Tourism Resource and Ecotourism

Protection and Tourism Development of Cultural Heritage of Place Names in Chengdu, China

  • ZHOU Wenying ,
  • LIU Qiongying , *
  • Leshan Vocational and Technical College, Leshan, Sichuan 614000, China
* LIU Qiongying, E-mail:

ZHOU Wenying, E-mail:

Received date: 2021-06-20

  Accepted date: 2022-01-22

  Online published: 2022-10-12

Supported by

The Soft Science Project of Sichuan Department of Science and Technology(2019JDR0260)


Place names that contain rich regional cultural connotations are “living fossils” of history and culture, and they are of great tourist value. Taking the main urban area of Chengdu City as an example, this paper analyzes the cultural characteristics and connotations of place names, as well as their tourist values. This value is believed to mainly include stimulating tourists' interest in traveling, presenting local tourism features, enhancing the travel experience of the visitors and serving the tourism economy. Then this paper discusses the problems of place name cultural heritage and puts forward the tourism development strategies for Chengdu's place name culture. Such strategies could include establishing a tourism place name system of Chengdu scenic spot names, using place names in the restoration and development of ancient scenery, combining place names with food tourism resources and high-quality tourism commodities, developing cultural and creative products related to Chengdu place names, strengthening the theoretical discussion on Chengdu place name culture and conducting dissemination activities for Chengdu place name culture.

Cite this article

ZHOU Wenying , LIU Qiongying . Protection and Tourism Development of Cultural Heritage of Place Names in Chengdu, China[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2022 , 13(6) : 1109 -1115 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2022.06.015

1 Introduction

The name of a place contains rich regional cultural connotations, which represent a historical witness and cultural heritage of the region, and place name culture is a significant part of Chinese traditional culture (Yue and Tian, 2012). As the carrier of urban culture, urban place names have a wealth of urban information. The outings, shopping, traveling and other activities of residents are all related to certain communities, buildings, streets, etc (Ji et al., 2015). As a famous historical and cultural city, and an excellent tourist city in China, Chengdu has a profound place name culture (Hu, 2010). In 2016, the Historical Place Name Protection Directory of Downtown Chengdu was released to the public. One thousand seven historical place names in Chengdu have been excavated, but many more have faded or disappeared. At present, Chengdu is being developed as a world tourist destination and the world's cultural city, and its place name, Chengdu, has undoubtedly become a unique business card. This can provide foreign tourists with a deeper and better understanding of the long traditional Chinese history and rich culture while visiting Chengdu. It can also play a positive role in establishing the image of Chengdu and promoting China to foreign tourists. Against this background, it is of profound theoretical and practical significance to analyze the characteristics and cultural connotations of place names in Chengdu, as well as to excavate the cultural value of place names in Chengdu and promote rational tourism development and utilization.

2 The characteristics of the place names in Chengdu

Chengdu has a long history, which can be traced back 4000 years through the Jinsha Ruins that were only found in recent years. According to the Taiping World-Wide Record (which is a monograph on the geography and history of ancient China and its Chinese name is 太平寰宇记), the King of Zhou moved its capital to a new location, present-day Chengdu, which developed rapidly and this new place became a town in one year, then it became a city in two years and a capital in three years. Literally, Chengdu means “becoming a capital city”. Place names in Chengdu were mainly formed from the Qin Dynasty (between 221 BC and 207 BC) and Han Dynasty (between 202 BC and 220 AD) to the late Qing Dynasty (between 1636 AD and 1912 AD).
Old Chengdu City had 36 streets and 72 lanes. According to their characteristics, the names of these streets and lanes can be divided into the following categories: ancestral shrines and temples, Yashu (the government offices) and barracks, family names, markets and workshops, bridges and water systems, landscapes, prays and wishes, celebrity sites, geographical locations, and finally the alphabetical order of the Chinese characters (Zhou, 2018). Several of these types are discussed briefly below.

