With it’s long history of over 2,300 years, Chengdu was proclaimed one of the 24 cultural and historical cities by the State Council at the first batch.
Early in the 4th century BC, Kaiming IX, king of ancient Shu, moved the capital from Guangdu Fanxiang (now called Shuangliu) to Chengdu. A town was built in this area in the first year and the capital in the second year, so the ancestor names the city as Chengdu.
In 311 B.C, people of Qin Dynasty (221 BC-208 BC) built a protective wall around Chengdu city according to the construction standard practiced in Xianyang, capital of Qin Dynasty. Thus, the wall was erected with a height of 3.5 meters and a perimeter of 6 kilometers, marking the beginning of Chengdu City.
The Dujiangyan Irrigation System was constructed under the lead of Li Bing, prefect of Shu Prefecture. The Dujiangyan brings the vast Chengdu Plain under irrigation and protects it against droughts and floods for over 2000 years. Chengdu plain was turned into the Land of Abundance with temperate climate and fertile soil.
In Western Han Dynasty (206 BC- AD 23), brocades produced in Chengdu enjoyed good popularity in China. The government assigned Jinguan (an official in charge of brocade production) to administrate the brocade production in Chengdu and the Jinguan City was constructed. So Chengdu is also called Jinguan City or “Brocade City”.
In the Five Kingdoms Period (907-960), Mengchang, king of the Latter Shu Kingdom, decreed to plant hibiscuses on the protective wall of the city, so Chengdu is also called the City of Hibiscus.
Through the history, Chengdu was a city densely covered by rivers and dotted with bridges, while trees grew in profusion and flowers bloomed all year around. No wonder that a traveler from France in the 19th century praised Chengdu as Oriental Paris. Over 2,000 years, Chengdu has remained a city of military importance in Southwest China on politics, economy and military affairs. Gongsun Shu, king of Western Han Dynasty, Liu Bei, emperor of the Three Kingdoms and Meng Zhixiang, King of the Latter Shu Kingdom all founded their capital in Chengdu. Later in the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it remained the location of government for Sichuan province. Early in Ming Dynasty (1912-1949), it was the capital city of Sichuan province. On December 27, 1949, Chengdu was liberated and chosen as the location for the administration office for Sichuan province. Since 1952, when Sichuan resumed its status as an administrative province, Chengdu became capital.
Chengdu has also been a city with prosperous industry and booming business activities. In the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC) and the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD220), it was a well-known business center. In the Han Dynasty, it was one of the five best cities in China, the other four cities being Luoyang, Handan, Linzi and Wan. It ranked second, next only to Yangzhou in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), next only to the capital city, Bianjing. Early in Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty, the commerce and trade in Chengdu had outgrown the traditional family workshops, gradually developing into a modern city of sophistication. Each month was devoted to different fair: January for lamps, February flowers, March silkworms, April embroideries, May fans, June incense, July jewel wares, August sweet-scented osmanthus trees, September wines, October plum trees, and December peach wood charms. Besides, in the downtown areas, the markets for after-supper shopping began to flourish. Even to this day, names of some old streets testify to that history, including names like Yanshi Street (street for salt trade), location of city council, and business Street, location of branch office of Communist Party of China in Sichuan. Paper money appeared and was first used in China, Chengdu being its birthplace. At that time, workshops for paper money making were located in Jingchong Temple to the north of Chengdu city (today known as Wan-fu Temple, Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas). The paper money made here was the earliest paper money ever used, which played a significant role in promoting trade, financial transaction, and economic development.
Chengdu also has the longest history for gas exploration and utilization. Early in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 23), natural gas was discovered and used in salt-refinery. Li Bing, Magistrate of Sichuan province then, built canals to lead rivers to flow before Chengdu city, greatly improving its transportation. Soon later, merchants set out from Chengdu to embark on the long journey for silk trade known as the Silk Road. Chengdu has been proud of its great contribution to the culture of China as well as the world.
With a long history, the education in Chengdu is well developed. Early in 141 B.C, Wen Weng built schools to promote education, which was the first attempt in China for public education. Till the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), the school had grown into a college with an enrollment totaling 1,000 members. This may explain why Sichuan has been the birthplace of so many talents with the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 23) and the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD25-220 BC) as its prime time. Chengdu was a leading city in paper making in the Sui Dynasty (581-618 ) and in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and he hemp paper made in Chengdu was officially prescribed for decree writing and the Central library of China at that time. Later, the wood block printing technology was another great contribution made by the Chinese people to the civilization of the whole world. Once again, Chengdu was among the first to introduce and adopt this technology. In the Song Dynasty (960 BC-1279 BC), Chengdu was one of the three printing centers, and its printing technology was honored as?° the most advanced in China.
Chengdu is also known for its handicrafts. From the Warring States (770 BC-476 BC) to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), lacquer wares enjoyed a high popularity abroad. Hometown of the famous Shu brocade, Chengdu has been an important city for brocade weaving and the silk culture in China. In the Han Dynasty (220 BC- AD 206) and the Jin Dynasty (265-420), the colored silk from Sichuan was extremely popular in China. For a long period of time between the Six Kingdms and the Tang Dynasty (618-907), most of the silks exported to the Middle Asia were made in Chengdu. In 1909, the Shu colored silk won the first prize in the Southeast Asian Fair. In the Han Dynasty, the hemp cloth was the first-grade cloth, finding a ready market in countries as far as Afghanistan (known then as Daxia).
