With a nickname as evocative as "The Garden City at the Foot of the Snow Mountains," it's no surprise that Chengdu features plenty of parks and gardens, each more beautiful than the last. Elegantly landscaped green spaces across the city provide tranquil oases for sports, leisure, and relaxation.
Here are some of Chengdu's prettiest green spaces, from popular parks to hidden gem gardens, as well as some advice on how to visit the city's famed snow mountains.
Lying at the heart of the city and with its own metro station, People's Park is easily Chengdu's most accessible green space. It was Chengdu's first public park when it opened in 1911, and it remains an important hub for cultural, social, and recreational activities. It's easy to spend an hour or two watching locals dance, sing and practice taichi, and there's even a small, willow-tree-lined lake with rowing boats for hire.
After an amble through the park's landscaped grounds, several teahouses provide a place to stop and rest. The charming, century-old He Ming Teahouse is very popular among visitors.
Wangjiang Pavilion Park
Nestled in a bend of the Jinjiang River, Wangjiang Pavilion Park houses a lush forest of more than 150 different types of bamboo. The softly swaying bamboo creates a cooling refuge from Chengdu's summer heat. On the riverbank stands the 128-foot high 'River Watching' pavilion. Built in 1889, the pavilion has become a landmark of the city, famed for its exquisite sculptures in the shape of animals and human beings.
The park and pavilion were built to commemorate Xue Tao, one of the Tang dynasty's (618 to 906 A.D.) most famous female poets. Despite a tough upbringing in a society that did little to educate women, records show Xue Tao wrote more than 500 poems. She was greatly admired by her contemporaries.
The park can be reached from the line 6 metro station Sanguantang, on the opposite side of the river.
Du Fu Thatched Cottage
Another park with literary connections, Du Fu Thatched Cottage honors Du Fu, considered one of China's greatest poets. Having lived for much of his life in Chang'an (now known as Xi'an), Du Fu fled to Chengdu in 759 A.D. to escape a violent uprising against the ruling Tang emperors. With the help of friends, Du Fu built the eponymous thatched cottage where he lived for four years, writing almost 250 poems.
Nowadays, the original cottage has been replaced with elegant buildings and gardens that honor Du Fu's time there. The landscaped gardens follow the traditional Chinese compound style with winding streams, carved stone bridges, and carefully cultivated plum trees that, in spring, are covered in delicate pink blossoms.
Several buses from the city center stop at the main entrance to the Chengdu Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum.
Right next door to the grounds of Du Fu's Thatched Cottage, Huanhuaxi Park is a large green space nestled between the Qingshui River and Huanhua Brook.
The park features a network of picturesque paths and lanes that wind through stone-paved sculpture gardens and bamboo thickets and along the brook itself. Huanhuaxi is a haven for runners and cyclists in the city.
The Tianfu Greenway is an ambitious urban renewal project designed to connect and enhance Chengdu's wetlands, lakes, and woodlands. Nearly 1,900 miles have been completed of the planned 10,501-mile network. The greenway incorporates walking and cycling paths that wind through some of the city's most impressive and ecologically important green spaces.
A great way to experience the Tianfu Greenway is to cycle along the 15.5-mile stretch that starts in Jincheng Park (which has its own metro station - Jincheng Avenue on line 5). After leaving Jincheng Park, the greenway extends across the Jinjiang River into the beautiful Bailuwan Wetlands, the first urban wetland park built in Chengdu. The path then bends north to meet the pathways of Qinglong Lake in Shiling Forest Park.
The route meanders alongside several large lakes fringed with wetland vegetation that provides food and shelter for many species of birds. Nature-loving local residents flock to the parks along the greenway to run, fly kites, have picnics, and watch birds.
Bamboo Craft Village
A day trip away from Chengdu and set amid extensive bamboo forests, Daoming Town, or the Bamboo Craft Village, showcases the centuries-old art of bamboo weaving. Villagers make everything, from clothing to furniture to utensils, out of the bamboo that surrounds their homes. More than a rural industry, weaving is vital to maintaining community links and connections.
Local guides instruct visitors on this ancient craft in the impressive visitor center, a modern version of the area's traditional rural dwellings. Alternatively, there are several options for a stroll through the surrounding fields to observe local village life.
Visiting Mount Gongga – Chengdu's Snow Mountain
With an elevation of nearly 25,000 feet above sea level, Mount Gongga - or Gongga Shan as it's often called - is Sichuan province's highest peak. Gongga's extremely steep, snow-covered slopes make conquering its summit tougher and more dangerous than scaling Mount Everest, despite its lower altitude. To date, fewer than 50 mountaineers have made it to the top.
It's no wonder locals have declared Mount Gongga the King of Sichuan's mountains. While conquering Mount Gongga's peak might be off-limits, the area around the mountain is spectacular and well worth a multi-day visit. Several high-altitude trekking routes connect the area's villages, traversing alpine terrain, grasslands, and glaciers. At an altitude of more than 9,800 feet, these routes are not for the faint-hearted and are best done with the help of local guides and drivers.
More than 70 glaciers flow from Mount Gongga, the most accessible of which can be found in the Hailuogou Glacier Park, at the foot of the peak. Elsewhere, photographers gravitate to the shores of Lenggacuo Lake at sunrise and sunset to capture Mount Gongga reflected on the still waters.
Mount Gongga is located in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, some 180 miles southwest of Chengdu. Visitors can arrive in Chengdu via the city's two convenient airports – the recently opened Chengdu Tianfu International Airport and Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. Coaches departing daily from Chengdu's Xinnanmen bus station take you straight to Hailuogou Glacier Park. The journey takes six to seven hours.