Sichuan is one of China's most important inland provinces. It occupies most of the Sichuan Basin and incorporates the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. Sichuan hosts 6 UNESCO sites including two Giant Buddhas - the two largest pre-modern statutes in the world today. Its cuisine is second to none in China and it is the home of the Giant Panda.
The province is humid and mountainous and includes the Tibetan ethnic group and culture in its eastern part. Sichuan is easily one of the richest and greatest must-see provinces in China.
Sichuan: The Facts
- Largest City: Chengdu
- Population: 81 Million
- Famous For: Natural Beauty, Giant Buddha, Spicy Hot Pot, The Home Of The Pandas
Sichuan is a large and important province in the heart of China. Here you can taste some of the best of Chinese cuisine. It is famous for its spicy hotpot which is popular all around China (if you are visiting Sichuan hopefully you can tolerate spicy food). Other very popular dishes that hail from Sichuan include Kung Pao chicken and mapo tofu.
Sichuan cuisine extensively uses Sichuan peppers mostly because of the humid Sichuanese climate. The Sichuanese people are very proud of their traditional food and the province is known to be a trap for tourists. A good trap where tourists just stay in the city sampling the many many kinds of delicious dishes.
- Visa Requirements: Visa Required For China
Parts of Sichuan are inhabited by ethnic Tibetans. If you want to see the Tibetan culture, you don't really need to travel to Tibet (it is a little difficult and expensive for foreigners to get to Tibet). Tibetan culture extends into some of the neighboring provinces like Sichuan. In fact, the western part of the province is called "Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture" and Tibetans account for 77% of 880,000 inhabitants.
Sichuan is home to the majority of the Giant Panda's wild population (with some extending into the neighboring Shaanxi and Gansu Provinces). The Pandas live in the bamboo forest in low mountainous areas.
- Fun Fact: Giant Pandas Are In The Order "Carnivora" But 99% Of Their Diet Is Bamboo
Scientifically the giant panda is known as "Ailuropoda melanoleuca" and in Chinese as "dàxióngmāo". The panda is a bear and not related to the red panda. The pandas are vulnerable to deforestation and they have been the focus of an intensive conservation campaign by China. Now they have had their status upgraded to vulnerable from endangered. They are considered a conservation-reliant vulnerable species. The wild population is estimated to be in the low thousands.
Sichuan is home to two giant Buddha statues, the Rongxian Giant Buddha and the more famous Leshan Giant Buddha.
The Rongxian Giant Buddha is 120 tall and made of stone. It is old being built around the year 817 AD during the Tang Dynasty. It is around 90 km or 60 miles east of the Leshan Giant Buddha. The Buddha is the world's second-tallest pre-modern statue (after the Leshan Buddha) and is carved out of the cliff face.
- Record: Second Tallest Pre-Modern Statue In The World
The larger and more famous Leshan Giant Buddha towers a whopping 233 feet. It was also built during the Tang Dynasty between 713 and 803 AD. The Buddha sits there with the rivers flowing below its feet and it gazes out to Mount Emei. The whole Mount Emei Scenic Area is UNESCO Listed - including the Leshan Giant Buddha.
- Record: By Far The Tallest Pre-Modern Statue Anywhere On Earth
The Chinese monk, Hai Tong, who started the Buddha hoped that it would help calm the turbulent waters of the river that trading boats would have to navigate. Oddly enough it seems it may have worked, but not for the reason he intended. Instead, the construction of such a massive statute in the cliff resulted in so much stone being deposited into the river that the currents were somewhat calmed making it safer for the ships navigating the river.
He would never see the project completed and the project run out of funds with it only being completed down to the shoulders. Another construction phase saw it completed to the knees until that too was sidelined. About 70 years later the statue was finally completed 80 years after the start.
- Fun Fact: Mount Rushmore Is Also Incomplete Having Run Out Of Funds, It Was Meant To Have The Presidents Upper Bodies As Well As The Heads
UNESCO World Heritage Listed Sites
Sichuan is rich in things to see and do. The natural landscapes are breathtaking and the history is deep. This is demonstrated in that the province boasts some six different UNESCO sites - all of which are well worth visiting.
- Dazu Rock Carvings And Wulong Karst
- Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic And Historic Interest Area
- Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries
- Mount Qincheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System
- Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area
- Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area
Sichuan is a stunning province that is both massive and bursting with things to see and do. It is a perfect balance of culinary tradition, massive historical landmarks, dazzling natural landscapes, a portion of the Tibetan ethnic and cultural region, and the home of the Giant Panda!