China… Wonders of Sichuan Province
Discovering some of the icons of Chinese culture is easy in Sichuan – find out how with our look at its numerous wonders.
Located in south-west China, Sichuan Province is an area that possesses many treasures. Indeed, this is a place where you can gape at vast 70-metre high statues hewn from rock one day, see giant pandas the next and then have a first-hand experience of a teahouse culture that's centuries old – and that is only the beginning.
Here, we will take a look at the Sichuan Province's most remarkable wonders – natural and manmade alike.
Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
One of China's most readily recognisable symbols, the giant panda is an endangered species that few of us will ever encounter outside of zoos. Located just outside Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province, the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base is a crucial centre for panda research, breeding and conservation.
This establishment not only provides a home for these pandas, who are free to roam throughout their natural environment here, but also offers important education to visitors about species and its protection. In addition to finding out all about this gentle giant, you can actually see giant pandas enjoying their daily lives; they are particularly active in the morning, should you be able to visit then. While the giant pandas will undoubtedly steal the show, you can look forward to spotting a variety of other species here – including beautiful red pandas, colourful peacocks and pretty butterflies.
Teahouse culture in Chengdu
Chengdu is the beating heart of modern Sichuan – but its modernity has not eradicated tradition. Perhaps the most notable piece of living heritage here is its abundance of teahouses, with several to be found on every street. Local teahouse culture goes back almost impossibly far; records show that by the time the Tang dynasty arose (between 618 and 907 AD), there were already some 400 teahouses in the city. The destination's love affair with tea began as the preserve of the wealthy classes, and slowed infused its way into an integral part of the local culture as a whole.
Visiting a traditional Chengdu teahouse is therefore something of a must. As well as sipping on a beverage that has sustained Chinese conversation, musings and endless games of mah-jong for centuries, take this opportunity to do a spot of people-watching.
One of Sichuan's most remarkable sights, the Grand Buddha is easily among the most impressive landmarks in the whole of China. This 71-metre high carving of the face of Buddha stands at the confluence of three rivers, where it was placed to help protect the boats on the once turbulent currents here.
Remarkably, this carving is more than 1,000 years old, dating all the way back to 713 AD and, while now showing a little wear, it remains in impressive condition. Adding to its mystique is the fact that the statue appears to have achieved its creator's intention - the waters here are much calmer than before it was built. Some credit this to the effects of the construction process, while others see it as a testament to the grace of the Buddha.
Jiuzhaigou National Park
In terms of natural beauty, few destinations in China could be said to equal or surpass that of Jiuzhaigou National Park. Tucked in the north-east of the Min Shan mountain range, this stunning nature reserve is home to an abundance of bright blue lakes, dense woodland, dramatic peaks and glorious waterfalls.
As such, it is ideally suited to walking, and indeed there are many easily accessible trails to choose from. This Unesco World Heritage Site possesses more than scenic charm alone, though, as the reserve is imbued with myth. An old Tibetan legend suggests the park's remarkable lakes as a consequence of a diety's dropped mirror. The story goes that the goddess Wunosemo was pushed into dropping her magic mirror by a devil, and when it shattered on the ground, the fragments transformed into the park's 114 sparkling lakes.
The intertwined charms of scenic beauty, myths and centuries of tradition are what makes Sichuan such an enchanting destination for travellers.