To Chengdu, or not to Chengdu?

Photo by Maik Lindner

We are planning on taking the plunge into the unknown. Should we relocate to China? Right now we are considering the city of Chengdu (成都), the capital of the Sichuan (四川) province, known for its spicy food. Chengdu is a city of 4.75 million people with another 6.5 million in its surrounding administrative area.

Map of the City

The city planners of Chengdu, not unlike those of Beijing, laid out the city in concentric circles. Chengdu has three such “ring roads”. The first ring road contains the old part of the city. As the city grew, new construction spread out from the center. To familiarize myself with the city, I made a custom Google Map (see below) and marked all the places of interest to me. Notice all the Starbucks stores! Much to its favor, in my book, the city also has a United States consulate, located in the southern part of city center. Many expatriates live in this area as well. The high-tech zone is further south; so perhaps we should live there.

View Chengdu Map in a larger map

Subway opening in October 2010

Chengdu Metro

Line 1 of the Chengdu Metro is scheduled to open in October 2010. If we move to Chengdu, it’d be great to live near a metro station, especially considering that Chengdu has the third-highest number of cars among Chinese cities and has a horrendous traffic problem. The approximate locations of the Line 1 metro stations are marked above in turqoise markers.

Line 1 of the Chengdu Metro is scheduled to open in October 2010. If we move to Chengdu, it’d be great to live near a metro station.

Check out other maps of the Metro lines:


Chengdu weather is mild. The Qinling Mountains to the north shelter Chengdu from cold northeast winds from Siberia in the winter. Chengdu winter temperatures rarely drop below freezing. The summer is hot but not as bad as the Three Furnaces of China, namely Wuhan, Nanjing and Chongqing. But highs of 85°F is really not bad at all. The one bummer about Chengdu is that it has about the least amount of sunshine per year of all of China (and even less than London). Most days are cloudy even when there isn’t any rain. Locals say that your skin gets really nice and soft as a result of all the humidity. Here is the current weather forecast for Chengdu.

You must have a browser that supports iframes to view the BBC weather forecast


China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection publishes daily air quality data on every city in China. The following is a chart of air quality for April and March 2010.

When looking at the API and Grade figures, lower is cleaner; higher is more polluted. This means sadly that Chengdu is a dirty city. The main pollutant seems to be PM10. This is simply a generic way of saying that the pollution contains very fine particulate matter (less than 10 microns in diameter) which is very small. The smaller the particulate matter, then longer it can stay in the air. In the case of PM10 it will remain in the air for weeks unless there is rain. Larger particles are filtered out by your nose. But PM10 are so fine that they settle in your bronchi and lungs. The smallest particles penetrate not only the lungs but other organs including the brain and can cause similar brain damage as that found in Alzheimer patients.

If we do move to China, one of the first things I will do is purchase an air filtration system for our apartment.

Cost of Living in Chengdu

Apparently its about 64% more expensive to live in Shanghai than Chengdu and 37% more expensive in Beijing. Honolulu is the 25th most expensive city in the world, according to a 2009 report by ECA International. That makes Honolulu just a bit more expensive than Beijing and Shanghai, which ranked 26th and 28th, respectively. The same report ranks Chengdu as the 19th most expensive city in Asia. For comparison, Beijing and Shanghai rank as the 5th and 6th most expensive cities in Asia.

Videos of Chengdu

This video by the popular film director, Zhang Yimou, gives a romantic view of Chengdu, which was named one of China’s top ten most livable cities.

Video of a guy riding his bicycle through Chengdu’s downtown. Give you a nice view of the city. From 2006.

Chengdu Promotional Video

Driving through Chengdu’s Downtown

Chengdu Dialect

The dialect spoken in Chengdu and Sichuan is very different from Mandarin Chinese.

Prison Break in the Sichuan Dialect!

Titanic in Sichuanese!


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  • Chengdu Metro – the first of five lines is opening in the latter part of 2010
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