Chengdu, Republic of China

Home Sweet Home for Pandas!
Chinese Name: 成都市
Area (City):  1,761 square km
Area (Metro): 4,558.4 square km
Population: 10.15 million (2014)
Coordinates: 30°39′25″N 104°03′58″E
January Average Temperature: 5.6°C (42.1°F)
July Average Temperature:  25.4°C (77.7°F)
Average Elevation: 500 meters
Phone Area Code: 28
Postal Code: 610000 – 611944
Time Zone: CST (UTC+8)


Located in central Sichuan, Chengdu is now considered as one of the most important centers for economic, financial, commercial, cultural, transportation, and communication in the Western part of China. Chengdu has a diverse economy which is characterized by industries focused on information technology, automobile, machinery, medicine, and food. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport acts as a hub for Sichuan Airlines and Air China and is among the 30 busiest airports on the planet. Other than its busy airport, Chengdu railway station is also among the six biggest stations in China. Many international companies and around 12 consulates are located in Chengdu which shows its commercial, political and financial importance.

Top Attractions in Chengdu


General information about Chengdu

Chengdu is in Sichuan which is a name heard a lot for Chinese food lovers, especially in western countries. Due to this, in 2011, UNESCO recognized Chengdu as a city of gastronomy. Giant pandas are a national symbol of China and because they inhabit Sichuan, they are very associated with Chengdu and that’s why Chengdu is home to Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Before incorporating into China, Chengdu was founded by the state of Shu. Chengdu, as a major Chinese settlement is unique. It has kept its name mostly unaltered through different eras of China such as imperial, republican, and communist.

Chengdu has been the capital during multiple local kingdoms in the Middle Ages and also during the Three Kingdoms Era, it was the capital of Liu Bei’s Shu Han. Chengdu was a settling point for refugees from eastern parts of China which were fleeing from the Japanese forces during WWII. When the Great War was over, building railways to Chongqing in 1952 and after that to Kunming and Tibet led to Chengdu in becoming an important link between Western China and Eastern China. During the 1960s, Chengdu also became an important place for China’s national defense industry.

Chengdu’s city logo was adopted in 2011 and it was inspired by the Golden Sun Bird. The Golden Sun Bird is an ancient ring-shaped piece of foil, made of nearly pure gold which was found in the Jinsha Ruins in 2001.



Chengdu’s name has been in use since its foundation. It is considered the only large city in China that its name and location has been untouched during the imperial, republican, and communist eras of China. Though it has had other names too, e.g. for a brief time in the 17th century it was known as Xijing. The Song-era geographical work A Universal Geography of the Taiping Era states that the ninth king of Shu’s Kaiming dynasty named his new capital Chengdu after a statement.

In A Universal Geography of the Taiping Era, a geographical work during Song-era, it was mentioned that the 9th king of Shu’s Kaiming dynasty called his new capital city Chengdu. This was done because there was a quote by King Tai of Zhou about the time need for a settlement to transform, “one year to become a town, two to become a city, and three to become a metropolis”. In Chengdu’s name, “cheng” could mean “turned into” and “du” could mean either “capital” or “metropolis”.

Nevertheless, there are other theories concerning the relocation of the capital from nearby Pi County. Modern scholars also sometimes have some theories that the name of Chengdu was a transcription from an older name into Chinese characters.

The city also has been called the same name with little difference in pronunciation, such as Chengtu in postal maps, Sindafu by Marco Polo and Ching-too Foo by Protestant missionaries. However the name of the city has stayed the same for most of history, the surrounding areas have changed names such as Yizhou. Chinese people have other nicknames for the city such as the Turtle City which was used mostly because of the city walls’ shape on maps.




Chengdu is located on vast plain with an elevation between 450 m (1,480 ft.) to 720 m (2,360 ft.). Chengdu is bordered by the high Longmen Mountains in Northwest and the Qionglai Mountains in the west. The elevation of Qionglai is more than 3,000 m (9,800 ft) and this also includes Miao Jiling 5,364 m (7,598 ft) and Xiling Snow Mountain 5,164 m (16,942 ft). The mountainous area in the west is home to a giant panda habitat and a large forest with plentiful biological resources too.

On the east side, Chengdu in on the low Longquan Mountains and on the west, it borders an area of the hilly land of middle reaches of Min River. Because of its geographical location, Chengdu has fertile soil, good climate, and Dujiangyan Irrigation System and hence it has been known as “the Abundant Land” since the olden times.

Located at the western edge of the Sichuan Basin, Chengdu sits on the Chengdu Plain where plains are the dominating terrain. Its neighboring prefectures include the Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (N), Deyang (NE), Meishan (S), Ziyang (SE), and Ya’an (SW). Chengdu’s urban area has a 500 m (1,600 ft) elevation and includes some rivers which three of them are the Jin River, the Fu River, and the Sha River.

