Sichuan : More than Pandas

By Rajiv Joshi

Sichuan, one of the largest province of China is known for its mouth-watering foods, pandas and wide varieties in ancient cultures and traditions. And no doubt, because of the host of things it has to offer, Sichuan is one of the most popular destinations in China.

This South Western province of China, is naturally gifted with plains, hills, mountains, and plateaus. Sichuan also hosts a wide variety of beautiful landscapes including river, lakes, hot springs, ravines, basin, waterfalls and limestone caves among others. Their well preserved ancient cities are also equally amazing.

Sichuan is also full of places with impressive culture and magical nature. Giant Pandas, thousands of years old civilizations, interesting local custom hidden in the modern crowded streets, mysterious and beautiful valleys, delicious local Sichuan cuisines you get here are beyond expectations and it is the paradise for travelers.

Here is a basic to what to do, where to go and what to see while you are there.

 

Chengdu

Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan is the center of one of China’s four best-known regional cuisines, with its tongue tingling and bold spices. The city is located on the edge of the fertile plains of the Red Basin of Sichuan Province. Due to its agricultural wealth, Chengdu is also called the “Land of Milk and Honey”.

Lots of ancient temples and centuries-old teahouses can be seen in Chengdu city. The popular landmark, Anshun Bridge was even mentioned by Marco Polo in his 13th-century writings about China. You can find lots of chic design hotels, nice clubs, and pubs on the streets nearby the bridge.

There is even more scenic site in Chengdu. The diversified landscapes in these areas shelters a number of rare plant and animal species. The mountain area nearby Chengdu city is also home to over one-fifth of the country’s rare plant species and more than 50 kinds of rare animals, among which the giant pandas are the most endangered ones. 85% of China’s giant pandas are the habitats of the mountain areas, which gives the province a reputation of ‘Hometown of Giant Pandas’.

 

Giant Panda

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is one of Chengdu’s most popular attractions. This reserve 18km north of the city center is the easiest way to get a glimpse of Pandas, which Sìchuan is famous for. The large and well-maintained reserve is home to around 120 giant and 76 red pandas. The base is considered a national treasure. The open-air sanctuary is one of the most popular destinations in China due to its focus on breeding, conservation, and introducing new pandas into the wild.

It is an amazing research center. It is truly wonderful to see how the people of China are saving this rare species. The compound is a well-planned place with a reasonable and pleasant walk where you can access all the facilities. It can be the most amazing place to see Pandas up close and personal. The place is a great open park full of nature and there is a mini train to get around if you don’t want to walk.

 

Dujiyangyan Irrigation System

You might think, what to see in an irrigation system and may let it pass. But it’s totally worth seeing this stunning feat of engineering constructed around 256 BC that is still effective today. The irrigation system with a classic blend of Taoist beliefs and science is an engineering marvel. It is also the UNESCO world heritage site.

Incredibly fast and furious Min River caused floods and disrupted lives of peoples who lived here over 2000 yrs ago. A wonderfully clever way to control the flow of the river was devised by the local mayor at that time to control the flows of water. Since the irrigation system was built, neither flood nor drought has occurred in the region and the same river diversion system is still working today!

As the locals say, Chengdu would not exist as it does today without this stunning marvel. Additionally, the gardens and architecture are breathtaking, serene, stunningly beautiful. The park is situated within a town of great shopping and restaurants.

The old city is just nearby. Not many things are original in the old city, but it has been beautifully constructed as a tourist site. The old city is absolutely worth strolling through for its architecture, and there are interesting descriptions of the place’s history. The east city gate is very impressive to see and the street inside it is worth a stroll.

 

Quingcheng Mountain

Spectacular and Majestic Qingcheng Mountain is surrounded by lush forest and secluded tranquility. The mountain is surrounded by numerous peaks and is shaped like a city. It is also said that it is ‘the most peaceful and secluded mountain under heaven’.

It is considered one of the birthplaces of Taoism (Daoism) and one of the most important Taoist centers in China. As a center of the Taoist religion it is the host to many temples. The mountain has 36 peaks. It a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Perfectly preserved Taoist temples that decorate the enclave and the beautiful garden on the way in is amazing. Taking a ferry ride to get across the Yuecheng Lake is another attraction of the place.

Taking a cable car to the top of the mountain gives an opportunity of getting the glimpse of surrounding hills, forests and various temples and engraving on the stone wall on the way up.

The area possesses alluring natural beauty and with an abundance of cultural relics and historic sites. Among them, the Jianfu Palace, the Shangqing Palace, and the Tianshi Cave are some of the most famous sites in the area.

Stopping at various temples along the way and delving into their fascinating history and learn about the Tang and Qing dynasties influenced construction is equally fascinating.

 

Kuanzhai Alley

The Kuanzhai Alley or China Lane is a cool place to wander around. Kuanzhai alley is one of Chengdu’s three historic conservation districts. Constructed in 1718 during the early years of the Qing dynasty, this pleasant walking street showcases a fascinating mix of classic Sichuan architecture and modern cafes and boutiques.

This alley exhibits the leisurely life of natives and represents the most typical forms of Chengdu folk culture. The natives, old lodges, and ancient teahouses here reflect the city’s past, which is quite unique. The typical life of Chengdu natives can also be observed in these alleys. The alleys here showcase their history and architectural skill. You can even witness how some of the city’s old establishments-local restaurants, traditional teahouses, and antique shops blend with the new ones. You can even find some western restaurants, fast foods, and cafes across the alley.

 

Sichuan Opera

Sichuan opera is one of the favorite attraction for tourists visiting Chengdu. One of the oldest and most interesting opera forms in Southwestern China, Sichuan Opera is a perfect blend of local dialect, customs, folk music, and dances adapted from different regions.  Sichuan Opera is known for its humor and dynamic atmosphere where the integral part of every performance is “changing faces.”

The main character is often a villain who changes his face to escape recognition. The actors are so fast and skillful that the face changing is barely noticeable to the audience. Over its 300-year tradition, the tricks might have changed, but it has always been a closely guarded secret within the operatic community. Traditional stick puppet dance and flame balancing are also incorporated into the drama.

 

Sichuan cuisine

Sichuan Cuisine is quite popular all over the world and Chengdu is a place that has built a reputation for its food. Sichuanese food is considered one of the eight great cuisines of China.

Hot peppers and Sichuan peppercorns are the hearts of Sichuan cuisine. Moreover, there are hundreds of flavors in Sichuan cuisine. Each dish has its own unique flavor. Another thing that makes Sichuan cuisine special is the seasoning. Different types of seasonings makes Sichuan cuisine even more exciting. Other commonly used spices are garlic, chili peppers, ginger, and star anise.

Sichuanese cuisine has a wide range of food options from noodles to home-style dishes and street foods. Classic Sichuan foods like Kung pao chicken, double cooked pork, Mapo Tofu, Dan Dan noodles among dozen other foods are the locals as well as visitors favorite.

Sichuan’s favorite dish, however, is hot pot. Hot pot is eaten all over China but the hot chili and mouth-numbing Schezuan pepper make this one famous. It’s basically a pot of regular old broth, all you need to do dump a bunch of meat and veggies into the pot to cook it. But its the spices and chilies used to make it, what makes it different and special.

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