It’s a Monday night in Chengdu’s Taikoo Li district and the outdoor shopping complex is heaving with keen shoppers. Millennials dressed in frayed denim jeans and breezy cotton shirts stream out of Muji and Marimekko, bulging shopping bags in hand. Polished young women snap selfies outside a cult Korean toy store while others enjoy afternoon tea on the outdoor terrace of Mi Xun Teahouse, a trendy vegetarian lunch spot and teahouse. To an outsider, it appears as though everyone’s on vacation. But for the people of Chengdu, this is simply the way of life. “People here don’t take life too seriously,” says Kurt Macher, general manager of the Temple House, a hotel that is arguably the slickest in the city. “They are very open-minded and cool,” he continues. Looking at the young adults sashaying around the Taikoo Li district in bold outfits and oversized mirror sunglasses, ‘cool’ is certainly a good way to describe the people of Chengdu. When it comes to fashion, few rules apply. “People here want new things. Unlike places like New York, they haven’t seen it all,” says Macher.
Mi Xun Teahouse.
Photo: Courtesy of Mi Xun Teahouse
Chengdu has perennially been one of China’s more progressive cities – a place where, historically, many cultures gathered. It has always fused tradition with modernization and had a humanistic outlook. But it was after the 2008 earthquake, when many experienced devastating losses, that locals really began to realize that life can be short and started living for the ‘now’. People began rapidly accommodating indulgences and spending money more freely (something that is evident when you see the mega luxe stores like Hermès and Louis Vuitton).“In the past five to ten years, there have been so many changes in infrastructure,” says Fansack, the millennial Chengdu-born, Paris-based street artist. Fansack is part of what he considers the first generation of street artists born in Chengdu. “The changes have been crazy quick!” he says. Although Fansack is now based in Paris, he has strong creative ties to Chengdu and is responsible for the large astronaut mural that occupies a giant wall in the Taikoo Li district, which attracts Instagrammers by the busload.
Chengdu’s Taikoo Li district.