Chengdu shopping, malls, and boutiques: Everything a westerner needs to know
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Update: April 07, 2022
Chengdu shopping, just like shopping in so many other parts of China, is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of delights.
Now we will cover Chengdu shopping malls in this tribute to commerce, fashion, food, and fads. But more importantly, we’ll also take you down the lesser-known alleys and out-of-the-way alcoves that only Chengdu locals frequent. To visit, one must simply be ‘in the know’. And once you’re done with this article about Chengdu shopping, you will be exactly that.
One caveat though.
You won’t find famous Chengdu food discoveries here. We’ve covered that elsewhere. Yes, it’s true. Chengdu is famous for its food. It just isn’t possible, however, to count the vast array of local Chengdu food specialties like Sichuan peppercorns, pixian doubanjiang (bean paste), chili powder, hot pot soup base, and myriad other famous food snacks. Notwithstanding custom import limitations around foods in many Western countries, we think your bags will be filled with so many other treasures from your Chengdu shopping expeditions, there probably won’t be room for much else.
So, with that out on the table, let’s jump into shopping in Chengdu like a local.
Shopping in Chengdu: Treasures that make beautiful travel memories
Who doesn’t love a good travel treasure from their holidays?
Let’s face it, beautiful travel memories are not only stored in our minds long after the holiday is over. They are frequently things that hang on walls, sit on shelves, or drape across a couch. The ChinaTours.com team is a fan of any travel ‘thing’ that is both beautiful and memorable, and while budget bargains have their place, a unique and delightful treasure is something else entirely. Here’s our list of beautiful take-home travel memories, found only when shopping in Chengdu.
With a remarkable history spanning 2000 years, Sichuan - or Shu - embroidery is one of what’s locally referred to as the ‘Four Famous Embroideries of China’. Together with Suzhou (Su), Hunan (Xiang), and Guangdong (Yue) embroidery, Sichuan embroidery includes over 130 different types of stitches. Originating from the folk people living in the west of Sichuan province, Sichuan embroidery is characterized by meticulous stitching, smooth edges, bright colors, and a silky texture. It typically conveys many images forming part of Sichuan culture, people, and natural motifs, including leaves, flowers, animals, people, mountains, and rivers. Just one carp - a design found on many artworks - can require a month of embroidery and 250,000 stitches.
A delicately fine art, Sichuan embroidery now blends with the practical and can be found on quilts, bed linen, coats, and screens. A small piece of art that can be framed beautifully and adorn a wall or shelf as a treasure to keep your travel memories alive.
In the 17th century, Chengdu was given the moniker, the City of Brocade, a function of the Han dynasty establishing an office in Chengdu to manage brocade production. When you understand just how pivotal Chengdu has been as a manufacturing center of silk brocade for over two thousand years, it’s clear the name City of Brocade fits perfectly.
Shu brocade is the oldest of four brocade styles in China. It is characterized by a variety of delicate, hand-woven patterns in bright colors and soft textures, most of which depict the different flowers, animals, landscapes, and people of the Sichuan province. That said, given Chengdu is home to the panda, it’s hardly a surprise to find the most popular Sichuan brocade design sought after by travelers is, well, that gorgeous black and white bear, the panda.
We’re not overstating things when we say we love pandas. Chengdu is one of our favorite stopovers after all, so it’s impossible to avoid panda paraphernalia; a fact which brings us to a very real Chengdu shopping dilemma.
Because you can’t take home a real panda, it’s necessary to settle for the next best thing: a panda-themed treasure of some description. In Chengdu, you will find every conceivable gizmo and gadget paying commercial homage to pandas, so the sky is pretty much the limit. From stuffed toy pandas to panda phone cases, bookmarks, bags, teacups, keyrings, and postcards, you will find plenty of panda-adorned souvenirs in Chengdu to remember your once-in-a-lifetime encounter with these beloved black-and-white creatures. Want to go all the way? Mail your panda-themed gift home at the Panda Post Office, found of course, only in the home of pandas, Chengdu.
