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Sichuan

Sichuan Province is the largest province in China and it also has the largest population with almost 100 million people. It is situated in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. Due to its rich natural resources, Sichuan is referred to as the "heavenly Kingdom". In Sichuan live more than 54 precious animals, the most precious of which is Giant Panda. Now there have been 15 nature reserves, where panda bears are living. Sichuan is also rich in natural scenic spots, including Emeishan Mountain, the Grand Buddha in Leshan, Jiuzhaigou National Park, Dujiangyan Irrigation Project and many other sites of historical significance.

Sichuan, a big inland province in southwest China, stretches for over a thousand kilometers and has nearly one tenth of the national total population. Sichuan is a province of multi-nationalities inhabited by as many as 15 different ethnic groups including Han, Yi, Qiang, Miao, etc.

The province itself can be physically divided into two very different halves: a densely populated eastern plain, and a mountainous area. In the east is the fertile Red Basin, which is called Han China's "rice bowl", where a subtropical climate and rich soil conspire to produce endless green fields turning out three harvests a year, which has created an air of easy affluence apparent in Chengdu, Sichuan's capital.

With the unique and fascinating natural landscapes and a long and splendid history, Sichuan is considered to have invaluable tourism resources. The famous scenic spots include Leshan, Emei Shan, Aba grasslands and Jiuzhaigou.

Recommended Scenic Spots

Mt. Emei

Mt. Emei is one of the 4 most sacred Buddhist mountains in China. The undulating peaks, covered with lush forests and green bamboo, occupy an area of more than 300 sq km in the southwest of Sichuan province.

Mt. Emei is the general name for 3 mountains, Da'e (Great E), Er'e (Second E) and San'e (Third E). The mountains are majestic, quiet and serene and acclaimed in China as "a Beauty under Heaven".

Visitors are drawn to Mt. Emei either as a place of pilgrimage or simply to scale the magnificent heights. Most of the monasteries and temples at Mt. Emei were built during the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220AD), while others were added later. As a well-known Buddhist sanctuary of Samantabhadra, Mt. Emei once had more than 100 monasteries.

The main temples and scenic areas are: Baoguo Monastery, Wannian Monastery, Fuhu (Ambushing Tiger) Monastery, Leiyin (Thunder Sound) Monastery, Chunyang Hall, Qingyin (Pure Tone) Tower, Heilongjiang plank road, Hongchun Ping, Xianfeng (Fairy Peak) Monastery, Xixiang (Wash Elephant) Pool, Golden Summit, Huayan Top, and White Dragon Cave.

Visitors often choose to spend a couple of days in this area.

Jiuzhaigou

In northern Sichuan, close to the Gansu border, is Jiuzhaigou (literally: Nine Stockade Gully), which was 'discovered' in the 1970s and is now being groomed for an annual influx of 300,000 visitors.

In 1984 Zhao Ziyang made the famous comment which all Sichuanese tourism officials love to quote: 'Guilin's scenery ranks top in the world, but Jiuzhaigou's scenery even tops Guilin's'. Jiuzhaigou, which has several Tibetan settlements, offers a number of dazzling features - it is a nature reserve area (with some panda conservation zones) with North American-type alpine scenes (peaks, hundreds of clear lakes, forests). Scattered throughout the region are Tibetan prayer wheels and chortens, Tibetan stupas.

The remoteness of the region and the chaotic transport connections has kept it clean and relatively untrod. Despite the good intentions of the authorities, all this looks certain to change fast. A helicopter landing pad is under construction even though the mountain ranges between Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou are not ideal terrain for helicopters. And Chinese resorts style hotels, though as yet largely empty, line the road leading to the park entrance.

You should calculate between a week and 10 days for the round trip by road. It takes from two to three days to get there and you can easily spend three or four days - or even weeks - doing superb hikes along trails which cross a spectacular scenery of waterfalls, ponds, lakes and forests - it's just the place to rejuvenate polluted urban senses.

In a bid to prevent the forest from being trampled by hordes of tourists, park authorities have stationed locals on some of the off-road trails to rum back wandering hikers. If you run into one, it's best to be friendly and head back to the road. You'll even get the chance to nose around the Tibetan Zaru Temple just inside the entrance; the monks are a friendly lot and seem pleased to see foreign tourists.

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