China’s “Capital of Fun”: Why You Should Visit #ytsummer Host City Chengdu

This coming July, the Youth Time International Movement will host the International Youth Summer School under the theme of “Bridge Capital and Technology: Corporations along the Silk Road, Innovation in Entrepreneurship” in the urban heart of Western China: the city of Chengdu. Compared with metropolitan areas such as Beijing or Shanghai, Chengdu remains relatively unknown outside of China. It is famous among locals, however, as China’s “capital of fun”, “the city that yearns for you day and night”, “the best Chinese city to live in”, or “the hidden paradise of snack food”. As the summer school is getting closer, it’s time to see why we have chosen Chengdu.  

Feel comfortable and enjoy life as much as possible

The first key word you should know in connection with Chengdu is “Bashi”.  This sounds similar to the English word “Bus”, but it’s a slang term in the local dialect that means to feel comfortable and to enjoy life as much as possible. Unlike the well-known stereotypes of the hard-working Chinese, Chengdu and its citizens have cultivated a unique local culture where living with intensity or maintaining a fast-changing pace is an almost completely unknown concept. Instead, the philosophy in Chengdu is to go slowly to enjoy each day, and a penchant for leisure is widely shared in this city. While “voluntary” overtime work is common among young people in Beijing or Shanghai, with a high degree of social pressure to earn as much money as possible and as fast as possible, peers in Chengdu care more for a nice evening drinking in local bars, getting lost among the street food vendors, or diving into Mahjong, a Chinese card game that you will find in every single alley in Chengdu. When they say something is “Bashi”, that’s the highest compliment you can expect from locals.

Traditional Sichuan Street Food in Chengdu

Finding the inner peace

Another word that is similar to “Bashi” is “Anyi”. It also describes the local gift for fun, but it’s more often used to show how satisfied a person is, and the spirit of making fun of everything, including oneself. Chengdu is a city that teaches people how to “let it go” and find inner peace with a sense of humor and flexibility. It presents a perfect picture of a post-reform Chinese city, which the famous luxury magazine Elle describes as “tolerant, easy-going and not parochial, not too stubborn”. People in Chengdu have an innate sense of humor; and when a girl dates a boy, the most important criterion is if the boy is humorous enough to make the girl feel “anyi”, even to sacrifice himself as a joke if necessary. In this sense, Chandler from the series Friends would have been much more popular than Joey in Chengdu.

You may find the spirit of “Bashi” or “Anyi” in Chengdu’s relaxed style of music, which bears the same name as the city, Chengdu:

A new youth capital

In recent years, Chengdu has lived up to its name as “new youth capital” as more and more young people have settled there, making it the 6thfavorite destination for Chinese young adults. One of the main reasons is its tolerance. Ellepublished its special edition Elle ai Chengdu(Elle loves Chengdu) when it chose this city as a new strategic territory to expand into, in 2006. It was the first time that the international fashion media giant chose a city to create a fashion icon. Chengdu is known for an inclusive attitude, a place where people never hesitate to embrace all that is new, sometimes even abnormal stuff. It thus offers a great environment for fashion, innovation, and youth culture.  Chengdu’s winning bid for hosting The World Games 2025 is a good example. If you understand the huge imbalance in development between the east coast and western interior of China, you’ll see what an unbelievable achievement Chengdu has accomplished to become the only city in Western China that ranks TOP 10 in almost all the established criteria to attract young people.

Home of Kungpao

It’s impossible to talk about Chengdu without mentioning its street food. In China there are 8 regional cuisines, and Sichuan cuisine is the best known one. You may not find Beijing Duck everywhere, but you will definitely find Kungpao chicken, originated in Sichuan, in all the cities and almost all the Chinese restaurants on other continents. As the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu collects all the best of Sichuan cuisine, and the dishes are delicious and diverse beyond your imagination. From big hot pot to small Dan Dan noodles, from Ms. Spicy tofu to chili oil wontons, you can’t imagine how creative and incredible people are in making spicy, oily food so fresh and various in this UNESCO city of gastronomy. Of course there are good fancy restaurants, but the best dishes in Chengdu are always the street food hidden in local side streets and alleys. From May 15thto May 22th this year, Chengdu will also host the Panda Asian Food Festival to introduce the proudest part of its heritage to the world

Leshan Giant Buddha

“Green path from heaven”

Apart from all these attractive features, Chengdu is green. It’s the home city of many natural miracles, among which pandas are the most representative. As the lowest basin in a province full of high mountains or plateaus, Chengdu has been kissed by god and is surrounded by splendid natural scenery. In a 2-hour excursion, you can easily reach absolutely amazing views such as Mount Emei – one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China, Mount Qingcheng – one of Taoism’s birthplaces, and a 71-metre tall stone statue, the Leshan Giant Buddha. Besides, this 14000-square-kilometer city has built a “green path from heaven” project that is over 16.9 thousand kilometers long in its inner city. It’s able to cover every per square kilometer of Chengdu with over 1 kilometer length of trees, parks and canals.

Giant panda

“Bashi”, “anyi”, young and inclusive, fantastic feast of food, and green, all these make Chengdu a great place that you HAVE TO go. So our summer school offers you a great opportunity to explore innovation and youth culture in the heart of Western China. What are you still waiting for?

Photos: Shutterstock