Heavenly State of Chengdu

Ascott’s City manager of Chengdu and Chongqing, Collin Foo, shares Chengdu’s rich culture heritage, promising economic future and unique leisure lifestyle

Issue: Oct 2012

The heavenly state of Chengdu, steeped in rich culture and history while committed to economic progress
The heavenly state of Chengdu, steeped in rich culture and history while committed to economic progress

Born and raised in Singapore I found my new life here at Chengdu a wonderful journey of discovery. This is my second year with The Ascott Limited and for the past two months, I have been taking care of operations at Somerset Riverview Chengdu and Somerset JieFangBei Chongqing. As a new comer in Chengdu I found there are many similarities between Chengdu and Singapore: both have a pleasant climate, very clean streets and are modern cities abounding with rich culture heritage. The people in Chengdu are friendly and seem to balance work and life with finesse; taking time to enjoy the many leisure activities that the city offers. Despite the heavy workload, I, too, have learnt to take time to visit the many attractions of Chengdu and enjoy my tea leisurely at the teahouses.

Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province and very often it is also known as the "Heavenly State" (Tian Fu Zhi Guo). Travellers who come to this gorgeous city will find Somerset Riverview Chengdu to be an ideal choice of accommodation. Nestled in a strategic location in the city, the residence offers contemporary apartments designed to provide comfort and space for the international traveller.

Chengdu is China’s western center of logistics, commerce, finance, science and technology, as well as a hub of transportation and communication. It is also an important base for manufacturing and agriculture. Chengdu is now a benchmark city for investment environment in inland China. To date, over 270 Fortune 500 companies had set up branches in Chengdu, ranking it first in terms of the number of Fortune 500 companies in Central and Western China.

The city is also richly endowed with fantastic natural resources and historical heritages. Within the city proper, the number of ancient temples, parks and cultural relics reveals the time-honored past of the city.

Wu Hou Ci is a temple built in honour of the Shu dynasty prime minister and war strategist Zhuge Liang
Wu Hou Ci is a temple built in honour of the Shu dynasty prime minister and war strategist Zhuge Liang

The Shaping of a Nation

Stepping outside Somerset Riverview Chengdu you are greeted by Chairman Mao whose statue overlooks the Tianfu Square, the center of the city. Every evening at dusk, as well as at noontime, an elaborate water show, synchronised to music, bursts out from the square’s fountains and attracts crowds of people during the spring and summer.

A mere five-minute drive from Somerset Riverview Chengdu, you will find another great Chinese hero fondly remembered and honoured. Located in the south suburb of Chengdu is Wu Hou Ci, a temple dedicated to the Shu dynasty prime minister and war strategist Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang was the epitome of great character who was highly intelligent and fiercely dedicated to the people under him. This temple is one of the most famous of the many that were erected after his death. The temple covers 37,000 square metres and contains relics of sculpture, calligraphy and poetry. I found the almost four-metre high and one-metre wide stele called the "Triple-Success Stele" very fascinating. The stele records the works of Chinese heroes so that they can be remembered for generations.

The Sanxingdui Museum, located near an archaeological site that dates to the Neolithic, Shang and Zhou periods, is another historical site you should not miss. Regarded as one of the finest archaeological museums in Chengdu, this site was declared a National Key Cultural Relics Protected Unit in 1988, due to its scope, the wealth of its contents, and the rarity and precious nature of its excavated objects.

The finds proved that Sanxingdui was the capital of the ancient Shu Kingdom more than 3,000 years ago. The bronzes are the most fabulous, with their high degree of historical, artistic and scientific value of all the objects excavated at Sanxingdui.

My favorite is the Bronze Holy Tree which was towering at over four metres tall. Its sacred and spectacular design won the admiration of many tourists. An unparalleled treasure for its age and completeness, it represents the ancient worship of the sun and the god - an important archeological discovery which changed the people's understanding of ancient history and culture. Although it is a two-hour drive from Somerset Riverview Chengdu, Sanxingdui Museum is well worth a visit for its fine collection.

