Today’s official business did not get started until the evening so we had the day to take a little more city culture in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, in the heart of China. This country is simply awash in its newfound riches with intense new construction everywhere balanced against its traditional past. Here we saw it in downtown Chengdu as we strolled through the malls which featured one high scale retailer after another that puts Newbury Street to shame.
This visit brought an unexpected treat as hanging off the Prada building was this monument to the emblem of the province, the Panda.
Then, if you take the elevator to the rooftop of the mall, you walk out onto the terrace to greet him face-to-face.
Heading back to ground level, a stroll past the Gucci shop will take you to the 1600-year old Daci Buddhist Temple. The grounds are just big enough to take you from the bustle outside, especially as you smell the burning incense and the soothing rhythm of the chant.
Upon entry to the temple we were greeted with a reminder of why so many families in China look to send their students to the United States. There was a series of draped prayer intention cards near a particular tree. Our host identified this one immediately and, roughly translated, it states “Please let me son do well on the Gaoako (the national college entrance test) so he can get into a good university.”
From the Daci Temple, we headed down to the more traditional markets of Chengdu, a place alive with souvenir shops and street food. As should not surprise a reader of this blog, the fare ranged from the pedestrian, a delicious fry bread and some of the best ribbon fries ever; to the curious, a guy throwing dough balls against some flavored flour like a drum; to the downright absurd, fried rabbit head (warning the following picture is not for the squeamish).
During the evening, we finally had another student interview event and we met with some strong students. I interviewed one prospective ninth grader who, like our students, read To Kill a Mockingbird, this year. As he analyzed the text, I could picture Ms. Bois and Mrs. Adams smiling.
This was our last night in Chengdu and what a time we had. As a final treat, we had dinner at a local “BBQ” restaurant. The orders were fairly tame and most things helpfully came on a stick. But it wouldn’t be Chengdu without one last culinary curveball. We ordered the whole roasted chicken, and well, it was whole:
Tomorrow we head further south to Kuming, which is near the Chinese border with Vietnam.
Farewell Chengdu. Hope everyone is well back home.