Chengdu is a city with rich natural resources that are used to make a variety of quality products. The city is great for shopping and has five distinct shopping areas and each one has its own character. Chunxi Road is the busiest shopping street and with more than 700 shops, is regarded as the No 1 shopping street in southwest China. Yansi Kou lies just south of Chunxi Road and this is where all the local young girls go for fashion bargains and accessories. Luomashi is another bustling area with plenty of interesting bookshops and restaurants – plus a particularly good shopping mall. Qintai has been given the nickname ‘jewelry street’ and is filled with shops selling gold and silver jewelry, precious and semi-precious stones and beautiful pearls. The fifth area is Wuhoui in the Tibetan Quarter which is perfect for discovering the Tibetan culture and trying some yak milk!
With so many markets to visit, here are the top 10 souvenirs to buy in Chengdu.
1. Choose some gorgeous brocades
The city has a long tradition for making lovely silk ‘shu’ brocade embroideries – the ‘shu’ prefix indicates that the piece has been made in the Sichuan province. Shu brocade is one of the four most famous styles in China. Shu brocade is colorful with very intricately worked designs and patterns. Many of the designs are of local flowers, birds, trees and of course, the giant panda. The range of brocades available includes tablecloths, pillowcases, cushion covers, slippers, and wall hangings. A particularly well-stocked shop can be found at the Chengdu Shu Brocade & Embroidery Museum in East Caotang Road.
2. Cuddle a panda
Chengdu is home to the giant panda and this fact attracts many tourists to the city each year. Not surprisingly, there are plenty of panda-themed souvenirs available! The range of gifts includes cuddly toys, key rings, tee-shirt and pieces of embroidery.
3. Enjoy some Chengdu Hot Pot
Hot Pot is the best-known dish in the city and if you enjoy hot spicy food, you will love Hot Pot! The great news is that you can buy sealed vacuum packs of the sauce mix in shops and markets and they are easy to pack in your luggage. To make the sauce, the spice mixture is simply added to some hot stock.
Other foodie souvenirs include some local peppercorns and the popular Beef Jerky snack – Zhang Fei Beef Jerky is the brand to look out for as it is particularly good.
4. Taste some bamboo leaf tea
There are plenty of tea shops and market stalls selling Chinese tea as Chengdu is the second largest producing area with black, green, yellow, white and organic teas on sale. Specialty teas include Zhuyegihg (green tea from Mt E’ mei), Genlu (one of the ten green teas from Mt Mengding) and green tea from Mt Qingcheng. If you would like something extra special that is from Chengdu, Bamboo Leaf ( Zhu Ye Qing) is a perfect choice! This green tea is rather unusual to look at as the tea leaves are long and slender like miniature bamboo leaves. When water is added to the leaves they are suspended in the water. The tea tastes really pleasant and has a distinctive slightly tart flavor. Zhu Ye Qing can be bought both in packets or loose.
5. Buy a traditional Chinese tea set
What better souvenir from your trip? There are a number of shops selling these attractive sets just near the Lotus Market. The good news is that the tea sets are sold already well packaged so can be easily transported. There is a great selection of designs, some classic patterns, other contemporary designs and of course plenty featuring pandas! Each set comprises of a small round tray, small drinking cups (without handles) and a pretty rounded teapot with a bamboo handle.
6. Wear your bead necklace the Tibetan way
There is a sizeable Tibetan population in China and in Chengdu, this is particularly noticeable as there is a Tibetan Quarter. There are some great Tibetan shops located just near Wuhou Temple and of course in the Tibetan Quarter which lies close to Wuhoui and Wu Han Chi. There are hundreds of strings of brightly colored beads on sale and these can be worn Tibetan style -wrapped around your head. Other good buys include silk, jackets and copper, silver and gold, but if you are thinking of buying any of these precious metals, shop around for the best prices.
7. Admire the silver filigree work
The city’s filigree silver work is very special as the designs are very intricately made. There are lovely bracelets, earrings and pendants and some stylish vases in varying sizes. If you would like a more modestly priced souvenir, watch out for the lovely circular designs that are suspended from some clever decorative knotwork and are decorated with a long tassel. These pieces make unusual gifts and look lovely hanging on a wall or in the window – they take up no room in your travel bag either!
8. Try some Chinese Liquor
A wide range of very good liquors are made in the province and have been for the past 2.000 years. The oldest company is Chengdu Swellfun which has been producing a range of liquors for 500 years. Amongst others, the company produces Quanxingdagu, Wuliangye, Luzhou Laojiao, and Tuopai Dagu. It can be fun to try out a variety whilst you are in Chengdu and to buy a bottle of your favorite to take home.
9. Lacquerware makes the perfect gift
Chengdu is the birthplace of Chinese lacquerware which has 3,000 years of history and is listed as a national heritage. There are a number of highly talented artisans in the city and their work is really stylish with the clever use of vivid colors and intricate detail. A number of the artisans can be found in their workshops in Wide & Narrow Alleys. The range of products includes vases, dishes and jewelry boxes in a range of colors and sizes.
10. And bamboo woven ware is quintessentially Chinese
Bamboo has been used for centuries to produce a wide range of household and decorative items and there are a number of craft workshops in the city where it is produced. The bamboo is cut into thin strips which are then tightly woven into a variety of different items. The bamboo is often woven as a covering over porcelain and particularly attractive tea sets and vases are made using this technique in the Pingle area of the city. A particularly good hunting ground for unusual and older pieces is the Song Xian Qiao Antique Market.