SICHUAN PROVINCE ACCESSIBLE TO CHENGDU (Pandas, Emei, Jiuzhaigou)
SICHUAN PROVINCE is the second most populous province in China. With more than 80 million people jammed into an area the size of France it has a larger population than many countries in the world. Sichuan, which means Four Rivers, is both crowded and wild. For every population center there is an area of rugged mountains and dense forests that is a hundred times bigger. The Sichuan Basin is one of China’s main agricultural areas. The province produces 10 percent of China’s pork; 8 percent of its cooking oil and 6 percent of its rice, wheat and other grain,
Sichuan is one of China's poorest provinces. The initial wave of economic reforms in the 1990s affected the province dramatically, causing many factories to close down and many Sichuanese to leave the province in search of work. Even today many of the vendors in Tibet and female factory workers in the Shenzhen area are Sichuanese. These days cities like Chengdu and Chongqing are developing so the people of Sichuan don’t to go so far to find work (See Chengdu and Chongqing).
Sichuanese are regarded as tough, lively, passionate, earthy and warm and are famous for their ability to "eat bitter." They have prospered outside of Sichuan but are not well liked. Sichuanese women are regarded as among the most beautiful in China but also have a reputation for being temperamental, tempestuous and loose. Sichuan men are thought of as tricky and sly. Also you can’t forget Sichuan’s delicious, spicy food, which is often quite different than the Sichuan food you get in the U.S. or Europe. Tourist Office : Sichuan Provincial Tourism Administration, 65 South Renmin Rd, 610021 Chengdu Sichuan, China, tel. (0)-28–667-3693, fax: (0)- 2-667-1042.
Sichuan map Geography of Sichuan: Sichuan is about the same size as California, covering 537,000 square kilometers, but has three ties as many people. The majority of the people live on the eastern side of the province in the Sichuan Basin, a fertile region with a mild, humid climate, a long growing season and farms that produce abundant crops of rice, wheat, corn, sugarcane and soybeans. The basin is also a significant silk producer. The Chinese call Sichuan the "Heavenly Kingdom," a reference to its rich land and resources.
Western Sichuan is almost the opposite of eastern Sichuan. It is a land of huge mountains, stony farms on terraced hills, rough roads, steep slopes, deep gorges, and narrow valleys with villages and towns populated by tough people of Tibetan-stock. Some of western Sichuan's mountains contains dense bamboo forests that are home to wild pandas and other unique animals. Other mountains are over 25,000 feet high. There are more than 40 parks in Sichuan, about half of them created relatively recently.
History of Sichuan History of Sichuan: Sichuan was originally inhabited by tribes similar to those that live in Tibet, Yunnan Province and Southeast Asia. It was conquered by the Chinese emperors, who oversaw the movement of millions of Han Chinese there from overpopulated regions in China. Starting in 17th century and lasting for 200 years, the Sichuan basin absorbed most of China's growing population. Between 1776 and 1840, the population of Sichuan expanded from 8 million to 44 million.
Sichuan Earthquake See Nature, Natural Disasters, Sichuan Earthquake in 2008
Qingcheng Transportation in Sichuan: It is said that is more difficult to get to Sichuan than it is to get to heaven. From Tibet that certainly seems to be the case. The twisting 1,400-mile road that links the two regions takes 2 weeks to traverse by truck. Crossing Sichuan rivers is almost as difficult. On the Dadu River, for example, there are few bridges and people cross the river by pulling themselves on a cable.
Chengdu-Kunming Railway was considered impossible to build. Completed in 1970 after 12 years work, it contains bridges over deep ravines, tunnels bored through solid rock and tracks placed on cliffside supports. The railway's 427 tunnels and 653 bridges cover 40 percent of the route. There are so many tunnels in fact that some tourist claim they don't get a chance to see anything.
The railway was constructed by tens of thousands of laborers, soldiers and convicts who could be shot for not working. It is not known how many or even if workers were indeed shot, but alongside the track are some small graveyards with dead railway workers, most of whom died in accidents.