2.1 The type of names based on shrines, temples, and halls

There are many streets named after shrines, temples, and halls in Chengdu, which reflects the flourishing of religious activities in Chengdu. For example, Wenshuyuan Street, Daci Temple Street and Yinghua Temple Street are named after the Buddhist temples on these streets. The Taoist street names such as Sanguantang Street, Chunyangguan Street and Yuhuangguan Street are named after the Taoist temples of each street. The Wuyue Gong Street, Chenghuang Temple Street, the Four Shrines Street, Chuanzhu Temple Street, Zhangye Temple Street, Altar Temple Street, Chenghuang Alley and other street names are related to folk beliefs. These street names were chosen to reflect the beliefs in various religions and the worship of gods at that time.

2.2 The type of names based on bridges

Those streets named after a river, pond, pool or ditch are classified as the bridge drainage system. According to the Records of Huayang State, there were many rivers in the Shu Kingdom and the people near the rivers built many bridges; thus many roads and streets were named after the bridges. There are more than 70 streets using bridges names in Chengdu. For example, Pingan Bridge Street (named after Pingan Bridge in the west of the city), Jiuyan Bridge (named after nine bridge holes), East-west Imperial Street (which originated from the Yuhe River and was built when the palace of the Shu Kingdom was built in the early Ming Dynasty), Guiwang Bridge, Yudai Bridge, Jinhe Street, and others.

2.3 The type of names based on the landscapes

Those streets named after their unique features, such as terrain or landform, are generally referred to as the landscape type, such as Sophora Street (Huaishu Street), Osmanthus Street (Guihua Street, for there was a Zhu Chun' garden, where osmanthus was planted during the Shu Kingdom), Dong Qingshu (Holly) Street (there was a Holly where Yue Zhongqi, the Sichuan governor in the period of Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty, lived), Longxu Lane, Double Gate Street, Pear Blossom Street, and others.

2.4 The type of names based on celebrity sites

Those streets named after any previous dynasty's celebrity names, deeds or customs are known as the celebrity site class. In Chengdu, there are about 30 or 40 streets named after celebrity sites, such as Dongyuan Street (named after Chen Dongyuan, a disinterested chief of the West City Police Branch in the Qing Dynasty), Zhuangyuan Street (the residence of Yang Shen in the Ming Dynasty), Fuqin Tai Street (said to be the place where Sima Xiangru, a great writer of the Han Dynasty, played the Guqin, a seven-stringed plucked instrument similar to the zither). Some of them have disappeared due to historical changes and street reconstructions, while others were given new names with the development of the times.

2.5 The type of names based on markets and workshops

Streets named after markets and workshops have existed since the city was founded. The handicraft industry in Chengdu was highly developed and prosperous in the period of the ancient Shu States (the ancient Sichuan, about 3000 years ago). It was characterized by regional concentration and the whole street was often the gathering place of a specific industry. For example, the gold and silver silk weaving in Chengdu has unique workmanship, which has been listed as a tribute in all dynasties, making it famous worldwide. Therefore, Gold Silk Street, Silver Silk Street and Copper Silk Street were all centers of the relevant handicraft workshops and shops. In addition, White Silk Street was the place where white silk and yellow silk were sold. So was Jinyu Street, where shops selling raw gold and uncut jade were concentrated. Yusha Street was a street where the workshops for the rough processing of jade were concentrated, while Yushi Street was a street where the workshops for the finishing processing of jade were concentrated. There were a number of workshops on Shamao Street for the production of opera clothing and gauze caps. The changes of Chengdu craft workshops were also recorded in Luoguo Lane, Youbin Street, Dongda Tongjie, Pifang Street and Nanda Jin Street. Among the streets named after a market or workshop, many have been inconsistent with the name for a long time due to various reasons, such as simply the change of the times, the change of the business mode, centralized transfer, or workshop relocation.

