Part 3 of 4
Many of the so-called amusement parks in Chengdu hardly live up to the contemporary image of the term—parks competing for most rides, highest peaks, steepest drops, craziest twists, and other innovations designed to give riders extreme thrills. As humble urban green spaces, some of these old parks had their beginnings in the early 20th century, but amid 1980s and '90s development frenzies, a number were expanded to include what are now badly deteriorated fun rides and other attractions. Ongoing park closures indicate that these relics of days long gone seem to be on their way out, although those with cultural and historical significance will undoubtedly remain.
Tazishan is usually highlighted in guidebooks for its namesake 13-story, 70-meter-tall pagoda, which sits atop a hill and yields a panoramic view of the city. But stroll deeper into the back of the park, and you'll come across the classic China kitsch amusement park, replete with sticker photo booths, roller coasters and other thrill rides featuring colorful ride carriages emblazoned with U.S. flags and hammer-and-sickle motifs, bumper cars, a kiddie park, a carousel, fish feeding, an aviary, an ice-sculptures tent, a fishing pond, ceramics painting, a "4D" movie theater, a house of illusions, a shop selling props for magic tricks, and a haunted house, most of which are set to a background of blaring dance-party music. As is par for the course, the excitement of the rides lies less 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 decades ago. If you're just looking for a leisurely stroll in some greenery, the park has that, too, along with teahouses dotting the landscape where you can take a shady rest. According to the signs, you're also free to camp in designated areas. Tazishan hosts an always-popular annual Spring Festival lantern show during the first month of the lunar year.
Free entrance except during holidays and special events. Bus lines 4, 58, and 304. Open daily 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
With the Brocade River on its east edge and Sichuan University to the west side, this large bamboo forest park occupies prime real estate in the central-southeastern corner of the city. Teahouses line the river, and a pond for boat rides sits in the center of the park. Bamboo groves stand high above meandering paths and pavilions. Just outside the park, vendors gather and line the bridge with large, colorful kites. Within the park, children can try their hands at ceramics painting and clay turning. There is also a small amusement park with a carousel and roller coaster.
An inner gate leads into the UNESCO-designated Cultural Relic Protection Zone, which contains memorials to the Tang Dynasty poetess Xue Tao, who lived most of her life in Chengdu. Legend has it that she used the water from a well on this site for her paper-making company, which produced an innovative, delicate and finely patterned paper. But the highlight of this portion is the Wangjiang (river-viewing) Tower, which offers a picturesque view of the park and river.
The park is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; the cultural relics section is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance to the latter is RMB20. Bus lines 19, 35, and 335.
One of the more novel parks in Chengdu, the National Defense Park showcases genuine, out-of-commission (and by now quite weathered) missiles, tanks, torpedo boats, artillery, radar, vehicles, aircraft, helicopters, rockets, and other weapons and military equipment alongside the usual fishing and children's rides. The "Battlefield Club" also hosts paintball and laser tag facilities.
An investment of RMB200 million had been made to build the park, and upon its opening in 1998, a steady stream of visitors passed through its gates. But from 2001, the number of visitors began to dwindle, and the whole park slowly began to deteriorate. Facing enormous debts, the park owners put their fifty-year lease on the property up for auction. At press time, the West China City Daily had just announced that the park had been sold to a mystery buyer for RMB75.2 million. The future of the park is uncertain.
Chengdu Live Counter Strike Club
Paintball: RMB68 first 30 rounds, additional shot 1 Yuan
Laser tag: RMB40 (5 lives) 3-5 people one floor or RMB168 incl. training & all cost (incl. shower, dress, equipment, water)
Xinyuan Dadao 新园大道Free entrance. Bus lines 11, 12, 28, 61, 78, 91, 93, 100, 187, 300, 804, and 823. Tel. 85319698
The last and almost forgotten "amusement park" within the Second Ring Road in Chengdu's northeast features the usual rundown attractions that aren't likely to draw in many visitors unless for the sake of nostalgia or novelty: boat rides, children's rides, a miniature roller coaster, bumper cars, a roller-skating rink, and so forth.
87 Shuanglin Lu (Xinhua Dadao) 双林路87号/ 新华大道 Free entrance. Bus lines 5, 8, 65, 71, 75, 80, 101, 112, 182, and 301. Tel. 84341572
This article was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 52 ("amusement parks"). Photos by Julien Rideller & Joe