Dujiangyan Irrigation System
Dujiangyan Irrigation System (60 kilometers northwest Chengdu) was built between A.D. 251 and 306 and contains several dams, canals and water diversion schemes that turned this part of Sichuan into the "land of abundance." Dujiangyan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It had a plan to allow eight contemporary artists—including Zhang Xiaogang, Wu Guanzhong and Yue Minjun—to open up their own museums on an 18-acre plot of land. The fate of this and the city as whole is still unknown as Dujiangyan was devastated by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. See Nature, Natural Disasters, Sichuan Earthquake in 2008. UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site Web Site: Travel China Guide (click attractions) Travel China Guide ; Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Qingcheng Shan (60 kilometers west of Chengdu) is a 1,600-meter-high "Green City Mountain," with 108 temples, monasteries and pavilions scattered among its craggy peaks and lofty trees. Zhang Daolin, a founder of Taoism, used to preach here so this place is sometimes considered one of the birthplaces of Taoism. Qincheng Shan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site Web Site: Travel China Guide (click attractions) Travel China Guide Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Wolong Nature Reserve
Wolong Nature Reserve (120 kilometers northwest of Chengdu, two hour by bus from Chengdu before the earthquake) is the panda reserve most visited by Western scientists and tourists. The terrain is rugged and the bamboo forest are so dense that likelihood of seeing a panda in the wild is rare. Tourists are often restricted from going much of anywhere anyway. Most visitors stay close to the big research center and veterinary hospital. Wolong means “sleeping dragon.”
Set up in 1963, Wolong Reserve covers 500,000 acres (800 square miles) and is home to about 150 pandas as well 20 kinds of reptile, 280 species of bird and 4,000 species of plant . Among the 96 mammal species are endangered golden monkeys, which travel in groups up to 300 animals; takin, a strange looking animal related to the musk ox; and tufted deer, which have odd-looking, protruding canine teeth. Around 3,000 people, most of then members of the Tibetan-like Qiang minority, farm some of the slopes in the reserve.
Wolong is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hikes of varying length are available in the park along clear streams and mountains ridges and through pine forests. Occasionally people catch glimpses of panda droppings. Web Site: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Travel China Guide (click attractions) Travel China Guide UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site Accommodation : Wolong village is home to 5,000 people and has hotels and restaurants.
Panda Nature Reserves: More than half of the estimated 1,000 giant pandas in the wild live in 12 Panda Reserves established by the Chinese. Ten of these reserves are located in Sichuan province, mostly in remote areas in mountains between Chengdu and the Tibetan plateau. Five reserves are situated in the Min Mountains north of Chengdu; three more, including Wolong Natural Reserve, are west of Chengdu; and two are south of Chengdu.
Getting There: Wolong is accessible by car or bus. Getting to Wolong is difficult. In the old days it took nine hours to reach by bus from Chengdu on a rough, twisting mountain road that was often undergoing repairs. People that hired a car and driver could reach it four or five hours. Later a paved road was built that reduced the travel time to only two hours. That road unfortunately was destroyed by the 2008 earthquake, The alternative road requires crossing two mountain passes.
Hetaoping Research Center (an hour from the entrance to Wolong Nature Reserve) has bred dozens of pandas and has introduced some to the wild. As of late 2007, 128 of the 239 giant pandas in captivity in the world were at Hetaoping, the majority of which were bred in captivity there. A few years ago they were kept in barred cages, But these days they can roam around in large open pens and look genuinely happy. Facilities at the research center include a panda hospital and food preparation area. Most pandas are fed wo tu—a coarse, nutritious cake made with rice and corn that was invented at the center.
Nestled between forested mountains and a rushing river, Hetaoping research center is a maze of bushes, trees, concrete sidewalks, red brick and white tile buildings and research areas. There are signs and explanations in English as well as Chinese what each place is. In one building females that are pregnant or suspected of being pregnant are kept in special pens, where they can be closely monitored.
Tourists often gather around at play area to take photographs if the pandas. The young pandas are the most popular. They and the adults are most active in the mornings. The outdoor nursery for the panda cubs resembles a playground. It has a set of monkey bar, a seesaw, a swing and a yellow plastic rocking horse that stands 30 feet tall.
Visitors can pay $133 to enter a pasture with pandas and play with them for a few minutes. To protect the pandas visitor are sprayed with antiseptic and wear sterile gloves, booties and gowns. But there is nothing to protect the visitors who are often knocked by the surprisingly strong and rambunctious pandas. For $53 visitors can have their picture taken with a panda, who usually munches a piece of bamboo.
The research center now has a basic but comfortable hotel and a special walking trail set up to offer good views of the pandas in their pens, which very closely resemble the panda’s natural habitat. There is a small museum and English-speaking can be hired for a few dollars. Wolong is supported by money from the Chinese forestry department and fees its earns from visitors.
