuan cuisine. Sichuan cuisine typically features the lethal, tongue-numbing flower pepper called huājiāo as its main component. Some of the most famous dishes of Sichuan cuisine are dishes like Grandma Chen’s Bean Curd, the Chengdu Hotpot and Dan Dan Noodles which can be sampled at various restaurants around the city.
Visitors who crave western food on their holiday can try one of Chengdu’s many good, family-friendly western eateries like the Lazy Pug (a restaurant serving authentic American eats) and Kaffestugan (a Swedish café).
Take a trip to marvel at the Leshan Buddha
The Leshan Buddha, which is also known ‘Dafo,’ is the largest stone Buddha in the world. Devout Buddhist monks painstakingly carved this Buddha out of a cliff over 1000 years ago. The Leshan Buddha and its neighboring peak, Mount Emei, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Leshan city, which is home to the Leshan Budda, is located at a distance of 162 kilometers (100 miles) from the city of Chengdu and it can be easily accessed by various modes of transport from Chengdu.
Useful contact numbers to have on hand while visiting Chengdu
China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), Beijing: +86 (0)10 6520 1114
Emergencies: 110 (police) 120 (ambulance)
Foreign embassy contacts in China
United States Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 8531 3000
British Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 5192 4000
Canadian Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 5139 4000
Australian Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 5140 4111
South African Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 8532 0000
Irish Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 6532 2691
New Zealand Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 8532 7000