Chengdu: Explore the Center of Ancient Chinese Civilization

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Chengdu: Explore the Center of Ancient Chinese Civilization

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Chengdu: Explore the Center of Ancient Chinese Civilization

Believed to have a history of over 4000 years, Chengdu and its surrounding area in Sichuan Province holds a significant place in Chinese history as the site of a major ancient Chinese civilization previously thought to be just a myth. Since then Chengdu has long been an important center of trade and commerce for Western China further extending its rich history.

1. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Usually the main reason for visits to the city, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding lets you get close and personal with these lovable, fluffy creatures. The center was established in 1987 and has a huge success in the conservation of this once endangered animal. While it's extremely rare to see a giant panda in the wild, the research base has large enclosures and is home to around 200 giant and red pandas.

2. Wenshu Monastery

An impressive temple complex in the city, Wenshu Monastery is a great spot to check out the traditional side of Chengdu. These highly ornate buildings were constructed in 1691 on the ruins of an old monastery thought to have been built in the Southern Dynasty which lasted between 420 and 589 AD. Apart from a numerous collection of historical artifacts, paintings and calligraphy, the complex is well-known for its popular tea house where locals and tourists alike come to relax over cups of locally grown tea.

3. Jinli Ancient Street

Photo by OSTILL is Franck Camhi/Shutterstock

Adjacent to the historic Wenhou Temple, Jinli Ancient Street is a stretch of street food vendors and souvenir shops housed in old traditional style buildings. The area is charmingly picturesque especially at night when the streets are illuminated by the orange glow of Chinese lanterns. As one of China's most famous cities of gastronomy, diving into the street food offerings of the city is a must and Jinli is a tame, tourist-friendly option to dip your toes into.

4. Wangjianglou Park

A picturesque park in the center of the city, Wangjianglou is popular for its bamboo forest scenery and Wangjiang tower, a traditional Chinese pavilion that offers lovely views over the surrounding area of Chengdu. The park was built to commemorate Tang Dynasty poetess Xue Tao, who was said to have resided in the area.

5. Leshan Giant Buddha (楽山大仏)

This huge towering stone statue of Buddha is the largest of its kind in the world. Built between 713 and 803 the statue was carved into the red sandstone cliff in the hope that Buddha would calm the chaotic waters of the river that lies at its feet. To Leshan city it takes just an hour on the high-speed train from Chengdu, making it easily possible to do in a day trip from the city.

6. Du Fu Thatched Cottage (杜甫草堂博物館)

Once the residence of celebrated Tang Dynasty poet, Du Fu, it was here where he wrote some of his most famous works between 759 and 763 AD. The area features a large park and several historic buildings constructed in the early 16th century. The complex of the cottage is maintained beautifully with lush green gardens, gorgeous pavilions and picturesque bridges.

7. Mount Emei

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After a trip to see the incredible Leshan stone Buddha, at a short distance from the city, Mount Emei is a highly recommended side trip. The highest of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China, Emei offers wonderfully picturesque views dotted with temples and statues.

8. Sanxingdui Museum

Near the grounds of one of China's most important archaeological sites 38 kilometers out of Chengdu, the Sanxingdui Museum showcases a huge range of relics and artifacts from a major civilization that once dominated the area, thought to be the legendary ancient kingdom of Shu. Although its a little way out of the city, the museum is well worth the trip for anyone interested in ancient Chinese history.

9. Baoguang Monastery

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Built in Eastern Han Dynasty on the banks of the Yangtze River Valley, the monastery dates back to 24 – 220 AD and the complex consists of more than 20 temples and well preserved architectural structures. The area includes highly ornate and intricately designed pagodas, 5 temples and 16 courtyards spread across a total area of 20 acres. The 13 story Sarira Pagoda from the Tang Dynasty is particularly incredible towering over the adjacent area.

10. Chengdu Huangcheng Mosque

A fascinating blend of Chinese and Arabic architecture, this mosque is one of the most unique religious structures in the world located in the heart of the old city. Originally constructed in the 16th century and rebuilt three centuries later, this impressive structure is particularly popular on Fridays when street vendors and food stalls pop up offering a mouth-watering selection of Chinese-Muslim food.


Apart from its famed role in ancient Chinese culture, Chengdu has a strong reputation as the cooking pot of China. A mash of western and eastern Chinese food influences, the city has a huge range of unique culinary offerings for you to dig into. Be sure to try Malatang, Mapo tofu, Dan Dan noodles and Bang Bang chicken while you're in the city.