Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
Songxianqiao Art City is near several of Chengdu’s other attractions – Qingyang Temple, Dufu’s Cottage, Huanhuaxi park, the Provincial Museum – but is well worth a visit on its own. There are several buildings joined by walkways through the upper levels, which are full of galleries, working artists’ lofts, and framing shops. In the painters’ section, the smell of oil paints will envelope you as you climb the stairs, and you can watch the artists at work. On the weekends there may be kids at their art lessons, drawing vases or fruit. With a few exceptions, much of the painting focuses on traditional Chinese subjects such as village scenes, pandas and tigers, fish, “mountain and water” landscapes, and four season sets. For a couple hundred RMB (and up) you can get a portrait done, or a landscape copied from a picture, or have a calligrapher write out your favorite Tang poem in beautiful characters.
The bottom levels and rows of booths by the river are full of small shops that sell pottery, china, gorgeous Shu silk embroidery, Tibetan art and jewelry, art supplies, wooden furniture, crystals, bronze door and cabinet handles, freshwater pearls, textiles, old comic books, games and figurines. On the ground floor there are many vendors with antiques and curios spread out on blankets. There is pottery, revolutionary souvenirs, old watches, incense holders, old coins, old knives, and lots of jade ware. The beautiful, the interesting, and the junky are all mixed together, sometimes in the same pile of goods. If you are shopping, it’s a great place to practice your bargaining skills.
The laid-back character of Chengdu is very much on display here, as many of the vendors are playing cards with each other or even napping. You may have to wake someone up if you are interested in buying something. This is in contrast to the vendors in other parts of China, who can be quite aggressive when trying to get your attention or sell something. You can spend ten Yuan or tens of thousands on gifts and souvenirs at Songxianqiao, or simply spend an afternoon.