Heading home for a visit? It’s always tricky to try and identify some things that help sum up your experiences in Chengdu and translate well into gifts for friends and family back home. Maybe even harder to find something that doesn’t break the bank, or that fits neatly in a suitcase. We’ve done our best to compile our list of top souvenirs from Chengdu, that will give a peek into your time here for those in your motherland.
Tea: Zhu Ye Qing
Tea can seem like an obvious, even typical gift, but most teas like Oolong, have nothing to do with Sichuan. Bamboo Leaf Tea (Zhu Ye Qing) is locally produced green tea that’s leaves are long and thin like bamboo leaves. Unique in shape, it also glows brightly and stays suspended in water when steeped. It’s local, looks great and has a very particular, slightly bitter taste. While the brand Zhu Ye Qing is packaged sexily, and priced mid-range, it is also a style and can be bought loose leaf or in simple packages at any tea shop in the city.
Mini Tea Set
The tea set is classic, but in a good way. It looks good, its sufficiently Chinese, and is functional. Mini tea sets can be bought from less than 100RMB at ceramics shops around the city but there are a host of them near the Lotus Market on XiaoJiaCun 3 Street. They come boxed up and safe for travel and in an array of shapes colors and designs. If your family doesn’t love drinking tea, the mini-cups also double pretty nicely as fancy shot glasses.
Hot Pot and Baijiu Party
Nothing says Chengdu like hot pot and baijiu – bring a piece of that back for your friends to enjoy! Packaged hot pot sauce can be easily bought at markets and department stores around the city – simply mix with a soup stock and add whatever ingredients you want, and voila, Hot pot in Honolulu! And nothing makes it a party like Baijiu, just skip the Er Guo Tou, (and the punishment of your friends) and buy something from Sichuan in the 100RMB range. Your tastebuds and your hometown buds will thank you. We recommend a Strong Aroma Baijiu in that price range from Luzhou LaoJiao or SheDe distilleries. FenGu also produces cheap baijiu, that aren’t as good, but have nice bottles, which counts for something.
China has a sizable Tibetan population, and its culture is present throughout the city. Anyone who has traveled to west Sichuan has experienced this more directly, though you may have been skeptical at the ‘tourist’ prices for Tibetans souvenirs. The Tibetan Quarter near WuHouCi is actually one of the more dependable & reasonably priced places to purchase Tibetan silks, jackets and beads. Check the small shops, filled with local Tibetans and pay attention to the prices they are paying. Be aware that there are options with real gold and precious gems which actually retail for thousands of dollars, but you don’t need those to make a good impression.
Not everything you get has to scream China like ceramic teapots or sweaty hot pots. While brand name tech here is expensive, domestic brands are becoming increasingly competitive product wise, and sell for a fraction of their western counterparts. We highly recommend the MiFit, from XiaoMi, which is basically a FitBit for a quarter of the price. They make super cheap, high quality phone battery packs as well. China is techy-too, and its not just components.
Curios and Propaganda Posters
If you want to get some classic knick-knacks and curios, propaganda posters, or your names carved onto a seal (stone seal that is), check out the antique markets and SongXianQiao or LuoMaJiari Plaza. Prices will vary widely, so you may need to bargain but the sheer variety will leave options for all budgets.
Photos by Jake Homovich. Article by Jordan Porter.
More information from Sichuan food expert, food writer and founder of Chengdu Food Tours can be found at jordan@ chengdufoodtours.com