|Name||四川 (sì chuān) ['four' 'river'] Old Name Szechuan WG|
|Population||81.236 million (5.91 %) [4th] comparison table|
|Area||485,000 km2 [187,259 mile2] (5.05 %) [5th]|
|GDP||35,128 (11.41 %) [24th]|
Surrounded by mountains Sichuan has the feel of a hidden kingdom. Known for ferocious heat both in climate and cuisine, Sichuan literally means four rivers (the Min, Tuo, Jaling and Wu rivers) emphasizing the copious waters that flow out of the Tibetan mountains south through the province to join the Yangzi. It is also called the ‘Red Basin’ from the widespread fertile red soil that have made it an important source of food for China over many centuries. You still see Sichuan sometimes written as Szechuan WG particularly on Chinese restaurants in Europe following the older Wade-Giles spelling.
Always a populous province, Sichuan was once the largest by land area; but in 1997 Chongqing was split off to form a new province, reducing the area substantially. This still leaves Sichuan with the fourth largest population in China after Shandong; Henan and Guangdong and the fifth largest in area. It is famous as the birthplace of Deng Xiaoping and the home to some of the few remaining Giant Pandas.
At the time of the Spring and Autumn Period, the Shu Kingdom centered on present day Sichuan became an important regional power. The first Han dynasty Emperor Liu Bang (Gaodi or Gaozu) had his main power base in Sichuan. The province was important as a source of salt and because this was a government monopoly it gave much needed revenue from salt tax. Historically the province has been prone to revolt; stiff resistance was given to the Mongol invasion; and again in 1647 when it resisted Qing conquest - Zhang Xianzhong ➚ led dogged resistance to Manchu conquest. In 1895 the Christian Missionaries were forced out and the people rose up again in 1911 when foreign companies built their new railways ignoring local opposition. It has often served as the last safe bastion of Chinese culture most recently during the Japanese Occupation when the capital of Free China was at Chongqing.
Chengdu is the bustling capital city handling the province's agriculture; silk; industry and administration. As long ago as the Han Dynasty Chengdu had as many inhabitants as the capital at Chang'an. At the time of the Five Dynasties numerous Hibiscus shrubs were planted giving Chengdu the poetic name of the 蓉城 Róng chéng ‘Hibiscus City’. The Tang dynasty poet Du Fu had a thatched cottage ➚ near the city that can still be seen together with statues and poems. Renmin Park is famous for its tea house while Wangjiang Park has an impressive collection of different kinds of bamboo, a plant that is much used in the province. A temple to the wise statesman Zhuge Liang is surrounded by a park and cypresses. It was Zhuge who helped found the kingdom of Shu ➚ together with Liu Bei who also has a tomb in the park. Xue Tao ➚ a famous female poet of the Tang dynasty is commemorated close by. Chengdu holds a flower festival in the middle of the second Chinese month each year. Most importantly for the many modern tourists, Chengdu has a zoo housing Giant Pandas.
Guanxian to the north-west of Sichuan is where the river Min was diverted and controlled to irrigate the plains around Chengdu as early as the Qin dynasty. Meishan to the south west is famous as the home to the Su family of poets from the Song dynasty. Luding has a historic bridge over the Dadu river, this was the scene of an important event on the Communist's Long March of 1935. Sanxingdui to the north of Chengdu has a museum showing the finds from the site of a city 3,000 years old where many strange bronze and gold ornaments were found. Wanglang Nature Reserve 25 miles [40 kms] northwest of Chengdu is home to the captive breeding program for Giant Pandas; there are a number of other animals that can be seen there too. Further south Leshan is a busy agricultural city with historic sites nearby - chiefly it is famous for its Giant Buddha ‘Dafo’ (233 feet [71 meters] high) carved into a cliff.
Just west of Leshan is Emei Shan ➚, one of the most sacred Buddhist mountains in China with a steady stream of Chinese pilgrims; it has the largest stone carved Buddha to be found anywhere. Described by poets as ‘Beauty under Heaven’ the mountain has captured the imagination for centuries. The mountain has groves of azaleas and ginkgo trees, a famous ➚ tea is produced on the slopes of the mountain. Mount Emei rises to an impressive 10,167 feet [3,099 meters] high; Baoguo ➚ Buddhist Temple is at the foot of the long 39 miles [63 kms] hike to the summit. It has 4,700 figures and a complete Huayan sutra ➚. Some way up is the Qingyin Pavilion ➚ and at the summit the mist often produces an iridescent halo. On the way down Wannian Temple ➚ is a viewing point where there is a 62 tons [56,245 kgs] bronze Buddha from the Song dynasty.
An Ancient Plank Road ➚ at Guangyuan guards the strategic mountain pass north through to Shaanxi. Further west Kangding lies close to the impressive mountain of Gongga Shan ➚ the highest peak in Sichuan 24,790 feet [7,556 meters]. Dege ➚ has a Tibetan Lamasery and library while Qingchengshan-Dujiangyan National Park ➚ has ancient Daoist relics.
Even further west is Litang which has as high an elevation as Lhasa in Tibet. Jiuzhaigou ➚ (Nine village valley) north-east of Songpan is a large scenic area popular with tourists among the mountains.
Tibetan; Hui; Dai and Miao minority people live in the mountains surrounding the central basin which is home to mainly Han Chinese. Sichuan has a warm climate with few winter frosts and is usually hot and humid in summer. The central eastern lowlands form the rich agricultural heartland of the province. The mountainous west is more remote and less densely populated and is geographically and historically part of Tibet. The indigenous Khampa people ➚ in this region revolted against Communist reforms in the 1960s and many fled to Tibet. It has extensive coal and natural gas reserves and grows many crops including rice; tea; rapeseed; bamboo; tobacco and produces a large quantity of silk.
City populations for 2012, Province statistics National Bureau of Statistics 2014
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