In the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty, Sichuan Opera, with a large variety, dwarfed all other operas in China. Musical instrument was also famed. With a long history in making musical instruments, a family known as Lei amazed the world with their masterpiece. Also, wall paintings in Daci Temple (Temple of Great Mercy) were honored as “the Best Wall Painting in China”.
Tea cooking and tea culture originated in Sichuan, China. And Xinjin, a town of Chengdu, was the first to begin tea trade. Even in poetry, the earliest description about tea drinking was found in Chengdu. In the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty, Chengdu remained an important base for tea production, and it was also an important center for tea trade, either for retailing or in wholesale. Since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), teahouses here gradually developed their own unique style which could be found today. Besides, Chengdu has the largest number of teahouses in the world.
Chengdu has been an open place gathering talented minds. In the Han Dynasty when Fu, a genre of literary creation, was extremely popular, there were four acknowledged masters in composing Fu, two of which were people of Chengdu, namely, Sima Xiangru and Yang Xiong. Later in the Tang Dynasty, Huan Quan and his son, Huan Juchai, were master painters. In the Song Dynasty, among the prestigious historians are two Chengdu people, namely Fan Zhen and Fan Zuyu.
Moreover, Chengdu was also the love of many personages, such as Zhuge Liang, an outstanding statesman, and other poets including Li Bai, Du Fu, Cen Shen, Xue Tao, Wei Zhuang, Lu You and Fang Cheng. Understandably, it was believed that Sichuan was of irresistible attraction to poets. Many other figures spent their schooling years in Chengdu, among which were Zhu De and Chen Yi, the great proletarian revolutionists, Guo Moruo, Ba Jin, Li Jieren, and Li Yimang, writers of modern China, and Zhou Taixuan, the scientist.
The city has been characterized in cultural traits by non-exclusiveness, absorptiveness, enterprising and openness. The coming of Kai Ming people into Sichuan brought with themselves the Jing and Chu culture. Soon later, the unification of China by the Qin Kingdom introduced another new culture, added later by a new wave of immigration of merchants from all other six kingdoms, bringing in knowledge of business management and industry. On the other hand, Wen Weng, a great advocator and patron of education then, sent many of his students to the capital city for study. Later in the Sui Dynasty, Yang Xiou, when designated to be governor of Sichuan, brought with him a group of master monks from China, thus making Sichuan an important center for Buddhist studies. Emperor Xuan Zhong and Emperor Xi Zhong of the Tang Dynasty made two imperial visits to Sichuan. Coming together with them were large groups of poets, painters, artists and talented minds of many other trades. In the Qing Dynasty, a large number of people from Hubei Province and Guangxi Province moved into Sichuan Province, which helped to promote the communication in economy, culture, and customs. By either assimilating or learning from other people and places, Chengdu gradually developed its own opera, namely Sichuan Opera, painting, Sichuan cuisine and snacks, all of which contributed to the formation of Chengdu culture. During the Eight-year Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945), many associations, societies and celebrities moved to Chengdu, added later by another 27 colleges and Universities, thus making Chengdu a cultural center at that time. Between 1945 and 1949, with the liberation in Southwest China, many cadres came to Sichuan from all over China. After the founding of the People?ˉs Republic of China in 1949, when three important railways were under construction in Southwest China, a large number of professionals and other technicians were transferred into Chengdu to offer help.
In all, over two thousand years, Chengdu has been constantly learning and absorbing the new and the advanced culturally and intellectually. This explains why Chengdu has remained prosperous politically, culturally and economically all through the history.
Chengdu is also a city of rebellious and revolutionary tradition. In history, it was the center of a couple of peasants’ uprisings and revolutions. In the early Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), Wang Xiaobo and Li Shun, the rebel chiefs, started their uprising in Qingcheng City and soon later established their government in Chengdu. In the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Zhang Xianzhong, rebel chief of the peasants uprising, also chose Chengdu as the capital city for his kingdom. In the Revolution of 1911. People in Chengdu launched an intensive campaign to protect the railways against government nationalization, and was followed by a wave of revolutions throughout Sichuan province. And it also pioneered another greater revolution in October 10, which was known to the Chinese people as the Wuchang Uprising, an important event in modern China. Mr. Sun Yat-Sen, Father of China’s democratic revolution, spoke highly of Chengdu people in the revolution. After the May 4th Movement in 1919, Chengdu was among the first to send students to France for further study while working part time. Many revolutionary pioneers, including Wang Youmu, Zhao Shiyan, Wu Yuzhang, and Che Yaoxian, lived and worked in Chengdu. In December 1949, to liberate Chengdu, many soldiers sacrificed their lives to create a new world in this old city.
Chengdu has also been famous for its rich cultural heritages. Within its jurisdiction are Qionglai city, Chongzhou city and Pengzhou city, all of which are listed as Cities of Rich Cultural and Historical Heritage by the government of Sichuan province. In November 2000, Dujiangyan Irrigation System and Qingcheng Mountain (the Taoist Mountain) were ranked as Cities of the World Cultural Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).