Our hotel was located in Chengdu’s old town, right down the street from Wenshu Temple. Originally built during the Tang Dynasty (618-690 AD), it is the largest and best-preserved Buddhist temple in the city. Among its most precious relics are a Burmese jade Buddha and the skull of a Tang Dynasty monk. The temple also boasts the tallest iron pagoda in China. In addition to its many prayer halls, the expansive grounds are also home to a peaceful garden, as well as a popular tea house and vegetarian restaurant.
We also visited the Green Ram Temple, the most historic Taoist temple in Chengdu. Also dating to the Tang Dynasty, the temple is still an active place of worship and we were fortunate enough to visit while a prayer ceremony was taking place in the Hall of the Three Purities. However, the temple is most famous for the bronze statue of a goat that is said to vanquish life’s troubles after you give it a rub.
We left the serenity of Chengdu’s temples and plunged headlong into its most touristy areas. First up was the “ancient street” of Jinli, which was crammed full of shops, restaurants and more people than you can possibly imagine. We got in, got our Starbucks mug, and got out. We also visited the equally touristy, but less claustrophobic Tianfu Square, which is presided over by a larger-than-life statue of Chairman Mao.
To regain a feeling of zen, we strolled through Chengdu’s small but vibrant Tibetan neighborhood and had lunch at a local restaurant. I loved the colorful prayer flags and seeing the monks going about their day. We tried yak meat for the first time and it was surprisingly tasty, cooked in a hot metal pot with vegetables and Tibetan bread. We also enjoyed the sauteed snow peas and vegetable dumplings. The yak butter tea, however, must be an acquired taste.
Would you like to try Tibetan food? What about yak butter tea?