Du Fu, the eighth-century Chinese poet now lauded as one of the greatest wordsmiths who ever lived, resided in a humble thatched hut in Chengdu at the peak of his literary life. He wrote lyrically about cooking cold noodles garnished with the leaves of the scholartree, but he never had a fried chicken sandwich or a Pepsi. Yet at a KFC in the heart of Chengdu, a holographic pyramid beams 3-D images of his hut in spring, summer, winter, and fall.
A surprisingly elegant scene greets those seeking fried chicken here. Tables are covered in poems by Du Fu in the handwriting of the Qianlong Emperor, while tiles on the wall and brush paintings display rich designs of the Tang dynasty, Du Fu’s milieu and the era widely considered to be China’s poetic golden age.
Though the food is rich and the surroundings richer, Du Fu himself lived a somewhat tragic life. A wanderer with ambitions to be a civil servant, he saw his career cut short by rebellion and political missteps. He did befriend Li Bai, another poet whose work is considered the pinnacle of Chinese literature, and the two shared a fondness for drinking and writing poems about drinking.
Du Fu’s life was wracked by illness, war, and poverty. One of his children even starved to death. He garnered little attention for his poetry during his lifetime, yet the influence of his 1,500 surviving poems only grew after his death, impacting Chinese and Japanese literature for more than a millennium. Today, Chengdu is home to the Du Fu Thatched Hut Museum, which teamed up with KFC to open this particular eatery. But etched out in neon on one wall is another example of immortal wordsmithery: KFC’s catchphrase, “It’s Finger-Lickin’ Good.”
Know Before You Go
The Du Fu KFC is off Tianfu Square, in the heart of Chengdu. The Chengdu Museum is right across the street.