Throughout history, Sichuan has been known as the "Storehouse of Heaven," due not only to its abundance of flora and fauna, but also to its varied cuisine, culture, and customs.
Geographically, it's dominated by the Sichuan Basin, which covers much of the eastern part of the province. The Sichuan Basin—also known as the Red Basin because of the reddish sandstone that predominates in the region—accounts for almost half its area. On all sides the province is surrounded by mountains: the Dabashan in the northeast, the Wushan in the east, the Qinghai Massif in the west, and the Yunnan and Guizhou plateaus in the south.
Sichuan's relative isolation made communication with the outside world difficult and fostered the development of valley, plains, and mountain cultures with distinct characteristics. The Tibetans living deep in the foothills of the Himalayas share space with Qiang, Hui, and Han settlers. In the mountains to the south toward Yunnan, there are dozens of peoples living side by side, such as the Yi, Naxi, Mosu, Miao, and Bai. These cultures all have their own religions and philosophies, with Buddhism and Taoism the dominant religions in the area.
The mountain of Emeishan is a pilgrimage site for millions of Buddhists, as is the Great Buddha in nearby Leshan. Its distance from the epicenter spared the area from any major quake damage. In Songpan, north of the capital city of Chengdu, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and Taoists live alongside each other in harmony. One of China's most famous national parks is in Jiuzhaigou, far to the north in Aba Prefecture. The natural springs, dense forests, dramatic cliffs, and sprawling waterfalls make Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. And if you need more urban comforts, Chengdu is an increasingly international city with food from all over the world, top-notch hotels, dizzying nightlife, and what must be more teahouses per square inch than any other city in the world.
Sichuan at a Glance
- Du Fu's Thatched Cottage Museum
- Giant Buddha
- Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
- Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve
- Qingyang Gong
- Baoguo Monastery
- Buddha Zen Hotel
- Folk Inn
- Fraser Suites
- Intercontinental Resort Jiuzhai Paradise
- Jinjiang Binguan
- Jinrui Hotel
- Lazy Bones Hostel
- Millennium Hotel
Elsewhere in Sichuan and Chongqing
Need a break from the big city? View 42-hour itineraries from 13 cities.More