See Nature, Natural Disasters, Sichuan Earthquake in 2008
Leshan (3 hours by train from Chengdu) is a river town with the largest Buddha statue in the world. Surrounded by temples and reportedly built 1200 years ago, the statue is located in a niche on the western slope of Lingyun Mountain at the confluence of the Minjiang River, Qingyi River and Dadu River. The city is a famous pilgrimage center. Hundreds of people have died in the turbulence created by the three rivers trying to get a look at the statue from the river.
One of Leshan’s main attractions is 37-meter-high replica of the one of the Buddha statues that was destroyed in Bamiyan Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2003. As of March 2003, the Buddha was covered in blue plastic and no one at the ark would say when people would be able to see it. To make the Bamiyan Buddha it builders tore down a unique, 2000-year-old Mahaoya tombs that had been built on the cliffs.
Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Map: China Highlights China Highlights Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: There are good bus connections between Chengdu and Leshan. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet
View from Giant Buddha
Giant Buddha of Leshan is a sitting Buddha carved into a cliff that overlooks the three rivers. A good example of a popular Asian saying, "the mountain is a Buddha, the Buddha is a mountain,” it was conceived and started by a monk who wanted to build a statue to protect travelers at the confluence of Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi Rivers. The giant Buddha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Finished in A.D. 803 after 90 years of work, the Buddha is 25 stories (233 feet) high and 90 feet across at its shoulders and has an 18-foot nose, two 12-foot ears and a 45-foot-high head. The fingernails are the size of a king-size beds and have weed growing from the cracks. It is possible for two people to stand in one of the Buddha's ear canals and 100 people can sit in the area between the Buddha's feet.
In the last 1990s, the Buddha was given a garish coat of paint to make it look newer. After the destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Leshan Buddha became the world’s largest Buddha. In the early 2000s, a $30 restoration project began to shore up and enlarge the platform and fix up damage caused by weathering, acid rain and fissures that allowed water to seep deep into the statue. UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site
Emeishan (eight kilometers from Baoguo, which is 55 kilometers from Leshan) is a major pilgrimage center and one of the four famous Buddhist mountains in China. Covering more than 300 square miles, it encompasses bamboo forests and undulating peaks and has been acclaimed as a "Beauty Under Heaven." The 100 monasteries and temples on the mountain include Ambushing Tiger Monastery, Thunder Sound Monastery and Pure Tone Tower. Among the natural scenic spots are Wash Elephant Pool, Fairy Peak and White Dragon Cave.
Mount Emei is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The summit of the 10,000-foot-high sacred peak is called 10,000 Buddha Peak. The numerous hiking trail, some of which follow dizzying cliffs, are filled with pilgrims. Many of the temples are dominated by nasty rhesus monkeys who extort food from tourists and harass pilgrims. At the Emei monastery female tourists can hire young men to carry them to the top of the mountain on their backs.
Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site Maps: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint Getting There: is accessible by train to Emei station in Emei town, where one can catch buses and minibuses to Baoguo and the Great Buddha. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide
Zigong Dinosaur Museum (in Zigong, near Leshan City) is located in a football-filed-size building situated in a region where dinosaur bone were first discovered. The Chinese have always been fascinated by dragons, and even today Chinese use the same word (konglong) for "dinosaur" and "terrible dragon." The large bones found in the area, beginning in the third century A.D., were said to belong to dragons who were locked out of heaven and then fell back to earth.
Most of the bones found in the museum appear to belong to dinosaurs killed in a natural disaster so sudden that some of the dinosaurs look as if they were caught in the middle of a fight when they died. One set of bones comes from a dinosaur with a neck five times longer than a giraffe's neck.Zigong is a city with almost 4 million people. Web Site: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide
Five Color Pool
Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve
Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve(2½ hours by bus from Songpan and 13 hours from Chengdu in northern Sichuan) is one of the world’s most stunning and beautiful places. Situated in remote and largely uninhabited area of China, it was described by Edward Hoagland in National Geographic as a “chain of flower-colored, ribbony lakes and fingery waterfalls, underneath escarpments chevroned with maple, spruce, or bamboo forests cut by the talus of old landslides.”
Among the lakes are Five Colored Pond, Tiger Lake, Golden Bell Lake, Grass Lake, Panda Lake, Mirror Lake, Rhinoceros Lake, Red Lake, Bonsai Lake and Swan Lake. Five Flower Sea is said to contains water of five different colors. All of them appear to have a polished finish when there is no wind, when they almost magically reflect the clouds, sky and trees above. The lakes are just as beautiful under mists and clouds as they are when the weather is bright and sunny. The Chinese say, “Nowhere else under the sky can match Jiuzhaigou,
Arrow Baboo Falls is especially breathtaking in the spring when its swells with clear snowmelt and becomes a cascade flowing throwing a forest of spring green. The falls are about 170 meters wide with the highest cataracts almost 10 meters. Water also flows through trees at Shuzheng Falls. The whole area is stunning in the autumn when the birches, willows and maples burst out in red, yellow and orange.
