Mr Yang Jinhai, 27, wanted to feed them.
He was lucky to escape with minor injuries, Shanghai Daily reported.
On Sunday, shocked visitors watched as he was scratched, bitten and dragged around the two white Bengal tigers' enclosure before keepers could intervene.
Witnesses said they initially thought Mr Yang must have been a staff member at the zoo after he was spotted carrying a backpack in the branches of a tree overlooking the tiger pen, UK daily The Independent reported.
But after a number of fellow tourists started shouting at him to come back down, Mr Yang jumped from the branch into the enclosure.
Eyewitness Feng Lin told Chinese media: "He climbed up the outside of the cage and jumped inside expecting, I assume, that the tigers would pounce on him.
"Instead the two tigers, a male and a female, seemed more nervous than anything else and the female actually ran off. He then tried to antagonise the tigers by pulling faces at them.
"Eventually, he was attacked by the male where he was cut after being scratched and bitten before he could be rescued by zookeepers."
About 50 zoo workers were quickly on the scene.
They first used a water hose to shock the male tiger into dropping Mr Yang, before tranquillising both male and female tigers, Chengdu Business Daily reported.
Mr Yang suffered light puncture wounds to his arms and legs.
Soon after he was released, he told reporters he had "wanted to feed the tigers".
His backpack was found to be filled with brown rice.
Media agencies quoted family members as saying he had been suffering mental health problems recently and would now be taken for counselling.
Zookeepers said Mr Yang had been extremely lucky to survive, Shanghai Daily reported.
The white Bengal tigers were described as more docile because they have been bred from captivity. Also, they had just finished a large meal.
Another factor mentioned is that their cage is directly adjacent to that of a larger and much more dominant Siberian tiger, which makes their behaviour more subdued.
A zoo worker told the West China City Daily newspaper: "If it had been a Siberian tiger, the consequences would have been unimaginable."
Mr Yang posted several online messages about how optimistic he was about starting a new life after getting a job as a security guard in Chengdu.
But he soon quit the job and joined a printing factory. He quit that job too, saying that he felt there was more to life.
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