Mark Hiew (more chengdu)|
“What should I see while I’m in Chengdu?” is a question many residents of this charming city must regularly answer, when friends and family pass through, trying to “do” the place in two days or less.
And while sites like the Panda Research Base and Jinsha Museum are certainly important sites to fit into any schedule, for a more personal, authentically Chengdu-themed experience, it’s hard to beat the city’s parks. Of all of them, Culture Park, Wenhua Gongyuan, located off of Qintai Road in the city’s west, makes a particularly fine place to experience the xiuxian or, “leisured,” lifestyle for which Chengdu is so famous.
In the West, parks are often places to pass through. People generally walk (or ride or jog) through them, and though people may sit on a bench or plan a picnic lunch (though those plans may rarely actually come to fruition), parks are not places in which we spend lengthy periods of time.
In China, and particularly in Chengdu, parks are centers of community life. Culture Park features no less than six separate tea houses (approx. 10RMB/glass) all packed with lively mahjong-focused retirees, as well as plenty of tai chi, folk dancing, and local opera troupes. Beyond the lively retirees, expect plenty of young couples and families. It is laid out particularly well as is common with Chinese leisure grounds, it’s built around a man-made lake, but its dense, mature drapes of weeping willows, towering banana trees and leafy ferns offer an exceptionally alluring environment.
The park captures the quiet moments of beauty that Chengdu possesses in abundance: the curve of an arch bridge photographed from a waterfront walkway, an opening revealing three women playing cards beneath a curvaceous pagoda, the solemn gaze of a white-bearded man in a Mao suit, paying his respects at Martyr Grave Square, which commemorates the revolutionaries who died in 1949 at Shi Er Bridge, located near the park. It’s all there.
So for those who are tired of the sites, consider a visit to Culture Park. It’s a gateway into a most local, most “cultivated” way of life. A life of natural beauty, relaxation and friendship.