If you see the map from further points and out of the urban area, the topography would be seen more complex. From outside, the Penzhong Hills and the Longquan Mountains are to the east and the Qionglai Mountains rising to 5,364 m (17,598 ft) in Dayi County are to the west. Chengdu’s lowest point in prefecture is at 378 m (1,240 ft) and located in Jintang County in the southeast.



In 1997 and after Chongqing’s restoration to provincial status, Chengdu became a sub-provincial city and has been the capital of Sichuan. Chengdu owns direct jurisdiction on 11 districts, 5 county-level cities, and 5 counties.


Chengdu is mostly a warm and humid city throughout the year. This climate is because of the city’s climate is highly affected by monsoon seasons and is a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa). In Chengdu, four seasons could be experienced with moderate rains which mostly happen during warmer times of the year. The Qinling (Qin Mountains) acts as a shield of protection for the cold Siberian winds. Because of the mountains to the north and the subtropical weather, Chengdu has neither very cold winter nor very hot summers.

Snowfall happens rarely but there are few periods of cold and frost every winter while the 24-hour daily mean temperature in January is 5.6 °C (42.1 °F). Chengdu’s summer is both humid and hot but not as much as Nanjing, Chongqing, and Wuhan on Yangtze basin aka the “Three Furnaces”. July and August 24-hour daily mean temperature usually go about 25 °C (77 °F) and in the afternoons it reaches higher temperatures like 33 °C (91 °F) too. Raining is a common happening throughout the year and is heavy in August and July and in cooler months it becomes less.

Another fact about Chengdu’s climate is that it holds one of the lowest annual sunshine totals in China. In fact, Chengdu’s annual sunshine is less than most of Northern Europe and most days are cloudy, even if doesn’t rain. Chengdu’s sunshine ranges between 16 percent in December and 38 percent in August and the city annual sunshine is 1,073 hours. In spring from March to April the days are warmer and sunnier than fall from October to November with an annual mean of 16.27 °C (61.3 °F) and higher temperatures ranging from −4.6 °C (24 °F) up to 37.5 °C (99.5 °F).


History of Chengdu

Early History

According to archeological excavations done at the Sanxingdui and Jinsha sites, Chengdu’s area has been inhabited in 18th to 10th century BCE and around 4,000 years ago. It was similar to the time of Xia. Zhou, and Shang dynasties in Bronze Age but a separate nation and later after some Sinification Chinese recognized it as Shu. During the 4th century BC, Shu’s Kaiming dynasty 9th king changed the location of the capital from nearby Pi County to Chengdu which then got its new name.

In 316 BC, Qin conquered Shu and the Qin general Zhang Yi re-founded the settlements. There is a Chinese legend that describes why Chengdu’s nickname is “Turtle City”. It says that Zhang Yi planned the city walls based on a turtle’s tracks. Though he was opposed the invasion, the thriving of the settlements and receiving resources from Sichuan led to enablement of the first emperor of Qin, Qin Shi Huang, in unifying the Warring States which had succeeded the Zhou.

Imperial Era

Production of valuable brocade in Chengdu became more under the Rule of the Han and it was exported to a lot of points in China. Due to the large production of brocade, to better oversee its quality and supply a “Brocade Official” was established.

When the Eastern Han fell, the southwestern of the Three Kingdoms Liu Bei started to rule Shu. He had a minister named Zhuge Liang who called Chengdu area as “Land of Abundance”. Under the rule of the Tang Dynasty, Chengdu became the second most. His minister Zhuge Liang called the area the “Land of Abundance”. Under the Tang, Chengdu was considered the second most successful city in all of China after Yangzhou.

Two of the greatest Chinese poets, Li Bai, and Du Fu both resided in Chengdu and Li Bai praised the city as “lying above the empyrean”.

Chengdu acted as the capital for Wang Jian’s Former Shu between 907 and 925 when later the Han conquered it. In 934, Meng Zhixiang founded the Later Shu and put Chengdu as the capital. Later on, King Mengchang ordered to plant hibiscus on the city walls to beautify it.

In 965, the city was conquered by the Song and was used to introduce the first widely used paper money. Chengdu was praised as “the southwestern metropolis” by Su Shi. After the Song fall, a short time kingdom by the name of Great Shu was set up by a rebel leader.

In 1279, the Mongols attacked Chengdu, a lot of people were slaughtered in this attack which has been estimated over a million by Charles Horner and the city was sacked. Marco Polo also has visited Chengdu and has written about the Anshun Bridge or at least an earlier version of it during the Yuan Dynasty.

Zhang Xianzhong who was a rebel established his Great Western Kingdom and chose Chengdu as its capital following the fall of the Ming Dynasty, but it only lasted between 1643 until three years later in 1646. It has been said that Zhang Xianzhong killed a lot of people in Chengdu and all of Sichuan.

