Guangyuan (Gǔangyúan, 广元) is an ancient fortress city, set in the mountains that straddle the border between northern Sichuan and Shaanxi. Empress Wu Zetian (Wǔ Zétiān, 武则天) was born here and Huangze Temple, carved into the cliffs along the Jialing River (Jīalíng Jiāng, 嘉陵江), stands to commemorate China's most powerful (and only) female ruler.
Today Guangyuan is a sunny, slightly mountainous city with a bustling city center and a reputation for the best beef noodles this side of Gansu. The highway leading from Chengdu to Guangyuan will eventually link the capital of Sichuan with Xi'an and Lanzhou.
Poverty has its disadvantages, but also a few positive notes. The area north and east of Guangyuan is some of the least explored and most beautiful land in Sichuan. The historical importance of this part of Sichuan, sandwiched between Chongqing and Shaanxi, has been lost over the centuries. However, you can still see traces of Guangyuan's former glory, including Jianmen Fortress and the Anyue Grottoes.