A week in Chengdu

Pomp and circumstance.

So I’ve been here a week. My impression overall is that Chengdu is the most pompous place I’ve lived in since I left Beijing. If you were to mention Changzhou and Fuzhou to someone, I might expect them to have heard of the latter rather than the former, yet both towns feel very provincial. Chengdu, on the other hand, definitely wants to be the capital of something. It has that whole Beijing thing going on with wide roads, a town square, and a bloody great statue of Mao, which isn’t there in adoration of an outstanding megalomaniac, but rather there as a reminder that the Party totally owns you.[1] They’re building a Metro system here which, no doubt, is to glorify the city meet the public transport needs of the people.

I’m still waiting to be awed by the food which is as stodgy as anything I’ve ever had anywhere else in China. The local attempts at gong bao ji ding are nowhere near as good as the version at XXKX. The restaurant behind the school where we went for lunch before James and Katie left does some nice dishes, though. Provided it’s not too expensive, it should be worth repeated visits. Zoe’s and the Bookworm are worth visits on special occasions, but otherwise too expensive for dining on a regular basis. I must try Red Brick Pizza some time.[2]

Having a bike here has been a great and immediate help, and means that I can get round the city much more quickly and easily, although the advent of the Chengdu Metro may render a bike unnecessary in certain parts of the city. I see from the map that there’s a foreign languages bookshop roughly on the opposite corner where Xinnan Lu meets the First Ring Road. I can ride the bike out there. No need to take a taxi (which can be quite difficult to get) or work out the bus system (which I probably could, but I just don’t feel inclined to bother with buses these days).

The other thing that’s out that way is all the computer centres. I’d like to see whether I can buy a better keyboard than this one which perpetually irritates me. I type t-h-e, but it comes out “te”; I type n-e-v-e-r, but it comes out “neer”; I type T or I or a or n, and they don’t appear at all; I hit the spacebar, but no space appears; I try to hit the tiny, almost invisible backspace key, but I hit Insert instead. To add insult to injury, the keyboard has a PS/2 connection. What is this? The Dark Ages?

The weather has been unremittingly depressing in it’s greyness. It’s actually sunny today, although the end of the building is casting a shadow across my flat, so I can’t tell that the sun’s shining. It hasn’t helped matters that I’ve caught a cold from someone somewhere.

It’s also different for me to be living near the centre of town. Almost everywhere else I’ve ever lived has always been well outside the centre. It was easy enough to get into central Beijing; there wasn’t really much reason to go into, er, central Changzhou; and most of what I wanted in Fuzhou I could get either in Cang Shan or just across Jiefang Bridge.

Are the girls the most beautiful in China? I wouldn’t say there’s a greater proportion than anywhere else in China. A lot of them wear perilously short shorts (though again, no more than Fuzhou) and some of them have very long, sexy legs (in which case, Hurrah for short shorts, I say).

In unrelated news, I discovered that I had a copy of Onegai Twins (probably shouldn’t admit to it). Anyway, I’m watching it and keep seeing the character 眞. I suspected that it was a traditional and tried to find it in one of my dictionaries, but without success. I tried the various parts as radicals, but got nowhere. I was looking through Modern Chinese Characters by Yin Binyong when I found the answer. 眞 is the printed version of 真 zhēn “true”. It’s not in my big dictionary or the character dictionary. In the Unicode character set, it’s listed under the 目 radical (I’d switched the computer off, hence I didn’t check the character set until this morning) with 真 beside it, although the dictionaries list it under the 十 radical. I had a most maddening evening trying to track down the character.

Finally, I’ve passed 9,000 hits, although the 9,000th was anonymous. No wonderful prize for you, I’m afraid.

1. Fuzhou has Wuyi Square, but it was usually deserted whenever I was in that part of Fuzhou; Tianfu Square is much more lively. Fuzhou also has a state-authorised statue of the Great Tyrant.
2. I know that Sichuan food has this reputation, but to be honest, having lived in four different places in China, I find that the xiao chi dian here really produce versions of the same sort stodge you can get anywhere else in this country. It’s nothing special. For example, if you don’t make the overrated Lanzhou lamian suan la, then it’s strictly blah blah. I suspect that if you want to have something better here in Chengdu, you’ve got to go a little upmarket.

4 thoughts on “A week in Chengdu”

  1. It sounds as if the time you in Chengdu will be infinitely more interesting.  There will be lots of places to explore. As you say – it is a change to be in the central part.  I look forward to hearing/seeing more.

  2. Wow, Chengdu’s reputation has now been thoroughly destroyed. Everybody’s always raving about Chengdu snacks. I just showed that paragraph to lzh and she said, "haha, everybody says Chengdu has lots of good snacks", I said, "You misunderstood, John says the food isn’t that good at all". Personally, I always preferred Hunan food, anyway.

  3. Perhaps if I’d arrived in Chengdu first when I came to China, I might’ve been more impressed by its standard fare, but it’s reputation raised my anticipation to such a level that it’d probably never live up to it anyway. Anyway, there’s a decent enough place over the bridge which, at least at this point in time, I can recommend, but I think I’ll mostly stay away from the local 小吃店.

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