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Sichuan's natural beauty beckons global travelers

Updated: Jul 23, 2019 By Zhao Shijun China Daily Print
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'Land of plenty' in Southwest China blessed with natural wonders beyond iconic bear

For travelers from across the globe, Sichuan is most associated with the giant panda, but there is much more to the province in Southwest China than just its cute black and white bears.

A true tour of Sichuan, known as the "land of plenty" for more than 2,000 years, is to explore the region's colorful cultures, long history and spectacular natural wonders.

At a news conference held earlier in June, Peng Qinghua, Party secretary of Sichuan, said the province is on track to grow into a major tourism destination in China thanks to its rich resources.

"The major task for Sichuan in the coming years is to foster a number of landmark tourism brands by integrating local cultural and natural resources," Peng said.

Tourist destinations such as Jiuzhaigou, Emei Mountains, the panda habitats, Gongga Mountains, Shangri-La, the Bamboo Sea, the Dujiangyan irrigation area, the ancient relics and the ancient passageways and trade routes will be Sichuan's major offerings to tourists from China and overseas, according to the Party chief.

Among these destinations, the greater Jiuzhaigou, greater Shangri-La and greater Gongga are destinations where tourists can enjoy both natural wonders and the legacies of various ethnic cultures.

Jiuzhaigou and its neighboring areas, which are located in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, is a great representative of Sichuan's bountiful natural and cultural resources for tourism.

Jiuzhaigou, which is often described as a "fantasy land under heaven" in Chinese, is among the most popular destinations in Sichuan.

It is China's first nature reserve and is home to rare animals including giant pandas and snub-nosed monkeys.

The area is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, a national top-level tourism destination and a national geopark.

The heart of Jiuzhaigou is a 50-kilometer valley where tourists can enjoy a number of impressive sceneries including colorful lakes linked by torrential streams and waterfalls, blue glaciers, permanent snow-capped peaks, dense woods with rich varieties of flora and fauna, and the unique architecture, garments and rituals of the Tibetan people.

To the west of Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area is the vast expanse of the Songpan Grassland, which covers the four counties of Songpan, Hongyuan, Zoige and Aba.

It is a huge canvas of color with blossoming flowers in spring and summer, golden leaves in autumn and brilliant white snow in winter. At the center of the canvas are the ethnic Tibetan herders who lead flocks of sheep and herds of cattle to graze along the banks of the curling rivers and streams.

To the southwest of Jiuzhaigou is the Huanglong Scenic Area, which is famous for its tufa formations.

Tufa is a calcium carbonate deposit formed in or near alkaline lakes and ponds.

Huanglong is known for the rich colors, novel shapes and sheer scale of its tufa formations.

The Huanglong valley is home to some 2,300 colorful ponds, with their colors changing corresponding to changes in weather, flora colors and the variety of deposits on the ponds.

The region in west Sichuan, which borders Yunnan province and the Tibetan autonomous region, is an increasingly popular destination of greater Shangri-La.

The region is so named thanks to The Lost Horizon, a James Hilton novel published in 1933.

It is believed that the story happened in the region, which is also known as Kham in the Tibetan language.

The Yading township in Daocheng county is the focal point for tourists interested in Shangri-La mythology and storytelling, and all aspects related to the novel.

The Yading area's major attractions include the three snow-covered holy mountains of Xiannairi, Yangmaiyong and Xianuoduoji and the nearby streams, lakes and grasslands.

Worship of the natural deities is a feature of the Bon religion, the aboriginal belief of the Tibetan people. They believe in gods in the form of snowy mountains, lakes and rivers.

Among all the snow-capped mountains, Gongga, which borders Kangding city and Luding county is the highest.

With a height of 7,556 meters above sea level, the main peak of Gongga is dubbed as the "king of mountains in Sichuan".

It is a magnet for mountain climbers and photographers alike.

The main peak and dozens of other snow-covered peaks create the most spectacular sights during sunrise and sunset, as the white peaks gradually turn golden in the sunshine.

The moving snow from the peaks form a number of large glaciers in the valleys. The largest among them is Hailuogou Glacier. The altitude of the glacier's lowest end is 2,850 m above sea level, providing visitors with yet another spectacular sight to see.

From Left: Dagu Glacier in Heishui county, Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture is a popular destination for travelers. Dujiangyan is the oldest surviving irrigation system in the world without a dam. Snow-covered mountains tower over Zhenzhutan Waterfall in Jiuzhaigou. Photos provided to China Daily

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