The Symbol of Friendship

I was fortunate to be able to get up close with a cuddly panda that was busy chewing on its favourite snack
I was fortunate to be able to get up close with a cuddly panda that was busy chewing on its favourite snack

Of course, the couple that made news lately in Singapore did come from here. Chengdu is the home to China's living treasures - Giant Pandas. So, a visit to the Giant Panda Research and Breeding Center is a must.

Bifengxia (or Green Peak Valley) Giant Panda Base is the largest panda base in the world. It has attracted many explorers, tourists, animal-lovers as well as scientists each year to explore its wild beauty. Standing between 2,297 to 6,467 feet high, the Bifengxia is famous for the views of varied vegetation, valleys and waterfalls. I had the honor of witnessing the farewell ceremony for this pair of cute giant pandas on 5 September. CapitaLand is the Presenting Sponsor and Conservation Donor of this ten-year collaboration. I believe Kai Kai and Jia Jia are in the good hands of their caregivers in Singapore.

Be sure to bring your camera and when you meet these lovely creatures.

The Perfect Blend of Old and New

Chengdu is also noted for its leisure lifestyle. Despite its modernity, many old traditions of this ancient city are kept very much alive. Sipping tea in a quaint teahouse and watching the Sichuan Opera will take you back in time to a bygone era. Make your way to one of the most flourishing commercial streets, Jinli Street. Standing as a symbolic representation of the traditional elements in Chengdu, the street is adorned with an array of Chinese-style tea houses, art galleries, theatres and restaurants, making it the ideal destination to experience Chengdu’s vibrant culture.

Among the street performances at Jinli Ancient Street is the world famous Chuan Opera, performed on a wooden stage set up in the middle section of the street. The hilarious Shadow Puppetry Show and Hand Puppet Show, performed by folk artisans, also take place. I once watched the Chuan Opera and a cha (tea) ceremony. I can now fully understand why the people of Chengdu enjoy life at a leisure pace and appreciate the art of traditional opera.

The three lanes that make up the colourful entertainment spot of Kuanzhai Xiangzi: Kuan Lane (Top), Zhai Lane (Middle) and Jing Lane (Bottom)
The three lanes that make up the colourful entertainment spot of Kuanzhai Xiangzi: Kuan Lane (Top), Zhai Lane (Middle) and Jing Lane (Bottom)

About a ten-minute drive away is more entertainment and food. The famous China Lane or Kuan-zhai Lane, which literally means wide and narrow lanes, is a conservation area of old architectural structures spruced up with modern decoration. Kuanzhai Xiangzi is one of the three key preservation areas in Chengdu. Interestingly, it consists of three lanes with each spotting a different theme.

Based mainly around the tourism and recreation theme, the Wide Lane vividly recreates the lifestyle of Old Chengdu where visitors can experience what everyday life was like for the people in the city generations ago. So, you can while away your time in an open-air teahouse and taste Sichuan dishes and snacks while watching Sichuan opera just like they did in the good old days. It is quite an unforgettable experience. The Narrow Lane hosts many modern buildings featuring fashionable cafes, specialty shops, chic boutiques, spa parlors, and fitness halls. Here, the trends are always up to date, making it an indisputable shopping haven. The Well Lane focuses on fashion and entertainment. A number of popular and lively bars, nightclubs, small retail stores, and wedding-planning offices can be found in this lane. The most distinctive architecture is the Little Foreign Building set in a French style. If I were to pick a favorite lane, it would be the Well Lane because I like the tranquil atmosphere of the coffee shop and chic wine bar here.

For more shopping, I recommend the newly opened Raffles City Chengdu. Connected to a metro interchange, it is surrounded by commercial towers, retail shops, restaurants and entertainment outlets. The Ascott Raffles City of 296 serviced apartments will also open in 2013 offering you the first class experience with a world of conveniences.

So come to the exciting world of Chengdu where the heavenly state aims to tease your senses with its rich culture heritage, promising economic future and unique leisure lifestyle.

Come Stay with us …

Somerset Riverview Chengdu
No 1 Section 3,
Renmin South Road,
Wuhou District,
Chengdu 610041,
China
Tel: (86-28) 6181 6888
Fax: (86-28) 6181 6999
E-mail: enquiry.chengdu@the-ascott.com

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