If you’re looking to bring home a unique, hand-crafted gift from Chengdu, consider investing in a unique local handcraft, for which there is no elegant name, so we settled for woven bamboo-covered porcelain. An exquisite handcraft combining two hallmarks of China - bamboo and porcelain - these Chengdu shopping treasures are made by intricately weaving tiny bamboo fibers into intricate patterns around porcelain pieces. Find the most delicate and delightful designs woven onto vases, tea sets, tableware, and stationery. A definite treasure from your Chengdu travels.
First emerging during the Shang and Zhou dynasties around 1600 - 256 BC, lacquer craft really forged its place in Chinese culture during the Han dynasty. So superbly made were these historical pieces that many recovered items retain their beautiful colors, despite being buried hundreds of years in many cases. Chengdu lacquer art is distinctive for its beautiful relief carvings; so distinctive, in large part, because the Sichuan Basin in Chengdu just happens to be the perfect location for lacquer trees to thrive. Lacquer extracted from the trees is a yellow-brown, and to this is added cinnabar to make what is widely recognized as a vibrant ‘China red’ hue.
Expect to pay a hefty price for a genuine Chengdu lacquer piece, so if upwards of thousands is out of your budget, at the very least take time to wander through a lacquer gallery store or two. It’s a totally worthwhile experience if only to gain an appreciation of the skills required to paint, emboss, embed, and polish each piece.
Fun fact about shopping in Chengdu: It takes the gold medal on the podium for the city with the largest number of teahouses in China. By anyone’s admission, a considerable feat indeed. With locals devoted to this healing and restorative beverage, tea is not only a beverage but also a culture within a culture, woven into the daily lives of Chengdu people.
But that’s not all there is to know about Chengdu tea. Sichuan province is one of the places where tea plants originated. Zhuyeqing, a type of green tea produced in Mount E’mei, is one of the most famous teas in Chengdu and all of China. Zhuyeqing is treasured for its long-lasting fragrance, refreshing taste, and health benefits, and favored by locals and travelers alike.
Other famous Sichuan teas include Mengding Ganlu (green tea from Mengding Mountain), Qingcheng Xueya (green tea from Mount Qingcheng), Chuanhong Gongfu (black tea from Yibin), Ya’an Tibetan Tea (dark tea from Ya’an), and Qionglai Heicha (dark tea from Qionglai).
Perhaps the tea best known by Westerners, and always popular with locals, is Jasmine tea, which is green tea with Jasmine petals. Yet another easily transported (and light!) treasure to take home.
Chengdu Markets: Pounding the pavements for bounty and bargains in Chengdu
Markets in China are unlike markets anywhere else in the world. A devoted shopper can expect to find all manner of travel memory treasures for the return trip home, much like ancient travelers trekking the Silk Road centuries previously. Here we’ve highlighted Chengdu’s best markets, so be sure to add these destinations to your shopping itinerary.
Songxianqiao Antique Market
Having first opened its doors in 1998 and conveniently located just a short distance from Sichuan Museum, Songxianqiao is the place in Chengdu for authentic jade jewelry, coins, porcelain artworks, traditional Chinese calligraphy and paintings, and antique Chinese furniture. Expect to while away hours here, exploring the eclectic collection of items that are as curious as to their sellers.
Kowloon Plaza is a relative newcomer among Chengdu’s shopping destinations. Momentously opened in 1997, the year of Hong Kong Handover, the 11-story plaza is a shopping place with both wholesalers and retailers who sell a diverse array of clothing, electronics, suitcases, leather goods, and food. If a bargain is what you love, this is your place.
Daxinan Tea Market
We’ve already talked about the fact that tea is a big deal in China (read up on must-know Chinese tea facts here ), so no need to expand on that here. What you do need to understand, however, is that tea is to China what wine is to France. Tea is so important that it’s traded like other commodities. Today, that trading continues at dedicated tea markets like the Daxinan Tea Market in Chengdu, one of the largest of its kind in southwestern China. Read more
As a visitor here, expect to see shops drying, packaging, and processing tea leaves of every shape and size, as well as wholesalers and retailers selling tea and tea wares - every kind imaginable, from budget to bespoke prices. Although located on Chengdu’s northside, local Chengdu families and businesses make the trek across the city to buy tea of course, and to stock up on any tea-related items.
