Chengdu (Chinese: 成都; Sichuanese: Cen2du1; pinyin: Chéngdū), formerly transliterated Chengtu, is the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China. It
holds sub-provincial administrative status. The urban area houses 14,047,625 inhabitants: 7,123,697 within the municipality's nine districts and 6,730,749 in the surrounding region.
Chengdu is one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centers in Western China. According to the 2007 Public Appraisal for Best Chinese Cities for Investment, Chengdu was chosen as one of the top ten cities to invest in out of a total of 280 urban centers in China. In 2006, it was named China's 4th-most livable city by China Daily.
The fertile Chengdu Plain, on which Chengdu is located, is also known as the "Country of Heaven" (天府之国, Tiānfǔzhiguó), a phrase also often translated as "The Land of Abundance". The discovery of the Jinsha site suggests the area of Chengdu had become the center of the bronze age Sanxingdui culture around the time of the establishment of the state of Shu, prior to its annexation by Qin in 316 BC.
Chengdu is the original city name which dates back to its founding over 2000 years ago. However, its following nicknames are well known in China.
The City of Hibiscus (Chinese: 蓉城; pinyin: Róngchéng): In the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907-960), Mengchang, the king of the Later Shu Kingdom, ordered the planting of hibiscus on the fortress wall surrounding the city. After this, Chengdu started being called the City of Hibiscus. Nowadays, the hibiscus is still the city flower of Chengdu, but the last city wall was torn down in the 1960s, along with the Royal Palace situated in the middle of the city, where the statue of Mao Zedong now stands.
The Brocade City (simplified Chinese: 锦城; traditional Chinese: 錦城; pinyin: Jinchéng: In the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 23), brocade produced in Chengdu enjoyed great popularity among the royal and elite class in China. An emperor created the office of Jin Guan (錦官) to oversee brocade production in Chengdu. Since then, Chengdu has been called "Jin Guan Cheng" (錦官城) meaning "Brocade Official's City", or in its short form, "Jin Cheng" (錦城) meaning "Brocade City."
The Turtle City (simplified Chinese: 龟城; traditional Chinese: 龜城; pinyin: Guichéng): According to the ancient legend, when Chengdu was built in AD 310, the chief architect Zhang Yi followed the routes of a turtle to decide the city's borders. It coincides with the fact that the city does resemble the shape of a turtle on a map.
Archaeological discoveries at the Sanxingdui and Jinsha sites have established that the Chengdu region was inhabited over four thousands years ago and was an important
center of a unique ancient culture. During the period of Shang and Zhou dynasties, this region was the center of Shu culture.
In the early 4th century BC, the 9th king of the state of Shu, Kaiming IX, moved his capital from today's nearby Pixian to the city's current location. The Song Dynasty geographical work Tai Ping Huan Yu Ji states that the king was inspired by King Tai of Zhou's statement that a settlement needed "one year to become a town; two years to become a capital." Following this, the king named the new city Cheng Du: literally, "become the capital". There are, however, several versions of why the capital was moved to Chengdu, and more recent theories of the name's origin point to it as stemming from, or referring to, earlier non-Han inhabitants and/or their languages.
The state of Shu was conquered by the State of Qin in 316 BC, and a new city was founded by the Qin general Zhang Yi (who as a matter of fact had argued against the invasion). This can be seen as the beginning of the Chinese Chengdu. Chengdu is the only major city in China to have remained in the same location with the same name after more than 2000 years, although it was also known as Yizhou (益州) for a long time, and was given other names at other times.
As a central city for at least 2000 years, Chengdu’s influence gradually expanded from the Sichuan basin to Western China. At its height, Chengdu was once named "One of
the Five Metropolis" in China and was equally famous with Yangzhou (in modern-day Jiangsu) in history. During the Three-Kingdom period, Zhuge Liang, the prime minister of Shu kingdom, called Chengdu
"the land of abundance". Li Bai, the famous poet during the Tang Dynasty, eulogized the city as "Chengdu lies above empyrean". Su Shi, the eminent writer during the Song Dynasty, hailed Chengdu as
"the southwestern metropolis".
