Friday, 20 February 2009

Chengdu and the Shadow of the Earthquake: Part 3

The next day brought a visit to the San Xingdui Museum in the morning. Our guide, Rebecca, had then arranged for us to go to Jinli Street in Chengdu. She seemed excited about us going here as normally people just pass through the city on the way to the mountains.

The museum was interesting and is built on a site where Mayan style artefacts have been found. This has caused a big stir in the Chinese scientific community as it brings about questions of how life evolved here.

There were lots of pots, masks and other ancient artefacts. It’s somewhere that's worth a visit if you are interested in objects displayed behind glass. There was also an excellent guided tour available for those wishing to know all the details and theories about what they found. As interesting as it was I was happy to leave and get back to mixing with the Chinese public.

Jinli Street proved to be a real delight. It is reminiscent, in some respects, to Shanghai’s Old Town area. As well as the standard shops there were also many street traders and numerous wonderful food smells. One man was creating animals by blowing into candy much like a glass blower would. I wasn't brave enough to eat candy animals someone had been blowing into I continued down the bustling street.

This was an area where it was clear that not many Westerners come and that made it all the better. I really loved getting these glimpses of the real China and it’s something I would urge anyone visiting to do. Just take a step away from tourist trail and you will find some truly wonderful things. Something you come to realise about China is that everything is made with an attention to detail.

Here I was in a simply shopping street and yet all the buildings were beautifully designed and there was even a beautiful water area in a small square. When it comes to art and anything ornate it has to be perfect.

Beside Jinli Street was the Wuhou Shrine. Most of the group were concerned with buying trinkets from the markets but my girlfriend and I worked out how to buy a ticket and decided to go in search of some tranquility.

The shrine proved to be one of the best surprises of the trip. It was different to the gardens we had already seen and was still very much in use by worshippers and monks. The many sections contained interesting architecture, mostly revolving around circles and long passage ways, with large areas dedicated to the most amazing bonsai tree dioramas.

One particularly stunning piece of the shrine was a long red tunnel which had trees growing high above it and arching over forming a natural roof. We walked around the place several times trying to take in the elegance and ambition of it. It was odd to think if it wasn’t for the earthquake that we would never have had the chance to visit the place. We found it very hard to leave.

The morning would bring the flight to the mountain city of Chongqing but I would have been happy to stay in Chengdu for much longer.

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