Chengdu China is the capital of China's large Western province, Sichuan. Located on a fertile plain surrounded by green mountains, Chengdu is one of the greenest cities in China and has many natural attractions, including the famous Giant Pandas, and the largest carved stone Buddha in the world at Leshan.
Chengdu is known for a relaxed lifestyle that values leisure activities such as drinking tea or going out to enjoy the nightlife. The city is famous for its many teahouses, where locals and tourists congregate to enjoy a pot of freshly brewed tea and nibble on Chinese snacks while chatting and people-watching. As a center for Chinese culture, Chengdu also has its own distinctive form of Chinese opera, and Sichuan opera is a colorful traditional spectacle with costumes, song, and dance. One of the best places to experience traditional Sichuan opera is at the Shufengyayun Operatic Circle, which is actually a traditional teahouse where you can enjoy the show while sipping your tea. Many other teahouses in Chengdu also offer opera shows.
You can continue your exploration of traditional Chengdu culture by wandering down Jinli Street, a part of the old town where many restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels have been built in a historical style. This is an ideal place to pick up knick knacks and souvenirs, as well as some cheap and delicious street food. Be sure to sample local Sichuan cuisine at one of the restaurants with its distinctively spicy food, laced with Sichuan pepper. After a good meal, head over to Wenshu Street to admire Wenshu Temple, the most popular Buddhist temple in Chengdu. Stop here to breathe in the scent of incense, or spend the afternoon watching elderly men challenge each other at a game of Chinese chess at the temple teahouse.
A short taxi ride will take you to the Panda Research Center, the premiere facility for panda breeding in the world. Chengdu's bamboo forests are the ideal habitat for the endangered Giant Pandas, and at the Panda Research Center you can see the furry creatures up close as they play and munch on bamboo shoots, which they hold onto with their unique opposable thumbs. You can even hold a baby panda, for a fee.
Go a little further from the downtown area in your exploration of Chengdu China, and you'll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular sights in China. Near the town of Leshan is the spectacular Giant Buddha, which makes an excellent day trip from Chengdu. The gigantic carved stone statue presides over the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers, which flow right by the Buddha's bare feet. It dates from the year 713 AD, and this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest stone Buddha in the world. Day trips from Chengdu are a fascinating way to explore the surrounding countryside, and if you'd rather not travel alone, an English-speaking tour operator, such as China Odyssey Tours, can help deal with the logistics of getting around in China.
Right across from the Giant Buddha is one of the four holy Buddhist Mountains of China, Mount Emei. This mist-covered mountain is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Chengdu China. Climb to one of the peaks and, on the right day, you may be able to see the "sea of clouds", an enormous expanse of clouds stretching out at your feet, while mist-shrouded mountain peaks rise out of this "sea." It is one of the most quintessential sights of the Chinese landscape, and has inspired countless Chinese paintings throughout history. You'll leave inspired by the sight, as you journey back down to earth and travel back to Chengdu for a restful night of well-earned sleep.