Right next to the Wuhou Shrine is Jinli Promenade, a rebuilt trading and folk art street imitating the ancient-style buildings in West Sichuan. “Jinli” is the name of an old street in Han-dynasty Chengdu, meaning “make perfection still more perfect and hide the universe in the universe”. The ancient Jinli was one of the oldest and the most commercialized streets in the history of West Shu and had been well-known throughout the country in Qin, Han, and Three Kingdoms Periods.
With Qin, Han, and Three-kingdom cultures as its soul, the social style of Ming and Qing dynasties as its appearance, the West Sichuan folkways and customs as its body, the new Jinli Promenade, supported by Wuhou Shrine, has condensed the essence out of the worldly life in Chengdu: teahouses, inns, restaurants, bars, theatrical stages, handicrafts, local snacks and specialties.
A look at the street
The 350-metre-long Jinli Street enjoys a reputation as a historic town. At one end of the street is an imposing archway with “Jinli Street” carved on it.
Extending from a gatehouse decorated with two red lanterns, the slab stone-paved street stretches with ancient-style buildings lined on both sides. The grey bricks and crimson columns of these two and three-storey teahouses and antique shops are of classic beauty and primitive simplicity. Porcelain and folk handicrafts displayed in the shops are so dazzling; you can’t tear yourself away from them.
The success of the Jinli Street lies in the perfect combination of local culture and business. It has attracted thousands of tourists since its opening. Strolling down the narrow street, you can enjoy both traditional entertainment and modern venues.
Buildings with ancient style
By combining the culture of the Three Kingdoms Period with the folk customs of Sichuan, the buildings on both sides including tea-houses, stores and hotels, are modeled on the architectural style of a traditional old town in western Sichuan Province from the Qing (1644 – 1911) Dynasty. The wooden steles and the brick-walls exhibit an ancient charm.
Strolling down the narrow street, you can experience the particular cultural refreshment. You will find yourself surrounded by old-world stores selling lacquer products, curios, clay figurines, paper cuts and calligraphies and paintings of celebrities.
You can also find Shu Embroidery at Jinli Street, a world-renowned silk product unique to the province. In the Museum of Sichuan Brocade, local girls in traditional wax-printed costumes skillfully demonstrate quilts made with the famous brocade to tourists.
Another interesting performance is the Shadow Play, which is a traditional Chinese folk art with over one thousand years of history. The “actors” are brightly painted puppets. The hidden or hooded people manipulate the rods of the talking puppets to tell dramatic versions of traditional fairy tales and myths.
The shadow play employs “total theater” integrating dance, music and drama into one art form. Gestures are based on a code of symbolic meanings shared by the actors and audience. The puppeteer moves and gesticulates depending on the stress of the dialogue. When the puppet moves gracefully, the puppeteer moves with the puppet. The puppeteer “transfers” his soul to the puppet, subordinating himself to the puppet and giving life to it.
Have fun in modern venues
Apart from traditional entertainment, modern venues to have fun can also be found at Jinli, such as cafes and pubs. What is different about these pubs and cafes on Jinli Street is that they are the perfect blend of modernism and tradition.
The well-structured and beautifully decorated pubs are furnished with red wooden chairs. Carved doors and windows contain classic elegance. The names of the pubs, such as Joy Luck Joint and Lotus Mansion, are written on horizontally inscribed board in Chinese calligraphy, showing the special taste of the shop owners. Outside, wooden desks and chairs of simple styles are placed under oilpaper umbrellas. With a cup of coffee, you can choose to spend an afternoon here, relaxing with a view of the stream of passersby.
Delicious local snacks
When reaching the end of the street, you’ll be tempted by the aroma of delicious local snacks. Here there are many restaurants as well as sidewalk booths offering local snacks that will make your mouth water.
San Da Pao is a distinctive snack of Sichuan Province and is made from sticky rice, brown sugar, sesame, and beans. And the sweet dried persimmon here is also considered a unique reflection of Chengdu. Some other local snacks include rice glueballs, wontons, and boiled dumplings.