Gastronomy may be the bedrock of Chengdu’s reputation around the world, but the city also has a deep and thriving ecosystem where traditional Chinese arts and crafts are celebrated. Destinations that highlight these crafts are abundant in Chengdu if you know where to look, and some even offer the opportunity to try your hand at the art-form with masterclasses, or host live performances to further enhance your appreciation.
From embroidery and brocade displays dating back to the Han Dynasty to Chinese opera performances enjoyed with a side of local Chinese brew, here are some of the best places in Chengdu to engage as compiled by Augustman and Singapore Airlines.
CHENGDU SHU BROCADE AND EMBROIDERY MUSEUM
Chinese brocade is a thing of wonder, given how artists are able to weave beautiful tapestries on such delicate fabric. Think of imperial garments featuring dragons and phoenixes, or scarves adorned with flowers. These have a longstanding heritage in Chengdu, beginning in the Han Dynasty, where brocade and embroidery were large contributors to the city’s revenue. Today, the history of the craft is commemorated in the Chengdu Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum, where over a thousand different tapestries and costumes are preserved across its 3,000 square metres. Apart from seeing and touching these marvellous fabrics for yourselves, you can also.
Directions: Take bus 170 and alight at caotang xiaoxue nan men bus stop.
Address: 1 Caotang Dong Road, Qingyang District, Chengdu
Opening hours: 8am – 5.30pm (Winter season); 9am – 6pm (Summer season)
Admission fee: Free
SICHUAN CUISINE MUSEUM OF CHENGDU
Chengdu is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, so it is fitting that a cultural tour around the city leads you to a museum dedicated to its native cuisine. The Sichuan Cuisine Museum of Chengdu is a self-declared “edible museum”, where your educational journey of its national dishes and cooking style involves not just sights and sounds but also tasting episodes throughout your tour. Be treated with samples of pickles, dumplings, noodles and more as you tour around. If time permits, sign up for the cooking class when purchasing your entry tickets. Under the guidance of a professional chef, you will learn to create basic Sichuan dishes, and leave with recipes and newfound culinary knowledge as invaluable souvenirs to take home.
Directions: Take metro line 2 to Xipu Station and walk across the street to take bus p22 to Gucheng bus stop. Then, walk west for 5 minutes to Sichuan Cuisine Museum.
Address: No.1 Dacisi Street, Jinjiang District, Chengdu
Opening hours: 9am – 6pm
Admission fee: 58.5 yuan; 360 yuan including cooking
CHENGDU TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE MUSEUM
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a legacy that outlasts Western medicine, having developed in China some 2,000 years ago. Experience this rich evolution for yourself at the Chengdu Traditional Chinese Museum, the first of its kind in China. There, you get to wander through four exhibition halls housing more than 4,000 TCM-related paraphernalia and two gardens dedicated to herbs and other medicinal plants. Whether you subscribe to TCM or not, this museum offers an unorthodox slice of Chinese history that will broaden your horizons.
Directions: Take buses 173, 275, 708 or 96 and alight at Chengdu University of TCM bus stop.
Address: 6 Xinchuang Road, Yaodu District, Chengdu
Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm
Admission fee: 20 yuan
SHUFENG YAYUN TEAHOUSE
Experience Chinese opera in an authentic setting in the Shufeng Yayun Teahouse. Each performance is an hour and a half of enthrallment, where intricately dressed actors perform, sharing the set with death-defying acrobats, puppeteers and fire-breathers. Gripping visuals aside, the performance also doubles as an opportunity for you to enjoy the works in a Chinese teahouse. You will be treated to tea service on quaint bamboo tables with light snacks, alongside the option for a massage or to have your ears cleaned.
Directions: Take metro line 2 to Tonghuimen Station and exit at exit A. Walk about 400 meter to the teahouse.
Address: 23 Qintai Road, Qingyang District, Chengdu, China
Opening hours: 10 am to 10pm daily, though opera performances are from 8pm to 9.30pm.
Admission fee: 80 to 240 yuan, depending on the package and performance
Kuanzhai Alley is not technically a single alley, but the meandering maze of three ancient alleyways that flank 45 courtyards, all combining to offer you a portrait of Chengdu’s history, from the Qing Dynasty till date . The first and largest alley is known as Wide Alley, which is peppered with arts and crafts, as well as old teahouses to duck in for a quick respite. The second, smaller alley is known as Narrow Alley, a compact street home to picturesque courtyards loved by Chengdu natives. After walking through the duo, end your trip at Well Alley, the final and busiest street in the area dedicated to shops, art studios, pubs, and of course, plenty of street food.
Directions: Take metro line 4 to the Kuanzhai Alley station.
Address: 127 Changshun Upper Street, Qingyang District, Chengdu