Exploring China’s interior: Southwest 西南
// Day 6: Chengdu 成都, capital of Sichuan Province
Chengdu 天府之国, capital of Sichuan province has been on the agenda for the longest time. It has retained its original city name since its founding more than two millennia ago in 311BC, the same cannot be said of many other Chinese cities. A fan of the Three Kingdoms narrative – it was great being able to investigate the historicity of such seminal characters in the Chinese psyche – such as Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang. Of course, being in this part of China during Sino-Japanese tension was also most interesting. Today it is one of China’s most liveable cities, famous for its giant pandas and is home to more than 14 million. Often tremendously foggy, there are only a few times a year locals actually get to fully embrace the sun. An inland city with increasing economic importance to China’s spread of growth to its interior and periphery, it is now becoming a first choice stop if one wishes to succeed in China’s west.
#1 Tianfu Square: At the square facing the Sichuan Science and Technology Museum with Mao statue. A dynamic gathering place, it is a must visit if one ever visits Chengdu.
#2 The square itself sees a sunken metro hub with subterranean shopping options. Once the site of the imperial palace torn down during the cultural revolution. For a city with so much history, it is thought provoking how little of the legacies of past – often so richly embedded in Chinese texts are physically left.
#3 Starbucks has made significant headway into the Chinese psyche of late along the wave of MacDonaldization >;30RMB for a standard coffee there is suggestive. A typical canned drink such as the herbal tea 加多宝 costs 10 times less in the provision shops
#4 The other side of China’s rise. Coca Cola versus wandering spirit.
#5 Opulent, symbolic and contentious. According to a local contact, this complex, now called the Tianfu International Financial Centre seriously irked Wen Jiabao during his visit to Chengdu after the devastating Sichuan earthquakes of 2008. The timing could not have been worse. Chengdu municipal officials moving into luxurious new city government offices at the 1.2b Yuan complex with while others struggled to survive drew severe public criticism. During my visit, entry was not encouraged. Word was given that officials would sell the buildings and use the money for earthquake reconstruction, however one office block of the five ‘Beijing bird’s nest’ lookalikes is still being used.
#6 Chengdu East Train Station – obviously built to handle large crowds – 68 hectares large in total with 14 platforms and 26 tracks.
#7 New Century Global Center. Touted to be the largest business platform in West China, it is also the world’s largest single structure. Measuring 500m across and 400m wide with 1.7 million square metres of floor space, the marine-themed center features a 500m long artificial beach inside with a 150m-long LED screen and an artificial sun for often foggy Chengdu – which is actually more than a thousand kilometres from any coast. Slated for turnkey business dealings there are hotels, offices, retail outlets, arts centres and concert venues inside. Claimed to be able to fit 20 Sydney Opera Houses, it was so large my peripheral vision could not capture it all at once, not lest the tablet computer’s built-in camera.
#8 Not yet open for business, I was able to get a glimpse of this scale model by visiting the retail and office space sales centre.
#9 Steaming ahead to the age of convenience? Pre-packed herbal soup for the time-strapped.
#10 The staggering price of imported infant milk formulas was raised as a concern by a few local friends at the parenting phase of their lives.
Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Photo Story