The surrounding Chengdu Plain is also known as the "Country of Heaven" (Chinese: 天府之国; pinyin: Tiānfǔ zhi Guó) and the "Land of Abundance". Its prehistoric settlers included the Sanxingdui culture. Founded by the state of Shu prior to its incorporation into China, Chengdu is unique as a major Chinese settlement that has maintained its name (nearly) unchanged throughout the imperial, republican, and communist eras. It was the capital of Liu Bei's Shu during the Three Kingdoms Era, as well as several other local kingdoms during the Middle Ages.After the fall of Nanjing to the Japanese in 1937, Chengdu briefly served as the capital of China. It is now one of the most important economic, financial, commercial, cultural, transportation, and communication centers in Western China. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, a hub of Air China and Sichuan Airlines is one of the 30 busiest airports in the world, and Chengdu Railway Station is one of the six biggest in China. Chengdu also hosts many international companies and more than 12 consulates. More than 260 Fortune 500 companies have established branches in Chengdu.
The name Chengdu is attested in sources dating back to shortly after its founding. It has been called the only major city in China to have remained at an unchanged location with an unchanged name throughout the imperial, republican, and communist eras, although it also had other names, for example it was briefly known as Xijing in the 17th century. The Song-era geographical work A Universal Geography of the Taiping Era states that the ninth king of Shu's Kaiming dynasty named his new capital Chengdu after a statement by King Tai of Zhou that a settlement needed "one year to become a town, two to become a city, and three to become a metropolis". (The character for cheng 成 may mean "turned into" while du 都 can mean either a metropolis or a capital.) There are, however, several versions of why the capital had been moved from nearby Pi County and modern scholars sometimes theorize that the name was a transcription of an earlier name into Chinese characters.
The present spelling is based on pinyin romanization; its Postal Map romanization was "Chengtu". Its former status as the seat of the Chengdu Prefecture prompted Marco Polo's spellings Sindafu, Sin-din-fu, &c. and the Protestant missionaries' romanization Ching-too Foo.
Although the official name of the city has remained (almost) constant, the surrounding area has sometimes taken other names, including Yizhou (益州). Chinese nicknames for the city include the Turtle City, variously derived from the old city walls' shape on a map or a legend that Zhang Yi had planned their course by following a turtle's tracks; the Brocade City, a contraction of the earlier "City of the Brocade Official", after an imperial office established under the Western Han; the Hibiscus City, from the hibiscus which King Mengchang of the Later Shu ordered planted upon the city wall during the 10th century.