A face-changing performance of Sichuan Opera is always a crowd-pleaser. Zhao Junchao / Asia News Photo
With three days to spend in Chengdu, reserve one day for the pandas and two for local culture and food, Mei Jia suggests.
Known as the hometown of the panda and hotpot, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, will enact a 72-hour visa-free policy on Sept 1 for visitors from 45 countries.
Those transit passengers holding valid visas and a flight ticket to a third country will be allowed to travel in the city and the regions under the municipal government, making Chengdu the country's fourth city to open up such convenient three-day stops for foreigners.
With a history of 2,700 years, Chengdu is one of the few cities that has not changed its name in the long run of Chinese history. It's now the political, financial and cultural center in southwestern China.
The city strictly follows the square pattern of ancient royal cities in its primary layout.
Wars once dropped its population to nearly zero. To boost recovery, the emperor asked people from other southern provinces to move in. When different cultures, dialects and cooking methods were brought together, the resulting "Land of Abundance" spurred the birth of Sichuan cuisine, which has become the biggest attraction for many Chinese visitors.
Now with the city government taking great pride in the fact that "half of the Fortune 500 companies are in Chengdu", it has resolved to lure more foreign visitors. Sichuan basin has a wide range of geographic recourses. Tourists are able to sample the wonders of grasslands, ice-capped mountains, hot springs and forests in one visit to the province.
Its rich cultural heritage includes the Qintai Road: Lots of the streets' names have a story behind them, often connected with renowned poets and writers from the past, including literary luminaries Li Bai and Du Fu.
The city preserves a famous well from which poet Xue Tao of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) drew water to make a handmade paper specially designed for poetry writing. Xue's residence is now a park in the city's southern part.
In recent years, many historical sites have been renovated. Here are some tips for anyone ready to rush out of the airport and discover local secrets and must-see places.