Pandas, hotpot and more in Chengdu

Chengdu's rich culture and abundant history makes it a tourism magnet in Southwest China.

A trip to the city allows foreign visitors to learn about Chinese culture, history and philosophy through its many cultural resources.

Since the start of the 72-hour visa-free policy last year Chengdu has attracted even more visitors and investors.

The city is best known for the panda as it is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Many pandas born and raised at the base are sent to foreign countries as national gifts so the city is also known for its hospitality and diplomatic culture.

The city's food is an attraction in itself and was praised by UNESCO as "a city of gastronomy".

Sichuan cuisine is a must-taste for any food lover and the China Cuisine Cultural Museum is a hotspot in the city.

Pandas and food are just some of the highlights that attract visitors to Chengdu.

Ancient city

Chengdu's history goes back 2,300 years and the city was approved asone of the 24 historical and ancient cultural cities in the early 1980s.

The city's prevailing culture for hard work and visionary strategies makeseveral ancient areas of the city must-sees.

Dujiang Weir in Dujiangyan is the oldest functioning water-control project in the world and isabout 59 kilometers west of Chengdu.

The weir has stood for nearly 2,300 years and diverts water to irrigate nearly 70,000 hectares offarmland, which contributes almost one-third of the province's total grain output.

The weir survived the Wenchuan Earthquake unscathed in 2008.

The old dam's longevity can mainly be attributed to a schedule of annual repairs, which date backto the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), and tell the story of the hard work and foresight of localpeople.

Another popular place to explore the area's history is the Temple of Marquis Wu Museum, alsoknown as the Wuhou Shrine.

The landmark honors Zhuge Liang (AD181 - 234),who is recognised as the greatest and mostaccomplished strategist of his era - the Three Kingdoms period (AD220-280).

Zhuge has become synonymous with intelligence and strategy in Chinese culture and visitors canget a better understanding of Chinese culture and values by visiting the shrine, said a museumofficial.

Chengdu citizens created the world's first paper currency - the Jiaozi in AD1023, in the westerncity's Jiangcong Temple, also known as the Thousands of Buddha's Temple.

The world's earliest natural gas was first discovered in the city too. During the Western HanDynasty (206BCAD24), Chengdu's citizens discovered natural gas and used it to make salt.During the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) Chengdu people had some of the best paper printingtechnologies.

The world's first wooden calendar, which is preserved in the Museum of London, was made inChengdu during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (AD907-960).

Lacquerware relics from the Mawangdui Tombs of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), in theeastern suburbs of Changsha, are believed to have been made in Chengdu.

The city is also known as the hometown of Shu embroidery and the birthplace of China'sembroidery culture.

Chinese people view tea drinking not just as a daily habit but as an interest and art.

Tea culture in China is believed to have started in Sichuan and several ancient Chinese poemsmake reference to drinking tea in Chengdu. Xinjin, an area in Chengdu was said to have theearliest trade of tea in the province.

Throughout history a number of Chinese great poets have lived in Chengdu, including Li Bai, DuFu, Cen Sen, Wei Zhuang, Lu You and Fan Chengda.

Shu state is an ancient region around Chengdu and an old saying goes - "All poets under heavenhave come to Shu land."

Relaxed lifestyle

The Fortune Global Forum was held in Chengdu last year, partly due to the city's fast economic growth and ample development potential.

During the event foreign economists and entrepreneurs noted that Chengdu had managed to maintain a balance between fast growth and a relaxed life and attitude, unlike many cities that develop quickly.

Sichuan is known for its relaxed lifestyle and happy people and the area's Taoism culture could be part of the reason why locals lead relaxed lives.

To explore this further many people visit Qingcheng Mountain, which has long been recognised as the birthplace of Taoism.

The area was awarded World Cultural Heritage status by the UNESCO.