If you come to Chengdu, there are two images that will be burned to your retinas within days of touching down, two things you can’t travel more than a few miles in the city without seeing: pandas (of course) and the city seal. The pandas speak for themselves- adorable (although evolutionarily backwards) creatures just begging you to pay $300 to hold them. (Yup! That’s the going rate in Chengdu right now. $300USD so you can be completely covered in blue plastic and hold the little critter for just long enough to get the photo snapped and then away it goes. It comes to about a Benjamin per minute.) The city seal, on the other hand, is less well-known outside of Chengdu, but once you touch down in the city, you’ll see it everywhere. The golden ring adorns the side of the ubiquitous green cabs (well, ubiquitous when you are trying to cross the street, absolutely absent when you need one to get home from work), it sits atop NiJia Qiao (commonly called the “A Bridge” by consulate folks) and pops up on a variety of signs and billboards around town.
In 2001, as Chengdu was just starting to hit its construction stride, workers stumbled upon a large area filled with elephant bones and the remains of an ancient civilization- right in the middle of the city! Needless to say, construction came to an abrupt halt and archeological excavation commenced. Within that site, scientists found numerous jade and bronze pieces, as well as the now famous city seal- a piece of sliver-thin gold foil carved with a sun in the center, surrounded by four stylized birds.
After having this golden emblem appear around every corner, I figured it was time I made the (very short!) trek out to the JinSha Museum to have a look for myself, and what better way to do that than to organize a CLO outing! So, Saturday morning, I gathered about fifteen other consulate community members, we loaded up in a bus and headed across town to discover for ourselves the newly discovered site.
If you’re in Chengdu on vacation for more than just a day or two, I would definitely recommend the museum. It starts with the actual dig site, where elephant tusks still protrude from the hard earth and visitors can walk through the carefully gridded work space. Then, it is on to the main building which is now home to the all-important city seal, several other gold foil masks and an array of jade and bronze carvings.
But, if you are LIVING in Chengdu, I would recommend the site not for the museum itself (although it is nice and worth a visit or two), but for the grounds on which it sits. In a city where sunshine is rare and large expanses of grass even rarer, it was amazing to walk through the front gates, past a beautiful water fountain and into what looked like a park that could be found in any American city. There was grass and trees and benches and room to run! The 80RMB entrance fee may seem a little steep, but if I had young ones, I’d wait for a day where the air monitor readings were moderate, pack up my crew, throw together a basket of food and head out to the museum for lunch in the park. The day out would be worth the ticket price!
What’s black and white and cute all over? Pandas! What’s round and gold and ringed with birds? The city seal! Put them together and what do you have? CHENGDU!