Sichuan's incredible diversity often boils down to two things for first-time visitors: pandas and peppers. Pretty much everyone knows that China's iconic animals amble through Sichuan's bamboo forests and that numbingly hot Sichuan pepper fuels one of the world's spiciest cuisines.
What people don't always know—but quickly find out—is how much more Sichuan has to offer. It's one of China's richest zones of biodiversity—over one-fifth of the nation's rare plants and animals are to be found in Sichuan's mountains, river valleys and forests.
It's also a culturally diverse place, especially in its rugged western half, where Tibetan, Naxi, Qiang and Li ethnic minorities live amidst often stunning landscapes of wooded mountains and lakes.
"Sichuan" translates to "four rivers," and its historical importance and present prosperity have much to do with the Yangzi (Yangtze) and its tributaries, especially in the fertile east, where the ancient capital of Chengdu presides over economic boom times. Subtropical lowlands boast rich soil that has always made eastern Sichuan an agricultural dynamo; now, the province is also an industrial powerhouse, doing more than its part to contribute to China's overall breakneck growth.
So, come to see the pandas at the Giant Panda Research Base and to sample fiery hot pot, spicy kung pao chicken and dan dan noodles—then stay a while to visit some of China's finest mountain landscapes, from the alpine splendor of Jiuzhaigou to the culturally iconic Emei Shan. Linger in Chengdu's classic teahouses and visit the ancient colossus of the Buddhist world, Dafo, in Leshan. Finally, think about moving on downriver on the Yangzi toward the Three Gorges or heading to two of China's other wilder regions, Tibet and Yunnan, lying to the west and south respectively. In the end, you'll likely understand why the Chinese call Sichuan "the Heavenly Kingdom."
The Chinese mania for taming rivers goes way back, preceding today's controversial Three Gorges and proposed Tiger Leaping Gorge projects by well over two thousand years...
The main shrine to Sichuan's ancient Shu Kingdom and the heroes that made it legendary during the Three Kingdoms period, Wuhou Temple (Wǔhóu Cí, 武侯祠) was first..
For many, the image of a panda is intrinsically linked with that of China. The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (Chéngdū Dà Xióngmāo Fányù..
Chengdu's oldest and largest temple is the Wenshu Monastery (Wénshū Yuàn, 文殊院). The temple that stands today is a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) reconstruction of a..