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Teahouses

For the typical Chengdu experience, go to Qingyang Gong or Wenshu Yuan monasteries. For something trendier, Chengdu has upmarket teahouses for the connoisseur or connoisseur-in-training. The best of the bunch is Guanghe Chalou, on the river at Linjiang Zhong Lu 16 (tel. 028/8550-1688). Rattan chairs, palm trees, lots of large potted plants, and blondwood lend a clean, spalike atmosphere to this teahouse. The Chinese/English menu has pages of teas, some medicinal or therapeutic, others special for the locale in which they're grown. Under "Teas for Women" are "Aloe Beauty Face Tea," "Heart Tea," and "Chinese Yew Tea for Lady." A small pot of "Rose Love Things" is ¥48, but my favorite is always Wulong, of which there are many kinds. The best come from the high mountains of Taiwan and Fujian Province. A pot of tea costs ¥38 to ¥68. The teahouse is open from 9am to midnight.

The Ways of Tea -- In the 8th-century Classic of Tea, author and tea sage Lu Yu says that there are "nine ways by which man must tax himself when he deals with tea."

1. He must manufacture it.

2. He must develop a sense of selectivity and discrimination about it.

3. He must provide the proper implements.

4. He must prepare the right kind of fire.

5. He must select a suitable water.

6. He must roast the tea to a turn.

7. He must grind it well.

8. He must brew it to its ultimate perfection.

9. He must, finally, drink it.

In modern China, there are still many ways to drink tea, from the highly ritualized, heavy-on-equipage style prescribed by Lu Yu, to the style favored on long-distance trains (toss a pinch of tea leaves into a glass jar with a screw-top and keep adding water and drinking until you reach your destination). The Chengdu way doesn't use a teapot or a glass jar: The typical setting is the riverside, a park, or temple grounds -- in an outdoor teahouse with bamboo tables and chairs. Here, patrons sip tea from 3-ounce cups that sit on saucers small enough to rest in the palm of the hand while protecting it from the heat of the cup. A lid keeps the tea hot and can be used to sweep aside tea leaves that rise to the top as you drink. Melon seeds, boiled peanuts, or dried squid are typical snack accompaniments.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.