2.6 The type of names based on the word sequence and the direction

As to the ordinal numbers and azimuth-named streets, there is a long history of naming streets by the cardinal number and the direction at home and abroad. Most are conventionally named after sequential ordinal numbers and positions, while only a few are of some monumental significance. There are about 30 streets that are named after ordinal numbers and about 40 streets named after the direction in Chengdu. For instance, the West Street was the west gate of Chengdu in the Qing Dynasty; Shuncheng Street is a street built along the wall of the Palace of Shu Kingdom in the Ming Dynasty. Shui Jin Street is named for its location at the confluence of Jinjiang and Fuhe and it is an important water terminal in Chengdu.

3 The tourism value of place name culture in Chengdu

A place name is the “living fossil” of historical culture, which can, to a certain extent, reflect its history, geography, social life, religious beliefs, social customs, etc. The name of a place can effectively show the long history and splendid culture of the place, which is of great tourist value (Yuan, 2013).

3.1 Stimulating tourists' interest in traveling

Chengdu is a city that has not changed its name or moved its location for more than 2300 years, which is rare in Chinese history. Meanwihile, Chengdu's place names reflect rich geographical phenomena, historical knowledge, myths and legends, and cultural allusions. Some place names are so informative and interesting that they deeply arouse the interest of tourists who want to know, understand and then visit Chengdu. For example, the Yiguan Temple and the Face-Washing Bridge are related to Liu Bei and Guan Yu, while the Feizhushi Street is named to commemorate the vendors at the slaughterhouse who donated money to hire teachers and run the schools. The place name of Hongpai Lou is related to the Tibetan people, which is a symbol of ethnic harmony and the prosperity of businesses. The Bay of Sows (Chinese name is母猪湾) is used to commemorate the event when the monks of Daci Temple chased the troops of Zhang Xianzhong (who was the leader of the peasant uprising in the late Ming Dynasty) when they attacked Chengdu. Shaocheng Road is the place where the children of the Eight Banners settled in Chengdu in the Qing Dynasty. Shengxian Bridge is one of the most romantic ancient bridges in Chengdu. In order to commemorate Sima Xiangru, the name of Shengxian Bridge was changed into Sima Bridge (noting that Sima Xiangru is an outstanding representative in the history of Chinese culture and literature; he was a great writer and politician in the period of Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty). These place names are lively, emotional, and intriguing, and are likely to inspire visitors' interest.

3.2 Presenting local tourism features

Place names which reflect tourist characteristics are the epitomes and symbols of the local cultures, which contain a rich historical and cultural connotation of a place and can show the context of a region. Thus, we can trace the history through place names. According to the statistics, there are more than 70 streets named after bridges in Chengdu, such as Erxian Bridge, Sima Bridge, Face-Washing Bridge, etc. There are also 72 streets named after the well (the Chinese name of well is 井), such as Shui Jing Fang, Jing Xiangzi, and Zhuge Jing Street. There are even more places named after weirs (Chinese name is堰), such as Dragon Claw Weir, and Baigong Weir. All these names reflect the charm of the watery town of Chengdu. In addition to place names related to those constructions, many places are named after brocades, such as Jinli and Jinjiang, which are related to the highly developed brocade industry in Chengdu. In relation to religious culture, there are almost 100 streets named after temples and halls of various sizes in Chengdu, such as Confucious' Temple Street, Daci Temple Street, Qingyang Palace Street and so on. In addition, there are places which reflect the ancient Shu civilization, immigration culture, religious culture and others, reflecting the characteristics of tourism (Wang and Fang, 2015).

3.3 Enhancing the travel experience of the visitors

Place names often reflect the beautiful natural scenery, the long history or the culture of the place. People can perceive and associate with the beauty of the natural scenery through the names of the mountains and water bodies. For example, mentioning Mount Qingcheng, people will think of the beautiful scenery—“The most secluded mountain under the sun”. It is one of the most typical scenic spots in Chengdu. On November 18, 2020, Mount Qingcheng was elected the New Landmark of the “Ba-Shu Cultural Tourism Corridor”. Therefore, tourists can know about Chengdu's rich history and culture from the place names that mark major historical events, reflect ancient civilizations, and commemorate celebrities. As for Du Fu's Thatched Cottage, where Du Fu (a great poet of the Tang Dynasty in China) lived in Chengdu, it is a sacred place in the history of Chinese literature. When walking in the Thatched Cottage, people will think of the famous sentence Du Fu wrote “How can I find thousands of mansions so that all the poor in the world can be sheltered”, and then identify with Du Fu's feeling that although he was facing adversity, he was still optimistic.