Among the many food markets throughout Chengdu city providing the daily food needs of locals, Yulin Market is a stand-out example. Selling everything from spices, fruits, dry goods, vegetables, and meat, expect to be inspired - and hungry! With a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, the many food stalls and restaurants are a great option for a meal or two while visiting the area. Yulin Market is also host to some of Chengdu’s most famous and favorite foods.
Hehuachi Wholesale Market
Already famous over 30 years ago, Hehuachi retains its position as one of Sichuan’s biggest bazaars. It is now the destination for wholesale business. It hosts several markets in modern shopping malls, which in China take the form of high rises. Within these commercial meccas, you’ll discover specialty shops and stalls selling everything from clothes, shoes, fabric, homewares, furnishings, toys, daily necessities, handicrafts, and souvenirs. Locals say there is ‘no job too big or small that can’t be satisfied by shopping at Hehuachi. And the bonus? Low prices are not found in regular commercial outlets.
Shopping in Chengdu: Precincts for hardcore shoppers
If you’re the kind of person who can spend a day pounding the pavement, then lace up your walking shoes and prepare for a visit to Chengdu’s major shopping precinct. What you can’t buy here probably doesn’t exist, so come with an empty suitcase (or two perhaps?) and be prepared to shop till you drop.
Located in the city center, the iconic Chunxi Road was built in 1924, it is now the most prosperous shopping district in Chengdu, and is as famous as Wangfujing street in Beijing, Nanjing Road in Shanghai. This commercial shopping street is a must-visit place during a Chengdu trip. There are over 700 shops, including several large and trendy shopping centers and department stores here. Chengdu IFS, Taikoo Li Chengdu, Ito Yokado, and Pacific Sogo Department Store are among the selection. You can also find shops beloved by locals, having endured for generations. Find famous local Chengdu food, jewelry, clocks and watches, glasses, stationery, and way more. Over hundreds of internationally well-known brands launched signature shops here too, so if high-end and luxury is more your thing, you’re well catered for.
Right next to Tianfu Square at Chengdu’s city center is Yanshikou, another prime retail area, with many shopping malls and department stores, catering from high-end to mid-market budgets. The year-round sales promotions in New World Department Store are popular with locals, as is the ‘high street’ clothing at Taihua Clothing City. Accessories and bric-a-brac are in plentiful supply on Ranfang Street, another popular shopping destination for local Chengdu people. Rumor has it that a new business precinct will emerge here soon, along with Chengdu’s first duty-free shop.
Jinli & Kuanzhai Alleys
As the most popular tourist destinations in Chengdu city, Jinli and Kuanzhai Alleys are ‘one stop’ destinations for tourists wanting an experience of local culture, food, and shopping. There’s an abundance of Chengdu souvenirs to be found here, so stock up on take-home gifts like Shu embroidery, panda-themed knick-knacks, ceramics, Sichuan opera masks, and more.
Jianshe Road Area
Perhaps Chengdu’s most famous and popular food street is Jianshe Road. There’s only one rule here: Arrive hungrily! This area has morphed to become the commercial center of east Chengdu, so in addition to the incredible food, other highlights in this district are shopping at INCITY, Wangfujing Discovery, Vanke Diamond Square, and SM City. For something different, visit 339 TV Tower, then wander through Mengzhuiwan for all kinds of boutiques and small shops.
Tianfu Er Jie (Tianfu 2nd Street)
Regarded as the heart of south Chengdu, Tianfu Er Jie has it all when it comes to commercial, residential, and leisure needs. There are over nine business hubs in this area, including Ito-Yokado, Shihao Square, Lu Zhou Li, and Fucheng International Plaza, each offering something different. Many shops have ‘merged’ in the beautiful Dayuan Central Park, which is located close by.
