Photographs taken in Chengdu, Sichuan province, in the mid-1980s, when I lived, studied and taught at Sichuan University. Most of the old urban fabric is gone now. It was an intimate and intricate city once, and, if one paid attention to detail, one could still detect traces of interesting slices of the past, imperial, Republican or socialist-revolutionary. With the Cultural Revolution barely a decade past, some of the people encountered in the streets or teahouses still had a traumatized air about them. Unlike Shanghai, it was evident that individuals and instititions were still in a state of suspicion when it came to dealing with strangers, including foreigners. The term neidi (the "interior of the country") was frequently used to explain this less than open attitude.
On the other hand, Chengdu was Deng Xiaoping's home turf, and his call for economic reform was implemented here much earlier than in any city north of the Yangzi. A meal for five in a privately owned restaurant (and there were many of them) near campus was the equivalent to about $3, including a bottle of Green-Leaf beer. New zoning regulations, transportation and new housing would soon wipe the old neighborhoods clean, with only a few pockets deemed worth preserving, mainly around the Buddhist Wenshuyuan and the Taoist Qingyanggong temples. Signs of wholesale displacement were already in evidence back in 1985. Though often lacking in opportunity, in sanitation and contemporary amenities, in the old streets, for a short while, life seemed good.
Additional note: By and large, Chengdu was a car-less, walkable city back then.
Equipment used: Nikon & Leica with manual-focus lenses. Film scanned on Epson 4990 and processed in Lightroom 3.2.
Thomas H. Hahn
© Thomas H. Hahn Docu-Images