It has been said that this matter led for Chengdu to transform into a virtual ghost town which tigers visited regularly. During the Qing Dynasty, these events alongside Sichuan decrease in population made resettling for a very large number of people from other places necessary.

During the Columbian Exchange era, Chengdu Plain proved itself as one of China’s main sources for tobacco and especially Pi County became the source for the highest quality in Sichuan. Sichuan became the center for cigar and cigarette production of China while the other parts of the country still continued to use snuff.

Modern Era

The Wuchang Uprising which caused the Xinhai Revolution that led to overthrowing of the Qing Dynasty was triggered by the Railway Protection Movement branch in Chengdu in 1911.

The second Sino-Japanese war coincided World War II and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek as the head of the Kuomintang (KMT) government did a lot of retreating to escape from Japanese forces invading their land. In 1937, they had to move the capital inland from Nanjing to Wuhan in and later from Wuhan to Chengdu, after that in 1937, they again moved from Chengdu to Chongqing and at the end, they had to retreat to Sichuan. When they went to Sichuan, they took with them workers, business people and also academics. This group of people founded a large number of cultural institutions and industrial centers which made Chengdu an important center for commercial and cultural production.

Chengdu was not accessible by neither Imperial Japanese ground forces nor their fighter planes and that’s why Chengdu turned into a military center for KMT, as a mean to regroup in the War of Resistance. Although it was not reachable for Japanese, they frequently bombarded Chengdu and also Chongqing military and civilian targets by using twin-engine long-range planes but Chinese fighter planes continued to make it harder for the Japanese to attack cities by bombers.

In 1940, the Japanese brought the world’s most advanced fighter of the time which was a lot better and more advanced than what the Chinese Air Force had and they dominated the skies of Chongqing and Chengdu. In 1944, the Americans came to aid and put some excellent planes based near Chengdu. For these planes to operate, they required a massive fuel line and thought it was not much of a success but it led the Chinese to take revenge on Japan

Chengdu was the last remaining city in mainland China controlled by Kuomintang during the Chinese Civil War. Defense of the city which was ordered by President Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-Kuo from Chengdu Central Military Academy until 1949 but later the Communists took control of the City. There was no resistance when The People’s Liberation Army reached the city. After this and on December 10th, the Nationalist Chinese government left for Taiwan.


People of Chengdu


A census done in 2010 showed that the municipality of Chengdu had 14,047,625 inhabitants which 8,311,752 of them resided in the city itself which is made of 11 urban and suburban administrative districts. The metro or built-up area has 10,484,996 inhabitants which include 11 previous districts plus Xinjin County and Guanghan City (in Deyang) and they are urbanizing rapidly. In the same year, it has been estimated by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) that the metropolitan area has around 18.1 million population.

Religious Beliefs

In Chengdu contains Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations could be found but some of them are conducted in underground churches.

The Canadian missionaries in 1890, chose Chengdu to be their mission sight. The choosing of Chengdu was done by Dr. Virgil Hart who had was responsible for building western hospitals and schools for boys and girls on Gan and Yangtze rivers between 1866 to 1888. In 1892 on June 24th, the first Protestant Mission Headquarters of Chengdu was opened and over 1000 people attended it. They later opened a church and hospital which were destroyed several times and rebuilt again during China’s political changes.

Chengdu is also home to Mount Qingcheng which is considered as one of the most important centers for Taoism in mainland China. There are several important monasteries inside Chengdu which some of them date back for more than a thousand years ago and back to the Tang and Ming dynasties which include Chengdu Daci Monastery, Wenshu Monastery, Baoguang Monastery, and Qingyang Taoist Temple.


Giant Pandas, a National Symbol

Giant pandas which are among the rarest animals are considered a national treasure for Chinese people. IT has been estimated that there are around 1,500 pandas on the planet which among them, 80 percent are living in Sichuan.

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding which is located in the north suburb areas of Chengdu is an only one of its kind mainly because it’s located in a metropolitan area. Other than this research center, Chengdu has created nature reserves in Dayi County, Dujiangyan City, and Chongzhou City to better protect giant pandas living in the wild.


The biggest giant panda nature reserve in the world is the Sichuan Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve and it is located only 130 kilometers (81 miles) outside of Chengdu but after the Wenchuan earthquake, they moved most of it to Ya’an.

Until a French missionary first saw the pandas in Sichuan in 1869, the western world had no idea about the existence of giant pandas. Now, these awkward giant pandas have become the symbol for World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Giant pandas have also become a messenger of friendly communicating messenger for relations between Chengdu and other cities of the world. Today, giant pandas are not only bred in China but it is also done in U.S.A, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Thailand.

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a world famous base for research and breeding of giant pandas which has around 100,000 visitors each year and has become an increasingly important tourist attraction both for the Chinese and foreign tourists. The research center also features a museum which is open to the public all year round.

In order for the area to be more homelike to pandas, tens of hectares of land are covered with bamboo groves. This place is the only one of its type which is located in an urban area.

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