Wuhouci Heng Street
Located in the main Tibetan quarter in Chengdu, just opposite the Wuhou Shrine and very close to Jinli, this small street is home to all things Tibetan. Why? Because Chengdu is the main transit point in China between Tibet and the Central Plains. Wander through tiny shops selling ritual items of significance in Tibetan Buddhism: traditional clothing, rugs, medicine, books, and musical instruments and recordings. Why not take time for a traditional Tibetan meal while you’re here? It’s a little like stepping into a tiny part of Tibet here, not least because the office of the Tibet Autonomous Region is located on Wuhouci Heng Street and most business owners and residents on this street are Tibetan people.
Chengdu Shopping Malls (including the largest Chengdu shopping mall)
With well over a billion and a half people calling China home, you could say they’ve mastered the art of creating shopping destinations that cater to the many different tastes and preferences of its people. Shopping malls are in plentiful supply in Chengdu. So too are big shopping malls. In fact, China can boast about Chengdu. The largest shopping mall is just one to consider on your visit to this city of shopping.
Taikoo Li Chengdu
Taikoo Li Chengdu
Opened in April 2015, Taikoo Li Chengdu is a unique shopping complex in the city center of Chengdu. Very close to Chunxi Road, the low-rise complex of traditional Chinese gray brick buildings covers an area of over 110,000 square meters, mixing shopping, dining, a boutique hotel, live performances, workplaces in the creative setting of courtyards, squares, streets, and alleys. Besides luxury brands, high-end fashion, and lifestyle stores, the famous Fangsuo Commune Bookstore and Muji can be found here. As the book and stationery lovers, we can’t go past these without a visit. The 1600-year-old Daci Temple is thoughtfully preserved as part of the complex, while another six heritage buildings have been transformed into different functional venues in the complex.
Regarded as an outstanding landmark of Chengdu city, Chengdu IFS was opened in 2014 and is now perhaps the premier luxury shopping destination in Chengdu. A gigantic panda sculpture adorns the main entrance, a feature that makes IFS one of the city’s popular modern attractions too. The nine-floor shopping mall houses over 600 shops and services, including flagship stores and the largest regional stores of many high-profile luxury brands.
In 1997, Japan’s Ito Yokado Co. opened the doors to its first international department store on Chunxi Road in Chengdu. There are now seven other Ito Yokado stores throughout Chengdu due to the success of the original store. Locals love visiting Ito Yokado because of its quality service, premium products, convenient fresh food market, and fashionable shopping environment.
Created as an ‘eco-city’, Chengdu MixC is an upmarket complex with indoor and outdoor shopping and entertainment. Its design features lush landscapes and a green terraced layout. The picturesque layout that integrates environmental features is really a reflection of the leisurely lifestyle enjoyed by Chengdu locals. After the opening of stage two in December 2020, Chengdu MixC has joined the growing number of enormous commercial precincts in Chengdu. A highlight for locals - and perhaps some international travelers - is the inclusion of western food chains in the food offerings, with Taco Bell from the US, Canadian-born Tim Hortons, and Habanero Tree Tex-Mex Grill.
New Century Global Center (Chengdu’s largest shopping mall)
New Century Global Center (Chengdu’s largest shopping mall)
The eye-catching New Century Global Center is a city within itself, featuring an opulent luxury interior. Located in south Chengdu, this huge mall is arguably the largest single building in the world. Opened in 2013, it is both a shopping and entertainment destination. For those traveling with families, there’s even a children’s carnival that includes a water fun park.
Located at Tianfu Square, the center of the city, Chengdu Tianfuhong is not a regular shopping center with high-end fashion brands. Rather, it is a ‘young shopping center’, catering to generation Z and young people who love ACGN culture (for those who don’t know, that’s an acronym for animation, comics, games, and novels).
With a creative interior design - each floor has a different theme and features boutiques, stores made famous by the internet, cafes, and restaurants. Lolita JK Cosplay costume and Han-style clothing stores are discoverable here, along with seemingly countless other small retailers.
For those looking for something a little unusual and quirky, head to level seven. It’s here you’ll step back in time to local Chengdu life in the seventies and eighties with restored items and replicas. Since its opening in late 2021, Chengdu Tianfuhong has quickly become a popular spot for locals wanting to profile themselves on social media. For an insight into the culture of young Chinese today, make your way here. A local tip? Sit back and watch life go by.