Culture is a city's soul and signals its presence to the world. With 4,500 years of civilization and 2,300 years of construction, the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu is renowned for its unique cultural heritage, its aesthetic of lifestyle and its commitment to becoming a world renowned city of culture.
A rich place described as a "Land of Abundance", Chengdu's flourishing culture has attracted great poets like Li Bai, Du Fu, and Lu You, who have left behind a treasure trove of fabulous poetry.
In October, the second staging of the Chengdu International Poetry Week, themed "Chengdu and Paris - Poetry of Two Cities", attracted more than 100 poets from some 30 countries and regions including China, France, Austria and Germany. They visited Du Fu's thatched cottage and participated in a variety of activities such as poetry readings, forums and campfire parties to experience the passion of Chengdu and the elegance of Paris.
"I have been to many countries and many charming cities in the world. If you ask me which cities in the world have the closest relationship with poetry, or which cities themselves are part of poetry, I will not hesitate to tell you that they are Paris in France and Chengdu in China," said Jidi Majia, vice-chairman of the Chinese Writers Association.
French poet Yvon le Men, who was attending the poetry week for the second time, is a die-hard fan of ancient Chinese poet Du Fu. "My feelings for Chengdu are because of my love for Du Fu, and I have written a book about Du Fu's thatched cottage," he said.
In Le Men's mind, Chengdu and Paris have much in common. "Both cities have profound historical heritage and are home to many internationally renowned writers," he said.
He also spoke highly of Chengdu's beautiful environment, adding: "My hometown was also beautiful when I was a child, gorgeous and poetic."
John Howkins, British author and expert on the creative industry, who took part in the 2018 World Cities Culture (Tianfu) Symposium held in Chengdu in June, said: "Chengdu has a special position in Chinese people's minds, which combines historical culture, traditional lifestyle and modern development.
"I believe that Chengdu will increasingly present the best of Chinese lifestyle, culture, creativity and business to the world in future," Howkins said.
The gathering, held for the first time in Chengdu, attracted representatives from 22 member cities of the World Cities Culture Forum - the organizer of the symposium, and nine cities involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as about 400 representatives of leading creative cultural institutes and international celebrities.
Founded in 2012, the World Culture Cities Forum is a leading think tank on culture with 38 members including London, New York, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.
In August 2017, during the Sichuan-Hong Kong-Macao Cooperation Week held in Hong Kong, Chengdu was named as a member of the forum, becoming the third member from the Chinese mainland. In just one year Chengdu became the host city of the high prestige event.
During the forum, the Belt and Road World Culture Cities Center was established in Chengdu. Under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and Chengdu's free trade pilot zone, the city will deepen cooperation with world-class cities in industries such as culture-related technology, fashion design, travel and exhibitions, sports and food.
Chengdu has direct flights to more than half of the members of the World Cities Culture Forum including Paris, Moscow, Madrid, Vienna, Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, and has built friendly and cooperative relationships with those and other member cities.
On Sept 25, Chengdu held a convention on how it intends to build itself up as a unique world culture city. During the event, the city announced its goal of becoming a world city renowned for its creative culture, tourism and sports, as well as a famous place for food, music and events.
Yang Jirui, president of Jinsha Think Tank and president of the Chengdu Social Science Association, said: "The reason Chengdu has earned its place in the history of the world's development, is that Tianfu culture, or the culture of the Chengdu Plain, played a key role." In his opinion, Tianfu culture will enable Chengdu to become a world city of culture.
Zhang Zhian, dean of the School of Communication and Design at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said: "I could visit Chengdu five to six times a year and get new experiences from each visit."
He said the culture of Chengdu is entwined with its daily life, and visitors are now able to gradually feel the cultural spirit of the city, which is the greatest asset of Chengdu in its quest to become a world city of culture.
Zhang said that the overall strengths of Chengdu, especially in terms of its economy and technology, has been upgraded in all aspects, making a good foundation for promoting the city's culture.
According to the city's latest development plan, 38 international sports competitions, 60 international music events and 85 internationally recognized conventions will be regularly held in Chengdu by 2035. The proportion of the added GDP value of Chengdu's cultural and creative industries will surpass 18 percent. The annual number of inbound tourists is expected to exceed 10 million and food consumption will account for 15 percent of total consumer retail sales.