Last Monday, our group of twenty wide-eyed, bushy-tailed American students embarked on a magnificent tour of Chengdu. We began at the Jinsha Relic Museum to witness the excavation site of the sacrificial graves of Ancient China. This tour truly put things into perspective, reminding me that China’s history includes far more than was ever covered in my middle and high school history classes. Of the 2000+ graves unearthed at the Jinsha site, the majority of bodies were buried alone and without adornments. Some were buried with common pottery, and a select few with precious goods, such as jade and bronze. Though there was clearly stratification among these ancient Chinese people, they were all buried in close proximity to one another and in a similar fashion, without coffins or sarcophaguses. This is certainly a testament to the Chinese mentality, especially when compared to the burial rituals of the ancient Egyptians, who built entire pyramids for their wealthy deceased, painstakingly preserving only the bodies of those who could afford it, laying them with all of their most valuable worldly possessions, and surrounding them with elaborate artwork to help them make the journey to their next life.
At the Exhibition Hall of Chengdu International Sister Cities we learned about the cities across the globe that have partnered with Chengdu and now call themselves “sister cities,” due to a variety of common factors that they might share, such as population or geographic location. And as it turns out, Phoenix, Honolulu, Hawaii, Atlanta, Houston, and Knoxville are all sister cities to the capital of Sichuan Province! Each city has a prominent display in the building, complete with a diplomatic photo of representatives from both cities’ government, a brief description of the foreign city, and a popular product sold there. This tour led me to begin making direct comparisons between these American cities and Chengdu, which is considered to be a “tier-two” city in China (Beijing and Shanghai are examples of tier one cities). But don’t let that fool you. Chengdu is by no means small or stagnant, which was proved to us as at the Chengdu Planning Exhibition Hall.
After being treated to an unforgettable meal of epic proportion by the Chengdu Office of Foreign Affairs, (complete with panda shaped dessert of course), we ventured across the street to discover the future of Chengdu. We had been forewarned that the indoor model of the city was approximately the size of a soccer field, but when our tour guide led us up the escalator, I could hardly believe my eyes! Seated in red velvet thrones truly fit for a king, we marveled at an informative video projected onto a movie theater sized screen above the lit up model of Chengdu.
I was captivated by Chengdu’s Five Step Development Plan to expand and enrich the city and am now convinced that Chengdu (which literally translates to “Successfully City”) will live up to its name and prosper. This astounding city deserves to be visited by every spirited adventurer looking for a place to explore. And after just one week, I know that this will definitely not be my last trip to Chengdu.