3.4 Serving the tourism economy

A place name is a tourism resource with tourism value. For tourists, a place name may represent a tourist destination. Before travelling, tourists must think about their destination first (Xie, 2016). Through the place names, tourists can get relevant tourism information, and finally decide their itinerary. One example is the place names along a famous hiking route in Chengdu: Jinsha Site Museum (National Key Cultural Relics Protection Site, National AAAA Tourist Attractions, National First Class Museum)—Huanhuxi Park (This core area of Huanhuaxi Historical and Cultural Scenic Area uses the forefront theory of modern garden and architectural design, highlighting the rich historical deposits of western Sichuan culture with natural and elegant landscapes and architecture. It is an urban park that organically combines natural landscape and urban landscape, classical garden and modern architectural art)—Du Fu Thatched Cottage (It is the former residence of Du Fu, the great poet of the Tang Dynasty in China. It is a national key cultural relic protection unit and a national AAAA level tourist attraction)—Baihutan Park (In the park, there are many bonsai, and it is most famous for the orchid bonsai). These place names are actually scenic spots and play a critical guiding role. In addition, some place names are used for products, trademarks and other marketing purposes, which have a strong communication function and can guide tourists to consume. For example, Shui Jing Fang, the famous Chinese liquor, is the first Luzhou-flavored liquor protected by the “region of origin” in China. Many tourists come to Chengdu to buy ShuiJingFang as souvenirs.

4 The existing problems of place name culture in Chengdu

Chengdu attaches great importance to the cultural inheritance and protection of place names. In 2013, Chengdu Cultural Bureau launched the interactive activity of “Arousing City Memory and Creating Cultural Landmarks”, inviting local historical and cultural folklore experts to tell the stories of old Chengdu to awaken Chengdu citizens' cultural memory of the place names. In October 2014, the Regulations on the Management of Place Names in Chengdu were formally implemented, which accelerated the scientific and standardization process of place-name management. In 2015, the Chengdu Municipal Government compiled “The General Plans for the Place Names of Chengdu, 2015-2020”, which established the “1+1+14” place-name planning framework in the city (1 downtown + 1 Chengdu Tianfu New Area + 14 suburban districts), and strictly examined the changes in the names of historical places. The “1+1+14” place-name planning framework was a milestone for the cultural heritage protection and management of place names. However, just as Rome was not built in a day, some long-accumulated problems cannot be solved in a day. These problems are mainly manifested in the following five aspects.

4.1 Some old place names are disappearing with the ongoing urbanization

With the urbanization of Chengdu, some old place names are disappearing, and the ever-changing city has accelerated the rate of changes in the urban place names. One study found that more than 330 old place names, which have carried the city's culture, history and memory, have disappeared in Chengdu. Among them, 82 places of historical buildings were torn down, 12 places of historic interests were pulled down, and there were even more street name changes. Some place names have been eliminated or merged into other streets due to urban construction and reconstruction, such as Wanfu Bridge Street, Jinhua Street, and Jinhua Lane, which were reconstructed into “Xinghui West Road”. Similarly, Da-Jin Street and Silk-Brocade Street have disappeared due to the reconstruction of Hongxing Road.

4.2 Some ancient place names still exist, but their original physical shapes and systems no longer exist

Although some place names still exist, their physical shapes and systems no longer exist, especially for ancient place names, due to the passing of time and the development of society. We have no choice but to abandon some place names. For these cases, we will be faced with the disappearance of historical place names dialectically.

