Chengdu Travel Guide

Statue, Liu Bei's Tomb
Liu Bei's Tomb

The capital of Sichuan, Chengdu is a modern city with a relaxed culture, typified by its pleasant gardens and teahouses. A distinct part of city life, teahouses are found in parks and other spaces, and are often no more than a collection of rickety chairs and tables. The city’s roots go as far back as the enigmatic Ba-Shu era, though it first became a capital during the Three Kingdoms (AD 221), later gaining a reputation for its silk brocade and for being the first place that printed paper money. By Chinese standards, Chengdu is a fairly compact city, stretching 4 miles (6 km) across, with most sights within its central area.

Visitors' checklist

  • 160 miles (258 km) NW of Chongqing
  • 3,620,000
  • Shuangliu Airport
  • North Train Station, South Train Station
  • North Bus Station, Xi Men Bus Station, CAAC (buses to airport), Xin Nan Men Bus Station
  • 22 Renmin Nan Lu, 028 664 88000

Chengdu City Center

Chengdu city center

  • Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage 3
  • Qingyang Gong 4
  • Renmin Park 5
  • Wenshu Yuan 1
  • Wuhou Ci 6
  • Yong Ling Museum 2

Tourist Information

Business as usual at the bustling teahouse in Wenshu Yuan
Business as usual at the bustling
teahouse in Wenshu Yuan

Wenshu Yuan

  • Wenshu Yuan Jie
  • 8am–6pm daily
Incense for sale at Wenshu Yuan
Incense for sale
at Wenshu Yuan

Down a small alley, this is the headquarters of Sichuan’s Chan Buddhist sect and is dedicated to Wenshu, God of Wisdom – usually depicted riding a blue lion. The temple was founded around AD 700, although the current arrangement of five halls dates to the Ming era. The austere flagstoned buildings are filled with statuary and the courtyards with incense burners. The temple’s importance is reflected by its activity and constant chanting of prayers. After a visit, people relax at the teahouse or vegetarian restaurant.

Yong Ling Museum

  • 10 Yong Ling Lu
  • 42, 48, 54
  • 8am–5:30pm daily

A large mound in the northwest of town was excavated in 1942 to uncover Yong Ling, the Tomb of Wang Jian, self-appointed emperor of Sichuan, who fought his way to power in AD 907 and died in 918. The relics include a 20-ft (6-m) long stone platform which formed the base for a multi-layered wooden sarcophagus, carved with a 22-figure female orchestra. Life-sized busts of warriors, sunk up to their waists in the floor, support the platform. A simple statue of Wang Jian and faint traces of floral frescoes enforce the impression of a cultured, modest man, though his self-indulgent son lost the empire to the Late Tang in AD 925.

Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage

  • 38 Qinghua Lu
  • daily

The Tang dynasty’s most celebrated poet, Du Fu, arrived in Chengdu during a nationwide uprising in AD 759. He spent the next five years living in poverty in a tumbledown thatched cottage on the outskirts of the city, where he wrote around 240 soulful poems contrasting the forces of nature with the turmoil of contemporary life, such as when his roof blew off during a storm. Admirers first founded gardens here in the 10th century, although the traditional arrangement of pools, bridges, trees, and pavilions dates from 1811. Simple whitewashed halls display antique collections of Du Fu’s poems, and a museum gives an outline of his life in models and paintings.

Worshipers outside the Daoist Qingyang Gong
Worshipers outside the Daoist Qingyang Gong

Qingyang Gong

  • 9 Xi Er Duan
  • daily

Founded in the ninth century, Qingyang is Chengdu’s main Daoist temple. Its name, meaning Green Goat, refers to the obscure final words of Daoism’s mythical founder, Laozi, that those who understood his teachings could find him at the Green Goat market. The most distinctive building is the 1882 Bagua Pavilion, whose stone pillars carved with 81 dragons enclose a life-sized statue of Laozi riding his buffalo. Inside the Three Purities Hall, three massive bearded statues representing the deities Original Nature, Virtue, and Wisdom, loom over two bronze statues of what are supposedly goats, although the right-hand animal has tiger paws, a unicorn’s horn, a snake’s tail, and other attributes of animals in the Chinese zodiac. Around the back of the next hall, crowds line up to touch one of the three auspicious characters painted on a wall, and thus receive good fortune.

Detail from monument at Renmin Park
Detail from monument at Renmin Park

Renmin Park

   * 12 Xiao Cheng Lu
   * 7am–9pm daily

This is the best of Chengdu’s parks, with year-round floral displays, ponds, terraces draped in wisteria, and a hall hosting weekend shows of shadow-puppetry. The Martyrs’ Monument, commemorates the 1911 rail dispute that mobilized opposition to the Qing and eventually led to their demise.

A striking moon gate at Wuhou Ci
A striking moon gate at Wuhou Ci

Wuhou Ci

  • 231 Wuhou Ci Dajie
  • 8am–6pm daily

Meaning "Shrine to the Minister of War," Wuhou Ci commemorates Zhuge Liang (AD 181–234), a brilliant military strategist from the Three Kingdoms period. In 1672, the complex was expanded to include its series of temple-like halls, filled with statuary of Three Kingdoms’ characters, all guarding Liu Bei’s Tomb. The Three Kingdoms Hall has statues of Liu Bei, robed in gold along with his grandson, while another room has statues of Zhuge Liang. The last hall is used for performances of Sichuan theater.

Sichuan University Museum

  • Liberal Arts Bldg near University’s east gate off Wangjiang Lu
  • 028 8541 2451
  • 9am–5pm daily

Founded in 1914 by the American scholar D.S. Dye, this rebuilt Sichuan ethnographic museum displays cultural artifacts such as embroidery, leather armor, and Tibetan religious items. Antique paintings, stone carvings, and texts are also on show. Nearby, Wangjiang Lou Park is set along the river and has a tall pagoda dedicated to the 9th-century poetess Xue Tao.

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