Chengdu X Monocle

Chengdu: where dreams come true

Chengdu is preparing to host the World University Games in June and the city in southwest China is buzzing with energy and excitement. Young athletes from all over the globe are due to gather in the capital of Sichuan province to compete in the 31st edition of this multi-sport event – and their host city is in gold-medal winning form. Traditionally famous as the home of the giant panda, spicy Sichuanese cuisine and a laid-back lifestyle, Chengdu is now one of the most dynamic cities in China. It sets the pace when it comes to quality of life and it has the inside track on everything from cutting-edge technology to culture. Some 21 million people call the Land of Abundance home and this towering city rooted in ancient history continues to attract a growing number of talented young people from across the globe. Join us for a brisk rundown.

Our three-step guide to the Games

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1.

Venues

The opening ceremony takes place at Dong’an Lake Stadium in Longquanyi District, southeast Chengdu. The purpose-built 40,000-seater venue is the centrepiece of the Games. When viewed from above, its circular shape represents the symbol of Chengdu, a golden sun bird. The world-class stadium sits amid Dong’an Lake Sports Park, a vast new addition to the city’s green space and another step towards its goal of becoming a park city. While new aquatics venues such as a natatorium in Xindu District, north Chengdu, are bound to make a splash, some existing gymnasiums, rowing clubs and university facilities have been modernised for the Games so as to create an even greener legacy.


2.

Events

The World University Games (formerly known as the Universiade) is the largest international sporting event in the college calendar. Taking place every two years, student athletes from all over the world compete in 18 sporting disciplines, from athletics to artistic gymnastics and badminton to basketball. Wushu – or kung fu – is one of three optional sports, alongside rowing and shooting, that have been added to the competition by the Chengdu organisers. The Chinese martial art has an ancient history – much like the host city, which stretches back thousands of years. Modern wushu competitions are split between boxing- style combat and a choreographed floor routine similar to gymnastics.

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3.

Mascot & motto

Chengdu is known as the Land of Abundance, or tianfu in Chinese. Elements of tianfu culture have been woven into the fabric of the Games. The official mascot is Rongbao, a baby panda with fire in his eyes and a flaming torch in his paw. Rongbao captures the city’s modern reputation for fashion as well as its history as a centre for traditional Chinese culture. The official motto for the Games, “Chengdu makes dreams come true”, is another nod to the inspirational tale of the symbolic golden sun bird. Every athlete who reaches the podium will receive a medal that shows a golden sun bird on one side and Chengdu’s soaring cityscape on the other.

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Ready, set, go

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1.

Gilded Historic city

Modern Chengdu might look new but this historical city has deep roots. Archaeological digs at sites in and around Chengdu have uncovered the Shu civilisation that occupied the land more than 3,000 years ago. Another discovery of gold masks and bronze figures last year became the talk of the town and shed more light on the city’s highly sophisticated ancestry.


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2.

Green Park city

Chengdu is an active and outdoorsy place to live that is blessed with an abundance of nature. Parks are popping up all over the city, which is surrounded on all sides by mountains. Ask anyone in Chengdu what they like to do on the weekend and they are likely to come back with a favourite hike, bicycle ride or run along the river.


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3.
Ambitious Future city

The city’s ambitious plan has designs on Chengdu becoming a capital of culture, as well as a centre of sport, musical destination and giant park, to name just a few. Chengdu is a “national central city”, one of nine top-tier cities. And a new blueprint will see Chengdu link up with neighbouring Chongqing to become an economic powerhouse.


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4.
International World city

The world is increasingly coming to Chengdu – and not just for a growing number of international sporting events. A roster of global technology companies have a permanent base in the southwestern metropolis and the downtown area is a vital shop window for overseas consumer brands looking to catch the eye of China’s next generation.


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5.
Balanced Liveable city

Chengdu offers a unique lifestyle among top-tier Chinese cities, providing rewarding career opportunities with the promise of relaxing leisure time. Residents know how to enjoy the fruits of their labour and this balanced outlook is a huge part of its appeal to fresh talent. Newcomers who flock to Chengdu from across the world are seduced by the city’s charms.


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6.
Stylish Fashionable city

There are many reasons why Chengdu stands out from the crowd but fashion is arguably the most eye-catching. Chengdu has style – and lots of it. Young people enjoy dressing up and like to flaunt their trend-setting looks and unique flair on the streets, where people-watching is a pastime. Chengdu’s fashion statement is a reflection of the city’s creativity and natural confidence.


7.
Intelligent Smart city

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Young people don’t just come to Chengdu to shop, eat and strut their stuff; they come to study too. Chengdu is home to several universities and a large student population. This gives it a spring in its step, not to mention some serious brainpower. Some of Chengdu’s most storied institutions are among the oldest seats of learning in China and often make it to the top of global university rankings – tough competition in the classroom as well as on the running track.


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8.
Friendly Open city

Residents of Chengdu are renowned for their friendliness and think nothing of striking up a conversation with a stranger. The ancient city has a long history of immigration and this open-door policy continues to this day. Visitors and new arrivals are always given a generous welcome and this hospitable city richly deserves its reputation for tolerance and inclusivity.


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9.
Innovative Start-up city

Start-ups are spoilt for choice when it comes to salubrious office space and the city is supporting entrepreneurs to carry out original research and development in Chengdu. Aviation is flying high, while international companies with a base in the city are creating verything from cutting-edge electric cars to computer games.


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10.
Happy Fun city

Chengdu is a social city with a nose for a good time. Having fun, enjoying life and living for the moment are core parts of the lifestyle – and the city’s energetic nightlife draws partygoers from all over China. Shoppers spend like there’s no tomorrow and the city attracts people of all ages and nationalities. Chengdu is regularly voted as one of the happiest places in China – another reason for residents to celebrate.


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11.
Harmonious Musical city

Chengdu’s music scene is a big hit in the studio and on the big stage. The city’s homegrown hip-hop stars have been winning a following the world over, while fans at home are able to enjoy an all-singing, all-dancing medley of music festivals, cosy jazz bars, street performances and classical symphonies at the recently opened Chengdu City Music Hall.


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12.
Generous Sharing city

Gathering family, friends and colleagues to eat hotpot is one of Chengdu’s quintessential experiences. Not only does this inclusive style of cooking provide a taste of fiery Sichuanese cuisine, it’s also a flavour of Chengdu’s communal culture, which can be seen right across this sharing city. Finished eating? Head to a traditional teahouse to soak up some more of the convivial atmosphere.

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