4.3 Beautiful old place names are being changed

With a history of more than 2300 years, Chengdu has many old place names which contain the endless cultural and historical memories of the city, with each old place name having its own story. However, due to various reasons, some old place names are being changed at will. For example, Wangjiang Tower was built in the Ming and Qing dynasties in memory of Xue Tao, a female poet in the Tang dynasty. Its original name was “Chongli Tower”, but it was renamed after the famous line “beautiful and reverent, with the real name Chengdu” in Poet Zuosi's poem “The Song of Shudu”. Since it is located on the bank of Jinjiang River, it was renamed later as “Wangjiang (Look over the River) Tower”.

4.4 A sharp increase in the number of new place names which have no taste

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of new place names in China in general, which has exposed the confusion of “big, foreign, ancient, strange and repetitive” names. Such is also the case in Chengdu. Although Chengdu issued “The Filing Management Measures on Building Names in Chengdu” as early as 2014 to rectify the problem of the non-standard building names, the non-standard building names still exist in Chengdu.

4.5 There are many duplicate road names

Many places have duplicate names due to the regional expansion, and there are many identical road names in the central area of Chengdu. For example, there are four Jianshe Roads in Chengdu, one each in Chenghua district, Xindu district, Wenjiang district and Longquanyi district. In Jinniu district, Jinjiang district, Wuhou district and Chenghua district, there are distinct Ginkgo Roads. The names of Binjiang Road, Binhe Road, Renmin Road, and many others, are also used as the names of different roads in many districts. Taking Renmin Road as an example, there are Renmin North Road, Renmin South Road, Renmin Middle Road and Renmin West Road, which can be found in Qingyang district, Jinjiang district, Jinniu district and Wuhou district, respectively. The Renmin Road in Shuangliu district is divided into three sections. Yucai Road is repeatedly used in Jinniu district, Xindu district, Wuhou district, Shuangliu district and many other places in Chengdu. While three or four streets may share the same name, even more than ten roads can have similar names, which affect people's daily life and reduce the efficiency of social operations.

5 Tourism development strategies for Chengdu's place-name culture

5.1 Establishing a tourism place name system of Chengdu scenic spots

Tourism traffic place names and tourism place name logos, etc., are called tourist place names. The direction function of a place name runs through the whole process of people's tourism activities, and the first information used by tourists contacting tourist destinations is the place name. Place names give tourists the first impression of the travel, and at the end of the tour, the place names also impress the tourists greatly. It can be said that all tourism activities are inseparable from the place names (Zhang, 2015). Clear tourist place names can be convenient for tourists and help the tourists to locate them accurately. Additionally, the clarity of place names will directly affect the mood of tourists and the tourists' perception of the image of the tourist destination when traveling. In tourism planning, the main scenic spots and attractions are connected by means of dot naming, line naming and flaky naming, and in establishing a tourism place name system, it is important to give full play to the guiding role of place names (Wu, 2013). All the signs need to be concise, clear and legible. When designing the signs, we should take the aesthetics and practicality into consideration. Most signs are wooden at present, and we should take complete account of the designing of the place name fonts used on the signage. We can add such elements as calligraphy, seals, patterns and others, and the content should include not only the names and maps, but also the street story introduction, place name origin, and so on.

5.2 Using the place name in the restoration and development of ancient scenery

Chengdu has a long history that is rich in the humanities. There used to be a lot of famous landscapes, which still exist in the works of the literati. With the development of the times, however, many of these popular landscapes of the past have faded. But their historical and cultural value is indelible, and the stories behind them contain the memory of Chengdu and the soul of Chengdu. According to the statistics, there are 82 demolished places which were historical buildings and 12 places which were historical sites, and they were once essential tourism resources. As the tourism in Chengdu develops, these ancient scenes can be restored in a planned and selective way. The restoration and development of ancient scenery are conducive to the inheritance of an excellent historical culture, and they also enrich tourists' tourism activities and play a positive role in shaping the overall image of Chengdu.

5.3 Combining place names with food tourism resources

Nowadays, it has become an indispensable part of the tourist's tourism life to taste local food. As a city of gastronomy, Chengdu can satisfy tourists very well. In addition to enjoying the scenery, many people come to Chengdu for the delicious food. Therefore, while developing food tourism resources in Chengdu, we can implant geographical names which highlight the unique regional color, and enhance the feelings and impressions of the tourists. We should integrate the dish names, restaurant environment layout, catering facilities and many other aspects with the place names to make the dish names enjoyable. In this way, the tourists' experience can be increased and their needs can be significantly satisfied.

