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Beijing Sichuan Tibet
Chengdu l Emei Shan

The capital of Sichuan province is located in the center of the central Sichuan basin, at the confluence of the Nan and Fu rivers, and is more than 2000 years old. During the late Han dynasty (AD 22-220) Chengdu was renowned for its silk brocade weaving and thereby became known as the “City of Brocade”. In fact it was also known as the “Storehouse of Heaven” because of the agricultural wealth of Sichuan. During the Five Dynasties Period (907-960), a ruler of the late Shu dynasty, Meng Chang, had many hibiscus trees planted on the city walls, thus giving Chengdu the name of “City of Hibiscus”.

There is a rampart 20 kilometers in length, which encloses the rectangular Old City with the viceroy’s palace, which was built in the 14th Century, at its center. The Cultural Revolution destroyed what remained of the city walls however, and the palace was replaced with a Soviet styled palace of Socialism.

Chengdu’s layout is based on that of Beijing but it is greener and has a more traditional charm to it. It is as if parts of China’s history have remained embedded in the many markets and drinking houses of this quaint city. The extensive redevelopment seems to have left Chengdu’s soul untouched and walking through her delightful back streets and alleys may seem like a trip back in time.

To the southwest, in the outskirts of Chengdu, is the People’s Park (renmin gongyuan) which is a beautiful place to relax in, perhaps after a day around Chengdu’s other attractions. There is a bonsai rock garden to stroll through or the famous teahouse by the lake. On the western fringe of this park, beside a picturesque stream, is the hut of the Tang dynasty poet, Du Fu who fled an official post in Chang’an (present day Xi’an) and found refuge in Chengdu with his family. He built a straw hut where he wrote more than 240 of his popular poems.

The southwest of Chengdu is also home to Nanjiao Park (nanjiao gongyuan) where the Temple of Duke Wu ( wuhou si ) stands alongside a lake and pavilion. The temple was built by the King of the Cheng Empire in the final years of the Western Jin period (265-316) in honor of the Three Kingdoms military strategist and scholar Zhuge Liang. In the Ming period (1368-1644), the temple was merged with the nearby Zhaomieliao temple, which was dedicated to the memory of Emperor Liu Bei.

To the southeast of Chengdu, near the University of Sichuan, there is a public park in which a grove with more than a hundred different species of bamboo grow. The Tower Pavilion with River View (wangjiang lou) is nestled within this grove, standing on the southern bank of the river Jin Jiang. It was built during the Qing dynasty in memory of the famous lady poet of the Tang dynasty, Xue Tao. It is said that Xue Tao, who loved bamboo, fetched water from the site to make paper that she used for writing.

Northwest to the center of Chengdu lies the Tomb of Wangjian (wangjian mu), an emperor of the Shu kingdom. Treasures found in the tomb include jade jewelry, imperial seals, sculptures, and mourning books. Statues of 24 musicians playing different instruments surround the tomb in the central building and it is considered to be the best surviving record of a Tang dynasty musical troupe.

Sichuan museum is the largest provincial museum in China’s southwest. There are over 150,000 items on display. Alternatively, one could visit the Museum of Sichuan University, which holds displays of ethnological interest in relation to the art and folklore of Tibet and national minorities.

Another popular attraction is the Wenshu monastery, which was built in the 6th Century and enlarged in the 17th. It contains numerous religious relics, including an impressive Tibetan Buddha image, and is used for the training of young monks. The monastery is also known for its busy teahouse and the many religiously related activities that crowd the streets around the monastery. A sweet haze of incense smoke hangs over the stalls that brim with joss sticks, candles and fireworks.

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