There are so many things to see in Sichuan that four days can hardly scratch the surface. I've covered pandas and Giant Buddha as well as a bit about food and downtown shopping, so this time I'll write about the rest of the trip, which involves various things around the city of Chengdu.
One of the famous sites in the city is the Wuhou Temple (武侯祠), which is not far from the center of town. This complex is built around the large tomb of Emperor Liu Bei (刘备) of the Shu Kingdom (221-263) and mostly honors his premier, Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮), one of the most famous strategists in Chinese history. “Wuhou” means “premier” (in the sense of the government official, not any of the other meanings of the word) or “chancellor”.
Liu Bei's tomb has not been excavated – it's just a large circular mound with trees growing on it, presumably with a burial chamber somewhere beneath it.
That's the burial mound on the right. There is a circular wall built around it, which I think dates from about 1700, when the original construction was rebuilt by the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.
In the garden area outside the circular wall is a wonderful garden of miniature trees.
We think of bonsai as a Japanese art, but like many things, the Japanese learned it from the Chinese.
There is also a museum devoted to the arts of the Three Kingdoms period.
And here is the statue of Zhuge Liang.
One of the fun things about this complex is the carved animals that decorate the railings.
Each of them is different, and there are a wide variety of animals represented, both real and mythical.
Immediately adjacent to the temple complex is Jinli Street (锦里路).
This street dates to the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), when it was one of the most prominent streets in the city, but there is virtually nothing left from that time period. It was reconstructed in 2004 for a taste of Old China. I'm pretty sure the Qin Dynasty didn't have Starbucks (新巴克).
There are shops and booths selling a large variety of local handicrafts and other goods, plus some imported things from Tibet, India, and so on.
This man is making elaborate shapes out of sugar.
And of course there's an area devoted to food.
This is the latest entry in the “too cute to resist” category:
Another site in Chengdu is the Yongling tomb (永陵), where Wang Jian (王建 847-918) is buried.
Like Liu Bei's tomb, it features a large circular mound. That's what you see with trees on it above the faded red doorway. The path to the opening is guarded by statues of animals and men. Photography is not allowed inside, so here is a link to a bunch of pictures. You can actually go inside this mausoleum, which was raided over the centuries of many treasures but still holds a lot of history. The most interesting thing is that the sarcophagus is decorated with carvings of 24 female musicians and dancers, providing a wonderful glimpse into the music of the era.
Moving even further back in history, there is the Jinsha (金沙 or Golden Sand) site. In 2001, during some new development, workers stumbled upon many old artifacts, and when experts were called in, they found remains of an extensive settlement dating to the Ancient Shu Culture around 1000BCE. Careful excavations were conducted, and thousands of items were found. Archaeological work has stopped now, and the main site has been enclosed in a large building.
It's only about 5k (a couple of miles) from the center of town.
They've built a raised walkway across the site so you can see many things close up, and there are signs indicating where the most famous items were found.
One thing that is really surprising is that thousands of elephant tusks were found, apparently buried in a ritual manner. It seems that elephants were common in this area 3000 years ago. There certainly aren't any around now.
A short walk from the excavation site is the museum.
The circular skylight at the center of the building is designed to resemble one of the most famous items found there, the Immortal Sun Bird Disk.
At the bottom of the central shaft the design is repeated, for a really lovely effect.
Here's another of the famous artifacts.
This is one of the most artistically designed museums I have ever seen. All of the displays are beautiful, undoubtedly modern but also suited to the ancient items presented. The ambient light is very low, making it really difficult to photograph, with dramatic spotlights on the items.
This beautiful gold foil disk presents such an evocative image that it was chosen as the symbol of China's ancient heritage. It is part of logos you see around the entire country.
The Jinsha site also features a cultural center where there are shows with dancing and so on, but it was closed when we were there. Jinsha is related to another famous site called Sanxingdui (三星堆 or Three Stars Mound), which is even older, but is farther from town, so we didn't have time to see it. Next time... Both sites represent a period of China's history that is not very well understood. For example, it is unknown what happened to the people who lived here 3000 years ago.
The last place in Chengdu we visited was the Wenshu Monastery (文殊). It's located not far north of the center of town.
It dates from the Tang Dynasty and is today the home of the province's Buddhist organization.
I particularly like this statue:
Note the monkey underneath the elephant feeding it. And yes, the elephant is carrying the world on its back. The globe is fairly detailed with the Earth's continents, so I'm sure this is not an ancient thing.
There are beautiful gardens behind the temples, and at the back is this amazing building:
There you go, Chengdu highlights in words and pictures.