Jiuzhaigou means “valley of nine villages.” Situated in the Min mountains on the edge of the it a Y-shaped, glacier-carved valley that is 30 kilometers long and comprised of three valleys—the lower 2000-meter-high Shuzeng valley and the Zechawa and the Rize valleyes which fork off of it and climb a height of about 3,000. Along the sides of the valleys are cliffs, escarpment faces, and mountains that remind some of Yosemite Valley. Around the valley are dense forests and snowy peaks and Tibetan villages. The highest point on the park is a 4,558-meter high holy mountain named Zayizaga. Water from the lakes and streams eventually ends up in the Yangtze.
There are a total of 118 lakes in the reserve, which covers 620 square kilometers (278 square miles). The lakes were created by avalanches and landslides that blocked creeks and cause the water in them to back up. The colors in the water come from dissolved limestone which causes the water to change mostly from emerald to turquoise depending on the time of the day.
Waterfall in Jiuzhaigou
According to legend the colors come from cosmetics dropped in the lakes by goddesses and the limestone formations were made by dragons and mermaids. Tibetans believe that spirits live in the lake and reflective quality of their surface comes from a mirror polished with clouds by a god. According to the story the god gave the mirror to a goddess who dropped it with the shards creating the valley’s 118 lakes.
Jiuzhaigou is very developed and crowded. During the height of the summer tourism season it attracts about 18,000 people each day. A fleet 280 buses shuttle the visitors to the boardwalks that the encircle the small lakes, where they wander around at at their own pace and wait in line for the next bus to take them to the next lake. About 80 hotels sit at the entrance Shuzeng valley. At Nuorilang, where the th road forks, there is a shopping center and cafeteria. The left fork ends at a long, squiggle-shaped lake, where costumed Tibetans sell souvenirs. Altogether there are 60 kilometers of wooden walkways, stairs and observation decks for visitors to walk on.
Restrictions have been placed of foreign visitors to Jiuzhaigou Valley because of its location in the volatile Tibetan area of Aba. Jiuzhaigou was declared a World Heritage Site in 1992 after it was threatened by loggers. The pandas that once thrived in the park are largely gone except for maybe a handful that wander in and out of the park. Among the animals that can be found in the park are golden, snub-nosed monkeys, hog badgers, musk deer, lynx, civets, red pandas and rhesus macaques. Visitors occasionally see birds swim in the clear lake and fish fly into the clear air. [Source: Edward Harland, National Geographic. March 2009]
Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site Hotel Web Site: There is accommodation in the park and in Songpan. Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Jiuzhaigou is accessible by bus and organized tour from Songpan and Chengdu. Many visitors arrive on the 40 minutes flights from Chengdu. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet
Songpan (10 hours by bus from Chengdu in northern Sichuan) is nestled in the Min mountains and attracts visitors who like horse trekking.. The town is shared by Tibetans, Hui Muslim and Han Chinese. In the Muslim part of town mutton and yak meat is widely eaten. In the Han Chinese sections pork is preferred.
Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: is accessible by bus from Chengdu. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet
Huanglong Scenic Area
Huanglong Scenic Area(56 kilometers from Songpan on the road to Jiuzhaigou) is more well known for its scenery than its temple which is mostly in ruins. It's main feature is a luxuriously green gorge sided by mountains that rise 9000 feet above a river. The first two and half miles of the five-mile trail that runs along the gorge is built on planks. From the trail you can see dozens of waterfalls, caves and forests choked with climbing vines. The Huanglong area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site Web Site: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Sigulianshan (10 hours from Chengdu on the bus to Xoaojin) is spectacularly situated in high snow-covered mountains. It is reached on a beautiful but scary road. Sigulianshan (Four Girls Mountain) is both the name of the one road town and the pyramid-shaped peak above it. Most of the people that live here are Tibetans. Jeep trips are offered places with awesome scenery.
Image Sources: Province maps from the Nolls China Web site. Photographs of places from 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4) Beifan.com; 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6) Mongabey.com; 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia; 10) Julie Chao photo site; 11) Pandas from teh WWF
Text Sources: CNTO, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays