Some of China’s most important literature comes from Chengdu: Chengdu has been home to literary giants, such as Sima Xiangru and Yang Xiong, two masters of Hanfu, a mixture of descriptive prose and verse during the Han dynasty;Li Bai and Su Shi, the most eminent poets of the Tang and Song dynasties respectively; Yang Shen’an, a famous scholar of the Ming dynasty; and Guo Moruo and Ba Jin, two well-known modern writers. Chang Qu, a historian of Chengdu during the Jin dynasty, compiled the earliest local historical records, the Record of Hua Yang State.Zhao Chongzuo, a poet in Chengdu during the Later Shu Kingdom, edited Among the Flowers, the first anthology of Ci in China’s history. Meng Chang, the king of Later Shu, wrote the first couplet for the Spring Festival, which says, “A harvest year accepts celebrations, good festivals foreshadow long springs.”
During the period of the Five Dynasties, Huang Quan, a painter in Chengdu, initiated the Fine-Brush Flower-and-Bird Painting school with other painters. At that time, “Hanlin Painting Academy” was the earliest royal academy in China.
Wen Weng, administer of Chengdu during the Han dynasty, established the first local public school now named Shishi (literally a stone house), in the world. The school site has not changed for more than 2,000 years, which remains the site of today’s Shishi High School.
The saying “Shu opera towers above all other performances in the world” reflects the achievement of Sichuan Opera and Zaju (an ancient form of comedic drama involving dancing, singing, poetry, and miming). In the city, the first named opera “Bullfighting” was written in the Warring States Period. The first detailed recorded opera was staged in the royal court of Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdom Period. China’s first clearly recorded Zaju was also performed in Chengdu. Tombs of witty Han dynasty poets were excavated in Chengdu. And face-changing masks and fire breathing remain hallmarks of the Sichuan Opera.
The native language in Chengdu is Sichuanese, otherwise referred as Sichuan dialect. More precisely, “Chengdu Dialect” (成都话/成都方言) is widely used in lieu of “Sichuanese” due to the largely different accents of Sichuanese speakers residing elsewhere.
Culinary art and tea culture
The distinct characteristic of Sichuan cuisine is the use of spicy chilies and peppercorns. Local dishes include Grandma Chen’s Tofu (Mapo doufu), Chengdu Hot pot, and Dan Dan Mien (meaning “Noodles carried on a pole” Dan Dan Noodles). All three dishes are spicy. Mapo Doufu and Dan Dan Mien contain Sichuan peppers to give them additional flavor. An article by the Los Angeles Times (2006) called Chengdu “China’s party city” for its carefree lifestyle. Chengdu has more tea houses and bars than Shanghai despite having less than half the population.
Sichuanese cuisine features careful pairings of boldness and subtlety in dishes, snacks, banquets, and hotpot. A characteristic adage goes: ‘one dish, one style; one hundred dishes, one hundred flavors; flexible use of hot chilis and delicate flavors.’ Of thousands of dishes, each has a story behind it.
The local snacks in Chengdu are known for creative ingredients, skilled preparation, wide variety, and cheap prices. Tastes range from sweet and spicy to sour and hot in a range of cooking techniques including frying, stewing, baking, steaming and boiling. Common snacks found across town include noodles, wontons, dumplings, pastries, tangyuan (sweet rice balls), drinks, salads and soups.
With over a thousand years of history, Chinese tea culture is perhaps best exemplified by the bamboo chairs and wooden tables found in the hundreds of tea houses throughout Chengdu, with jasmine tea served as the local staple. As early as the Western Han period, both tea trade and tea culture were very prosperous in Sichuan with Chengdu the starting point of the Southern Silk Road.
Chengdu is an officially-recognised UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
Traditional tea houses in Chengdu usually feature bamboo chairs and wooden tables and offer jasmine, long jing and biluochun tea.
Modern tea houses can be spotted on almost every city corner. The price for tea varies from 5 RMB to several hundred. Besides tea and snacks, almost all tea houses offer Majiang sets, tables, and sometimes separate majiang rooms. Most locals go to tea houses to play majiang with friends. Some luxury tea houses in Chengdu also offer live entertainment such as Sichuan opera shows.
Mahjong has been an essential part of most local people’s life. After every day’ s working, people always gather their friends in their home or in the tea houses on the street to play Mahjong. On sunny days, local people like to play mahjong on the sidewalks to enjoy the sunshine and also the time with friends. Almost every person plays Mahjong with money: rich people play with more money, and the poor people play with less money. In al,l everyone is excited and interested in playing with money.
Mahjong is the most popular entertainment choice among locals for several reasons. Chengdu locals have simplified the rules and made it easier to play as compared to, Cantonese mahjong. Also, Mahjong in chengdu already becomes a way to meet old friends and to strength family relationships. In fact, many business people negotiate deals while playing mahjong. Furthermore, the age like play mahjong because they believe Mahjong makes them thinking and avoid a dementia.
Rural tourism: Nong Jia Le
Chengdu claims to have first practiced the modern business model of ‘Nong Jia Le’ (Happy Rural Homes). It refers to the practice of suburban and rural residents converting their houses into restaurants, hotels and entertainment spaces in order to attract city dwellers.
Nong Jia Le features different styles and price levels and have been thriving around Chengdu. They provide gateways for city dwellers to escape the city, offer delicious and affordable home-made dishes, and provide mahjong facilities.
Some of the most popular ones are located in Sansheng Village east of Chengdu, and Nongke Village in Pixian County, northwest of Chengdu.
Customs and festivals
Grand Temple Fair
Chengdu’s annual Grand Temple Fair is held every year during the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) in Wuhou Shrine, Jinli, the Culture Park, and several other city parks. The 15-day-long festival showcases both traditional Sichuan folk art and modern fashions of the city. Food stalls on site offer over 100 varieties of freshly made local snacks.
Chengdu’s annual Lantern Festival is held every year during the Spring Festival in Tazishan Park in the eastern part of Chengdu. Lanterns of different designs and themes are on display with traditional art performances including Sichuan opera, acrobatics shows, and local talk shows.
Dujiangyan Water Releasing Festival
The Dujiangyan Water-Releasing Festival takes place on 5 April each year in Du Jiang Yan, 58 km (36 mi) away from Chengdu. Residents dress up in ancient costumes and read elegies for Li Bing and his sons, in order to honor them for their contribution to the irrigation project they built over 2,000 years ago.
Huanglongxi Fire Dragon Festival
Fire Dragon Festival of HuangLongXi is celebrated from the 2nd to the 15th day of the first lunar month of each new year.
The festival originated from South Song dynasty (1127–1279 AD). Celebrations include lighting paper dragons, a lion dance, floating lanterns on the water, and various street activities.
South China Snow and Ice Festival
The South China Snow and Ice Festival takes place from January to March at the Xiling Snow Mountain Ski Resort, 95 kilometres (59 miles) west of downtown Chengdu. The festival is popular among locals, especially children, since it rarely snows in Chengdu and people relish the sight of snow. A large variety of snow activities are offered during the festival.