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Sìchuān 四川

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751

SÌCHUĀN

Sìchuān 四川
Interpret literally the five Chinese elements (water, earth, wood, metal, fire) and you may
understand the attraction that Sìchuān has had for millennia. Sìchuān means ‘Four Rivers’
and the name pays tribute to that most essential element, water. Indeed, the ‘four’ are but
the mightiest of the 1300-plus rivers roiling or sedately meandering across the southwest’s
most expansive province and long dominating the ethos.
Underappreciating the land (‘earth’) here defies possibility; one can’t help but note the high
quotient of set-in-Sìchuān poetry and shānshuǐ huā (‘mountain water painting’, a traditional
Chinese form). Sìchuān is ensconced to the north, west, and south by sublime mountain
ranges at once majestic and foreboding (and the reason why Sìchuān remained so isolated
for so much of China’s history). In the west, the sparsely populated Tibetan plateau, birthplace
of many ribbony waterways, pushes skyward with each kilometre. The rivers spill eastward
into the Chuānxī plain of the preternaturally fecund Sìchuān basin, which supports one of the
densest (and most diverse) populations
on the planet (and filling a billion other mouths).
„
With epic tracts of forest (‘wood’) and vast deposits of ore (‘metal’), Sìchuān has become
one of China’s wealthiest provinces and in no small part is the engine of western China.
Ah, but fire may be the most esoteric. No volcanoes, but to toy with a metaphor, ‘fire’ here
really means spice, as in hot (italics essential) peppers, the key ‘element’ of Sìchuān’s renowned
flamethrower cuisine. The preponderance of peppers isn’t arbitrary; their spiciness is believed
to help reduce a person’s internal dampness caused by high humidity and rainy weather.
HIGHLIGHTS
„ Wear out your legs, bribe some monkeys and hope for a blessed sunrise at the sacred

mountaintop of Éméi Shān (p769)
„ Feel your mortality (from the bottom up) on the Sìchuān–Tibet Hwy (p777) amid

soaring snow-capped peaks, grasslands and
Tibetan villages
„ Indulge your inner cowpoke atop a (tame)

pony through the magnificent splendour
surrounding Sōngpān (p792)
„ Coo baby talk to panda cubs at Chéngdū’s

SŸngpƒn

Chéngd¥

Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (p757)
„ Get some statuary exercise by scaling the

Grand Buddha, the world’s largest Buddha
statue, in Lèshān (p774)
„ Wander streets filled with funky traditional

architecture and prepare for your Imperial
examination in Lǎngzhōng (p768)
„ POPULATION: 84 ...
SÌCHUĀ N
Interpret literally the five Chinese elements (water, earth, wood, metal, fire) and you may
understand the attraction that Sìchuān has had for millennia. Sìchuān means ‘Four Rivers’
and the name pays tribute to that most essential element, water. Indeed, the ‘four’ are but
the mightiest of the 1300-plus rivers roiling or sedately meandering across the southwest’s
most expansive province and long dominating the ethos.
Underappreciating the land (‘earth’) here defies possibility; one can’t help but note the high
quotient of set-in-Sìchuān poetry and shānshuǐ huā (‘mountain water painting’, a traditional
Chinese form). Sìchuān is ensconced to the north, west, and south by sublime mountain
ranges at once majestic and foreboding (and the reason why Sìchuān remained so isolated
for so much of China’s history). In the west, the sparsely populated Tibetan plateau, birthplace
of many ribbony waterways, pushes skyward with each kilometre. The rivers spill eastward
into the Chuānxī plain of the preternaturally fecund Sìchuān basin, which supports one of the
densest (and most diverse) populations on the planet (and filling a billion other mouths).
With epic tracts of forest (‘wood’) and vast deposits of ore (‘metal’), Sìchuān has become
one of China’s wealthiest provinces and in no small part is the engine of western China.
Ah, but fire may be the most esoteric. No volcanoes, but to toy with a metaphor, ‘fire’ here
really means spice, as in hot (italics essential) peppers, the key ‘element’ of Sìchuān’s renowned
flamethrower cuisine. The preponderance of peppers isn’t arbitrary; their spiciness is believed
to help reduce a person’s internal dampness caused by high humidity and rainy weather.
chuān 四川
POPULATION: 84 MILLION
HIGHLIGHTS
Wear out your legs, bribe some monkeys and hope for a blessed sunrise at the sacred
mountaintop of Éméi Shān ( p769 )
Feel your mortality (from the bottom up) on the Sìchuān–Tibet Hwy ( p777 ) amid
soaring snow-capped peaks, grasslands and
Tibetan villages
Indulge your inner cowpoke atop a (tame)
pony through the magnificent splendour
surrounding Sōngpān ( p792 )
Coo baby talk to panda cubs at Chéngdū’s
Giant Panda Breeding Research Base ( p757 )
Get some statuary exercise by scaling the
Grand Buddha, the world’s largest Buddha
statue, in Lèshān ( p774 )
Wander streets filled with funky traditional
architecture and prepare for your Imperial
examination in Lǎngzhōng ( p768 )
L†ngzhŸng
Éméi Shƒn
Lèshƒn
Chéngd¥
SŸngpƒn
Tibet Hwy
Sìchuƒn–
751
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Sìchuān 四川 9 10 807