TEA HOUSES 茶馆
A wide-spreading joke states: if Chengdu possesses second most teahouses per capita, no other city in the world dares to declare the top position.
There are congregation spots all over Chengdu for storytellers and elderly people with good memories. Some of the best places include People's Park and nearby Kuanxiangzi on Sundays. Teahouses here tend to fill up early and stay occupied until the sun sets and the park closes.
On Renmin Road heading south out of the city, overpasses give shade to a variety of tea and opera houses that get crowded on the weekends, with families taking strolls or passing away the day playing mahjong and cracking sunflower seeds. The antique market near Songxianqiao fills up with old residents of Chengdu who will gladly tell a story for a cup of jasmine tea, or provide guided tours if necessary.
Wangjiang Park on the banks of the Jinjiang River is a perfect location for a storytelling session on a bright summer day - there is even a cruise up and down the river offered near the park for stories better told in private.
Virtually any teahouse in the city is a potential source for myths, legends and tall tales about the ancient city of Chengdu and the deeds of its various residents. Local storytellers are only too happy to spin yarns - "bai long men zhen" in Sichuan dialect - about their hometown. All you need is a good local translator, a cup of tea and some time.
Mosts traditional Sichuan teahouses are on the fringes of Chengdu and even further out in the countryside in Wenjiang, Shuangliu and Dayi counties and nearby Ya'an in Hong Ya and Gao Miao.
In Chengdu, there are still a few spots to drink tea that combine the traditional atmosphere with beauty and style, such as Heming teahouse in the People's Park. This teahouse is crowded most weekends with card-playing Sichuanese and a scattering of performers and artisans selling their services, including palm-reading.
Both the Wu Hou Ci (the Shrine of Marquis Wu) and Wen Shu Yuan temple house serene teahouses where one can contemplate the exploits of Sichuan's most famous schemer, Zhuge Liang, or China's most serene addition to the world's religions, Zen Buddhism.
At the Badiao Teahouse in south Chengdu, one can enjoy a variety of Sichuan specialties. In the Huang Cheng Lao Ma building, the teahouse is attached to the Hot Pot Restaurant. Huang Cheng Lao Ma is the work of one of Chengdu's preeminent art lovers and admirer of old styles.