A visit to the River-Viewing (Bamboo) Park in yesterday's sunshine inspired today's post. If the weather remains as unbelievably fabulous as some of the days we've seen in October, perhaps you too should don a pretty dress and big shades, pack a picnic basket and blanket, and have a day out in one of Chengdu's many public parks.
Every Chinese city I've been to has its People's Park (as well as it's People's Road), and Chengdu is no exception. Founded in 1911 in a location as close to the center of Chengdu as any of the city's parks gets, the People's Park is as well-known as landmark as Chairman Mao overlooking Tianfu Square. Inside, the park features most of the standard park fare: cod-filled lakes (complete with pedal-boat and fishing-rod rentals), rock-lined fountains, "sugar-drawing" vendors, and a mini amusement park, but People's Park tops all that with some oddities, including an underground fun house, a house of horrors, and some weird things involving snakes we've only heard and read about.
To see: The Monument to the Martyrs of the Railway Protection Movement. Erected in 1913, the monument once towered over most of the city. Now eclipsed by Chengdu's ever-growing skyline, the monument still stands in honor of those who struggled against corruption during the building of a local railway.
This park is an amazingly lush, green space smack dab in one of the city's most urban corners. Bordered by the Jinjiang (river) on one side and Sichuan University on the other, some of the city's main thoroughfares as well as the disco strip of Jiuyan Qiao are a stone's throw from the park's gates. Amazingly, the space inside is somehow shielded from all that city noise, and the only sounds you'll hear in the park's perimeters emanate from within: chattering of tea-drinkers, shouts of children playing at the mini amusement park, the techno beat of the dancing ladies, and the officially sanctioned music being played over the park's loudspeakers, disguised as rocks hiding in foliage. (Yesterday's choice was the Jackson Five's version of "I'll Be there.") Boats are also available for rent, although unlike at most of the parks, you'll have to row them with tiny oars instead of speeding your way through the waterways in a pedal boat.
A visit to the River-Viewing Park is also a lesson in botany, explaining why it's sometimes referred to as the "Bamboo Park" in English: Over 150 species of bamboo grow in the park, all labeled with their amazingly long scientific names as well as their typically two to four-character Chinese names.
To see: The "River Viewing Pavilion" (望江楼 or wangjianglou), dedicated to a bamboo-loving Tang-dynasty poetess, which lies beyond the toll booth in a corner of the park. The toll is 20 RMB.
Tazishan, hiding in the city's southeast corner near the Wugui Qiao bus station, holds one of the biggest of the city's mini amusement parks. This park within the park comprises a Ferris wheel, carousel, bumper cars, 4D movie theater, mini rock wall, human-sized hamster balls, ice-sculpture room, and even an aviary. The only problem, as with most of the mini amusement parks, is that nobody is riding any of the rides. According to CHENGDOO citylife,
You'll know [you've arrived at the amusement park] by the colorful ride carriages emblazoned with U.S. flags and hammer-and-sickle motifs and the techno music that accompanies thrill-seeking passengers. The excitement of the rides lies les in the climbs and drops and more in the shoddy looking mechanics which look as if they haven't undergone maintenance since they were built [presumably] decades ago. But don't worry—the roller coaster doesn't go upside down, and the highest peak on the water ride is only a few meters high.
If the signs are worth believing, you're also free to set up your tent and camp out in certain designated areas of the park.
To see: The "Nine Heavens" Pagoda (九天楼), a 13-story, 70-meter-high pagoda whose majestic stature and classy architecture juxtaposes magnificently with the whole heck of a lot of gaudiness that surrounds it.
Yong's Mausoleum Park
Opened this past October festival, this is Chengdu's newest park and is also touted as the largest open-air green space within the Second Ring Road. Paths wind around lots of greenery, trees, and lawn, which visitors are urged not to walk on. This would all be very nice were it not for the ongoing construction on surrounding residential complexes that virtually guarantees the buzzing of chainsaws and pounding of jackhammers to disrupt the park's otherwise peaceful ambience.
To see: The Tomb of Wang Jian, the ornate burial place of one of Chengdu's feudal kings. Entrance to view the tomb is 20 RMB or free through the end of the year with a Golden Panda Card.
Huanhuaxi are the grounds surrounding Dufu's Thatched Cottage and the newly opened Sichuan Museum. The park was, until recently, the largest of Chengdu's urban parks, but that claim was recently stolen by the Yong's Mausoleum Park (above). A legend about a young girl washing clothing in the river surrounds the area, but really, if you're in the area, you're more likely to be paying a visit to the cultural venues nearby, including museums and art galleries cropping up in recent years.
Quieter and smaller than some of the other parks, the bridges and streams running around and through this park make it a nice area for a stroll if you're walking around Qintai Lu. Ladies dancing with fans often rehearse in the evenings in the park.
Most of the city's parks host special events and performances during the holidays, including Spring Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, National Holiday, and so forth.
Chengdu has plenty of parks that we didn't mention: Xinhua, Baihuatan, Beihu, and many others in the suburbs of the city. On a sunny day, what's your favorite park or outdoor space in Chengdu?
Photos of Tazishan Park by Julien Riddeler.