5.4 Combining place names with high-quality tourism commodities

After a journey, tourists typically like to buy some local specialties as gifts for relatives and friends. As a land of abundance, Chengdu is rich in natural resources. It is a common practice worldwide to apply for a trademark containing a geographical indication to protect characteristic products. In other words, “Place Name plus Product Name—local specialty”, and the core content of a geographical indication which is unique and unduplicable aims to highlight the regional and brand value (Li, 2017). At present, there are dozens of brands under the national geographical indication protection in Chengdu, such as Pixian pea sauce (a popular seasoning), Shuijingfang Baijiu (a well-known liquor), Dujiangyan Kiwifruit (pollution-free fruit), Shuangliu Winter Strawberry (pollution-free fruit), Wenjiang Garlic (pollution-free vegetable), and many others. These products with geographical indications have become the most popular tourist shopping products in Chengdu, and they add the charming tourism value of Chengdu to the whole country and even the world.

5.5 Developing cultural and creative products related to Chengdu place names

With the development of a cultural industry, cultural and creative products that are unique in representing the local culture are gradually becoming popular in the Chinese market. For example, “Qili You Shantang (Seven-beavers-luring mountain pond)”, demonstrated at the 8th Suzhou Innovation Expo, is based on the origin of Qilishantang's place name in Suzhou. Chengdu's place-name culture is extensive and profound, which carries rich local urban historical and cultural information and regional characteristics. The development of cultural and creative products related to the place-name culture can not only increase the tourism revenue, but also spread the local toponym culture, which is very important for shaping Chengdu's overall tourism image and the city's image as well.

5.6 Strengthening the theoretical discussion on Chengdu place name culture

In order to develop the place name culture, a Chengdu place name heritage research group should be established, and it should widely absorb experts and scholars of culture, education, local Chronicles, archives, and urban construction to participate in academic discussions on the cultural heritage of places. At the same time, full play should be given to the advantages of a Chengdu Place Name Society in the cultural heritage of place names, and it should organize academic seminars regularly and publish research results. After strengthening the research of place names in Chengdu and its surrounding areas, we will further expand to Leshan, Langzhong, Yibin, Zigong, Luzhou, Dujiangyan and other historical and cultural cities, making contributions to the cultural heritage inheritance of other place names in Sichuan province and even the whole country.

5.7 Conducting Chengdu place name culture dissemination activities

Conducting Chengdu place name culture dissemination activities can help to improve the public's perception of name culture and the consciousness for protecting the culture heritage of places. Such activities can enhance the influence and popularity of Chengdu place name culture and engage more power to protect the place name culture in Chengdu, mainly through media propaganda and cultural exhibitions on place names, the selection activity of place names, and collecting new place names for the public and so on (Zhang, 1995). To conduct Chengdu place name culture dissemination activities, we can make full use of the Internet, the media, and many kinds of integrated online platforms to strengthen the propaganda on the education for the protection of place names. Such activities can include publishing relevant materials and books to introduce the connotation and important value of place culture as well as the necessity and urgency of the protection and inheritance of place name culture, strengthening the deep understanding of the place names by the public, and mobilizing the general public to participate in the work of place name culture dissemination. In November 2018, Chengdu Civil Affairs Bureau held a special training on the Historical and Cultural Connotation of Place Names in Chengdu and Public Service of Place Names in its conference room, which is an excellent cultural communication activity for place names.

6 Conclusions

Place names contain rich regional cultural connotations, and Chengdu is rich in place name cultural resources. Though great importance has been attached to the place name culture heritage and the protection work, there are still many problems for various reasons. Therefore, we should establish and improve the system of Chengdu places name cultural heritage protection, increase place name heritage protection propaganda, and work to make the place name culture heritage protection “truly implemented”.
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