Our stay for a week in Anren Town, Chengdu was a pleasant surprise and very interesting. Our 48 day trip through China was fairly busy. Our master retirement plan is to travel the world slowly, spending months in each area or city. However, in China we spent only a week in most cities, so there was a lot of moving around. We planned a week in Anren Town mostly because it had a brand new Four Points by Sheraton Hotel that required us to redeem only 3000 points per night. The room rate if we had paid for it rather than using points was only $42 USD per night. It is a resort hotel and just looked like a great place to chill for a week at a very low cost. We had already spent a week in downtown Chengdu, but decided to spend an extra week at this resort about an hour out of town.
It became clear to me even before we got there that it was not a popular destination for Western tourists. In Chengdu, we told our guide that we were going to stay at the Anren Town Sheraton Four Points. He was familiar with the hotel, but politely asked, “What made you decide to go to Anren Town? I think you will probably be the first Westerners to stay in that hotel.”
After we arrived at the hotel, we were walking around checking out the facilities when we met the General Manager in the hallway. He greeted us in perfect English and asked if he could help us. We said we had just checked in and were just exploring the hotel. He too asked us, “What made you choose this hotel?” You could tell he was surprised to see Westerners in the hotel.
Anren Ancient Town as it is called, is about 40km from Chengdu City. It is a popular area for Chinese tourists and has three major draws:
- Lui’s Manor, Mansion and Museum
- Ancient Streets
- Jianchuan Museum Cluster
The town is quiet during the week, however on the weekend it fills up with out of town visitors, many just coming out for the day.
Lui’s Manor, Mansion and Museum were formerly owned by Lui Wencai. It is an interesting complex of buildings and “mansions” that were fully completed in the 1930’s. Here is what was interesting to us; the official documentation and signage at the museum describes these buildings as being owned by the “cruel Landlord Lui Wencai.” He died in 1949, when the revolution occured. He is vilified in most literature and the museum, mansion and manor are used to show the despicable way that landlords oppressed the peasants before the revolution. However, our guide in Chengdu the week before told us that the manor complex was used in Mao’s time to “brainwash people.” I got the impression that our guide didn’t believe the official explanation and vilification of Lui Wencai and the manor complex.
Nevertheless, the Manor, Mansion and Museum was very interesting and had many artifacts from the 1930s and earlier. Not many people spoke English in the museums, or the whole town for that matter, and the English signage was somewhat limited, so we inferred things or tried to decipher what Google Translate came up with on many exhibits.
The Ancient Streets. The town traces its roots back to the Tang dynasty (618-970AD), however most of the town is restored to what it looked like in the 1930s. An electric streetcar makes a route through the town. The streets are filled with food stalls, boutique shops, museums and shops selling food and condiments unique to Sichuan province. There is lots and lots of hot sauce being sold, Sichuan province is known for spicy food. There is a large numismatic museum and a couple of film museums throughout the streets.
Off the three main Ancient Streets, there are numerous shops selling Chinese antique furniture, huge stone statues, stone pots and rockery. It was kind of interesting just walking around looking at all the cool stuff.
The Jianchuan Museum Cluster was very interesting as well. There are 15 museums in the cluster making this the largest museum cluster in all of China with over 8 million artifacts. The museums cover four main themes:
- Second Sino – Japanese War (1937-1945) – when the Japanese occupied and brutalized China
- Red Era – from the revolution of 1949 to about the 1970s – lots of Mao artifacts and propaganda
- Wenchuan Earthquake – this 2008 earthquake killed over 69,000 people in Sichuan province
- Folklore and Culture
We spent the full day there and probably saw about half of the exhibits, but then again, we love museums and tend to take longer than most people to visit a museum.
Our stay in Anren Town was very pleasant, relaxing and interesting. Although it is not on the radar of most Western tourists, it was a great experience for us.