If your Chengdu tour happens to include the Wuhou Temple, you may wonder why there are so many Tibetan Buddhist monks in the neighborhood. Every other man, it would seem, is clad in the burgundy robes of the Buddhist clergy. Yet it may surprise you even more to find out that they have nothing to do with the Temple - so why are there so many?
The answer is that the area around Wuhou Temple has become Chengdu's de facto Tibetan quarter. Many Tibetans come to Chengdu from the Kham areas of western Sichuan, the Amdo areas of northern Sichuan, Qinghai province, and even as far as Lhasa, Tibet!
Many Tibetans come to Chengdu for schooling or medical care, as well as for a number of other reasons, and once here, resourceful Tibeans have taken to imparting Wuhou neighborhood (called Wuhouci) with an authentic Tibetan feel that cannot be found anywhere else in Chengdu. The Wuhou area is without a doubt the epicenter of Tibetan congregation and culture in the city!
Along the streets of the Tibetan Quarter, there are stores selling Tibetan scarves (a piece of silk used as a greeting gift among Tibetans), incense, and a number of different Buddhist idols and religious implements. There is also traditional Tibetan clothing and and jewelry for sale, as well as a authentic Tibetan restaurants lining the streets.
Almost all the shops in the neighborhood have signage in both Mandarin Chinese and Tibetan script, as well as typical Tibetan decorations, such as idols and mantra flags, giving a bona fide Tibetan ambience. The neighborhood bears the indelible mark of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibet's colorful culture, even in the heart of ultra-modern Chengdu, China!
If you don't have to time to visit Tibet but still want to experience authentic Tibetan culture, come tour Chengdu, China! Wander around the Tibetan quarter at Wuhou Temple, try out a Tibetan restaurant - just ask for a cup of butter tea or a yak pie(!), and pick up one or two Tibetan handcrafts as mementos from your China travels.
Or, if you are feeling more adventurous, stay a few extra days and take the train from Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet! China train travel is one of the best way to see this vast country, and nowhere moreso than traveling up to the Tibetan plateau by rail.
Trekking Tibet is a phenomenal adventure. If time doesn't afford you the opportunity, experience the next best thing - Tibetan culture on your Chengdu tour!