During the partition following the fall of the Eastern Han Dynasty, i.e. the era of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Bei founded the southwest kingdom of Shu-Han (蜀漢; 221-263) with Chengdu as its capital. Over time, Chengdu had been the capital of six local feudal reigns of which Shu-Han is the best known.
During the Tang Dynasty, both the "Poet God" Li Bai and the "Poet Sage" Du Fu spent some part of their lives in Chengdu. Du Fu constructed the celebrated "Caotáng" (thatched cottage or grass-hut) in the second year of his four-years stay (759-762). But today's Caotang, a rather sumptuous house in the traditional style, was only constructed in 1078 in memory of Du Fu. During the Tang dynasty more than 1,200 years ago, Chengdu became one of the foremost commercial cities in China, second only to Yangzhou (揚一益二).
Chengdu was also the birthplace of the first widely used paper money in the world (Northern Song Dynasty, around 960 AD). The Qingyang Gong Taoist temple was built in
Chengdu in the 9th century, meaning "Green Goat".
At around the end of the Song Dynasty, a rebel leader set up the capital of a short-lived kingdom in Chengdu, called Dàshu (大蜀).
In 1279, the Mongols sacked Chengdu and over a million of its inhabitants were estimated to have been killed. During the Yuan Dynasty, Marco Polo visited Chengdu and wrote about the Anshun Bridge (or an earlier version of it) in Chengdu. He referred to Chengdu as "Sindafu" ("Cheng-Tu_Fu") as the capital of the province of the same name.
In 1644, at the end of the Ming Dynasty, another rebel leader, Zhang Xianzhong, established a short-lived Daxi (大西) Dynasty in Sichuan with Chengdu, which he renamed Xijing (西京, Western Capital), as the capital. Zhang was said to have massacred large number of people in Sichuan and Chengdu was reduced to a virtual ghost town frequented by tigers. The depopulation of Sichuan necessitated the resettlement of millions of people from other provinces during the Qing Dynasty. In 1911, the Railway Protection Movement centered in Chengdu helped trigger the Wuchang Uprising, which led to the Xinhai Revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty.
During World War II, the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalist Party) government under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek fled to Sichuan to escape the invading Japanese forces. They brought with them businesspeople, workers and academics, who founded many of the industries and cultural institutions which continue to make Chengdu an important center.
In 1944, the American XX Bomber Command launched Operation Matterhorn, an ambitious plan to base B-29 Superfortresses in Chengdu and strategically bomb the Japanese
Home Islands. Because the operation required a massive airlift of fuel and supplies over the Himalayas, it was not a significant military success, but it did earn Chengdu the distinction of launching
the first serious retaliation against the Japanese homeland.
During the Chinese Civil War, Chengdu was the last city on the Chinese mainland to be held by the Kuomintang. President Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo directed the defence of the city from Chengdu Central Military Academy until 1949, when the city fell into Communist hands. The People's Liberation Army took the city without any resistance after a deal was negotiated between the People's Liberation Army and the commander of the KMT Army guarding the city. On December 10 the remnants of the Nationalist Chinese government evacuated to Taiwan.
The industrial base is very broad, including light and heavy manufacturing, aluminum smelting and chemicals. The textile industry remains important, with cotton and wool milling added to the traditional manufacturing of silk brocade and satin.
Chengdu is the headquarters of the Chengdu Military Region.
On May 12, 2008, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck causing damage to the area, killing about 80,000 people and injuring 26,413 as of May 12, 2008. 4,021 of the casualties and most of the property damage were from Dujiangyan and Pengzhou, two cities within the administration of Chengdu, the sub-provincial city. Chengdu did not suffer any discernible damage. The reason why many people died in the surrounding areas had to do with poor construction. Though only 75 kilometres (47 mi) from the epicenter, Chengdu itself was built to earthquake specification, and most buildings there remained intact.
The Chengdu Tianfu District Great City is a sustainably-planned city that will be outside of Chengdu, and is expected to open later in the decade. The city is also planned to be self-sustaining, with every residence being a two-minute walk from a park.