When Qin Dynasty traders started selling baldachin cloth on Jinli Street in 220 B.C. they set in motion a chain of events which would turn Jinli into the busiest commercial hub in the city of Chengdu. Known as “The First Street of the Shu Kingdom” for its commercial activity during the “Three Kingdoms Period” (221-263), the boulevard now known as Jinli Ancient Street was recently restored in 2004 in an effort to return it to its former glory.
Running for 382 yards just east of the Wuhou Memorial Temple, the green flagstone of Jinli Ancient Street weaves a pedestrian thoroughfare teeming with local Chengdu merchants and traditional Sichuan architecture. In a nod to the lengthy history of the boulevard many shopkeepers and street merchants continue to dress in a traditional Sichuan style in an effort to fuse the modern elements of Chengdu with ancient Sichuan custom and design. For many visitors it’s one of the easiest places in Chengdu to feel as if you’ve stepped directly back in time.
In the evening hours the street is illuminated by rows of Chinese lanterns and a public stage showcases performances of Sichuan opera and shows of shadow puppets. Rich in Sichuan folk arts, Jinli Street is the perfect spot for picking up some handmade clay figurines, traditional Chinese instruments or local snacks ranging from wontons and fried dumplings to deep fried bugs on a stick. Best known as the “old town” shopping district of Chengdu, Jinli Ancient Street is a peek into the lives of traders and merchants who have been hawking their wares on this street for over 2,000 years.