For Chengdu Beginners

There are a few things everyone should know if they plan on living in Chengdu. We’ll start here with the basics and later on, in subsequent articles, we’ll go deeper into the personality and character of the city.

First and foremost: Chengdu is an old city, more than 2000 years old, and is the capital of Sichuan Province. The region around Chengdu is known as the Land of Abundance because pretty much everything grows here all year round. People in Chengdu are know to enjoy life, the type to choose an afternoon drinking tea and playing cards over working any day.

In fact, an old saying goes:
When young, avoid Shu (the old name for Sichuan).

Because if you arrive here young, the abundance will spoil you and you will basically be a good-for-nothing lay-about with a full belly and an empty bank account. As such, the city teems with restaurants and teahouses. The food here is among the tastiest in the world and, although Sichuan is not known for tea production, the teahouses here are among the best anywhere. People fear the rumors that all Sichuan food is spicy; do not fear, the spice is hot, but nothing unbearable and not all dishes will burn your tongue. Thai, Indian and Mexican food are far hotter.

Chengdunese speak standard Mandarin, but love to use the local Sichuanese dialect, which is basically akin to Southern American English or Bavarian German in that the words are the same, just pronounced a bit differently. If you can learn a few words in the local dialect, things will go smoother for you.

Chengdu is also one of the fastest-growing cities in China. Sure, all of China is growing fast, but in Chengdu there is a mixture of international growth, cultural growth and economic development that makes the city quite livable.

Practically speaking, here are a few things to note:
The center of the city is Tianfu Plaza and the Mao statue is a landmark that everyone in the city (perhaps in all of China) uses to orient themselves. The main roads to learn are:

  • Renmin Road, which stretches north to south across the city
  • First Ring Road, the inner city ring
  • Second Ring Road the outer city ring

The train station is in the far north and is accessible via Metro Line 1. The major “foreign enclaves” are in the south side of the city, centered around the American Consulate, the Tongzilin neighborhood and the huge and new Tianfu New District to the far south of the city.

Other important landmarks are:

  • The German Consulate
  • Sichuan University (and its many gates)
  • the Jinjiang Hotel
  • Xinnanmen Bus Station, the major bus station for most intra-province travel

The most important thing to know and remember is that Chengdu is a welcoming city. People will be curious about you, may invite you out to dinner, and will most likely offer up their assistance for matters both mundane and urgent.  Enjoy it!

 

Sascha Matuszak is a Chengdu-based columnist with more than 10 years of experience living and traveling around China. He spends most of his time in Chengdu, but can also be found researching and writing about various other topics, including Kung Fu, Tibet, The Grand Canal and tea.
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