Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
One of the more romantic areas of Chengdu is around the Huan Hua Cultural District in the city’s west, with its misty fog, alluring parks, and quiet paths lining the Jinjiang River. It also features a number of the city’s most popular sites, among them: Green Ram Temple, Dufu’s Thatched Cottage, Culture Park, and Qintai Street. All within walking distance. The latter, one of the city’s several Qing-dynasty themed tourist streets, most literally embodies the area’s romance.
Qintai Lu is named after the qin stringed instrument played by Sima Xiangru, the male half of one of the Western Han Dynasty’s (206BC-9AD) most timeless love stories. Whereas Western romance conjures motifs of the forbidden and conflict-ridden—consider Romeo and Juliet—Chinese love often focuses on the redemptive and faithful aspects of this most amorphous sentiment.
As the tale goes, Zhuo, a beautiful young widow, marries the essayist Sima Xiangru, who wordlessly expresses his love to her via the qin, an ancient musical instrument. The two set up a tavern in Chengdu, before Sima moved to Chang’an to serve as one of the Emperor’s civil servants. Separated for five years, Zhuo finally receives a letter from her husband expressing his desire to have a concubine. Heartbroken, Zhuo writes him four pieces of poetry describing their past love and her longing for reunion, moving Sima so much that he gives up thoughts of a concubine and returns immediately to Chengdu in a four-horse carriage, before bringing Zhuo back to Chang’an with him.
Today, one is more likely to find business parties and European backpackers along this fast aging street, whose steady car traffic denies it any of the pedestrian charms of Jinli Street or Kuanzhai Alley. Still, it’s worth a stroll, particularly if dining at one of its flashy restaurants such as Snowy Phoenix (with its 2000RMB sea cucumber stew) or Huangcheng Laoma hot pot. Numerous specialty clothing and jewelry boutiques offer touristy wares including Tibetan jewelry and Nepali woolen scarves and hats. One of the more unusual shops is Karl Motor Fans Salon, where local aspirants eye miniature models of glamorous Ferrari and BMW luxury sedans.
For those seeking a taste of traditional Sichuanese opera and theater, Shu Fenyuan Tea House offers nightly performances featuring face-changing, fire-breathing, and various cultural artifacts housed in an elegant courtyard building.
Busses: 11, 13, 19, 27, 34, 35, 42, 43, 47, 58, 59, 64, 78, 81, 82, 88, 309, 319, 407, 901