Chengdu is located in central Sichuan. The surrounding Chengdu Plain is known as the "Country of Heaven" and the "Land of Abundance". Its prehistoric settlers included the Sanxingdui culture. The site of Dujiangyan, an ancient irrigation system, is designated as a World Heritage Site. The Jin River flows through the city. Chengdu's culture largely reflects that of its province, Sichuan; in 2011, it was recognized by UNESCO as a city of gastronomy. It is associated with the giant panda, a Chinese national symbol, which inhabits the area of Sichuan; the city is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
Founded by the state of Shu, Chengdu is unique as a major Chinese settlement that has maintained its name mostly unchanged throughout the imperial, republican, and communist eras. It was the capital of Liu Bei's Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms Era, as well as several other local kingdoms during the Middle Ages. During World War II, refugees from eastern China fleeing from the Japanese settled in Chengdu. After the war, Chengdu was briefly the capital of the Nationalist republican government until it withdrew to Taipei on the island of Taiwan. Under the PRC, Chengdu's importance as a link between Eastern and Western China expanded, with railways built to Chongqing in 1952, and Kunming and Tibet afterward. In the 1960s, Chengdu became an important defense industry hub.
Chengdu is now one of the most important economic, financial, commercial, cultural, transportation, and communication centers in China. Its economy is diverse, characterized by the machinery, automobile, medicine, food, and information technology industries. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, and the newly built Tianfu International Airport, a hub of Air China and Sichuan Airlines, is one of the 30 busiest airports in the world, and the Chengdu railway station is one of the six biggest in China. Chengdu is considered a "Beta + (global second-tier)" city classification (together with Barcelona and Washington, D.C.) according to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. Chengdu is a leading financial hub, ranking 35th globally the 2021 Global Financial Centres Index. Chengdu also hosts many international companies; more than 300 Fortune 500 companies have established branches in Chengdu. The city also hosts more than 16 foreign consulates, making it the fourth major city to host more foreign representatives than any other city in China after Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Chengdu is the seat of the Western Theater Command region of the People's Liberation Army. Chengdu hosted the FISU Summer World University Games, an international multi-sport event. It is considered one of the most livable cities in China.