A face-changing performance of Sichuan Opera is always a crowd-pleaser. (Photo source:Asia News Photo/Zhao Junchao)
BEIJING, Aug. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- With three days to spend in Chengdu, reserve one day for the pandas and two for local culture and food, Mei Jia suggests.
Known as the hometown of the panda and hotpot, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, will enact a 72-hour visa-free policy on Sept 1 for visitors from 45 countries.
Those transit passengers holding valid visas and a flight ticket to a third country will be allowed to travel in the city and the regions under the municipal government, making Chengdu the country's fourth city to open up such convenient three-day stops for foreigners.
With a history of 2,700 years, Chengdu is one of the few cities that has not changed its name in the long run of Chinese history. It's now the political, financial and cultural center in southwestern China.
The city strictly follows the square pattern of ancient royal cities in its primary layout.
Wars once dropped its population to nearly zero. To boost recovery, the emperor asked people from other southern provinces to move in. When different cultures, dialects and cooking methods were brought together, the resulting "Land of Abundance" spurred the birth of Sichuan cuisine, which has become the biggest attraction for many Chinese visitors.
Now with the city government taking great pride in the fact that "half of the Fortune 500 companies are in Chengdu", it has resolved to lure more foreign visitors. Sichuan basin has a wide range of geographic recourses. Tourists are able to sample the wonders of grasslands, ice-capped mountains, hot springs and forests in one visit to the province.
Its rich cultural heritage includes the Qintai Road: Lots of the streets' names have a story behind them, often connected with renowned poets and writers from the past, including literary luminaries Li Bai and Du Fu.
The city preserves a famous well from which poet Xue Tao of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) drew water to make a handmade paper specially designed for poetry writing. Xue's residence is now a park in the city's southern part.
In recent years, many historical sites have been renovated. Here are some tips for anyone ready to rush out of the airport and discover local secrets and must-see places.
Locals enjoy their morning sipping a cup of tea in People's Park. (Photo source:Asia News Photo/Wang Xiwei)
Day 1: Downtown pleasures
The moment you arrive in the city, you'll be surrounded by teahouses.
One of the best places to enjoy a cup is People's Park, where there is a traditional-style open-air teahouse. Take it easy and follow the locals. Get seated in the bamboo chairs and start with a jasmine tea.
Meantime, enjoy the tea-pouring show. Performers pour steaming water from a pot with a meter-long spout. Or treat yourself with an ear-cleaning service by the masters seen only in Sichuan's teahouses.
Then just relax and chat, play cards, or join in the mahjong games.
Ancient courtyard houses are renovated into restaurants, bars and hotels. Niu Shupei / Asia News Photo
The restaurant Dumpling Zhong is next to the teahouse, offering genuine Chengdu snacks.
Order a set of special delicacies for around 30 yuan ($5), and you'll have more than 10 dishes including dumplings, wonton soup, cold dishes and desserts.
The park is also home to a monument commemorating the events that triggered the 1911 Revolution that changed the country dramatically.
The Shrine of the Marquis Wu, a must-see for history lovers, was built in AD 223 to celebrate the wisdom of Zhuge Liang (AD 181-234), prime minister of the Shu Kingdom.
Jinsha Museum, located in western Chengdu, preserves one of the 21st century's most significant archaeological discoveries on the original site. A gold mask and the Sun and Immortal Bird are representative items among the gold and jade articles, which date back about 3,000 years.
Restaurant Hong Xing, not too far from the museum, is a local favorite that offers renewed versions of classic dishes of the Sichuan cuisine.
Then, head to Broad and Narrow Alleys for a walk. The alleys are traces of old Chengdu that have survived the city's expansion and large-scale construction. Once home to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Emperor Kangxi's aristocratic soldiers from northern China, the alleys offer rare samples of northern courtyard houses found in southern areas. You'll also find stores, bars, restaurants, teahouses and even hotels.
Immerse yourself in the hot and spicy world at Damiao Hotpot, or treat your eyes and stomach with Chengdu-styled architecture and dishes at Chengdu Impression. Both host lively and humorous Sichuan Opera shows.
Watch closely: The actor's made-up red face can change to a white one in the second he's talking to you.