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2.110558 - CHINESE MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - SICHUAN: A Cultural Tour with Traditional Chinese Music (NTSC)
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Sichuan – A Cultural Tour with Traditional Chinese Music

 

1. Du Fu Thatched Cottage

As one of the most popular scenic spots in Chengdu, Du Fu Thatched Cottage remains as a tribute to the famous Chinese poet Du Fu, who wrote many of the Tang Dynasty’s most enduring poems. Du Fu’s Cottage is set in a park centred around his former residence, the most beautiful green space in Chengdu.

Du Fu was born in Henan Province, but the An Lushan Rebellion, an uprising by a general against the Tang Dynasty rulers, kept the poet on the move. He eventually settled in Chengdu for four years. During that period he wrote more than 200 poems about the people who lived and worked nearby.

The park with its bamboo-lined paths, streams and pavilions, includes a replica of Du Fu Thatched Cottage. The most recent addition is a modern structure at the north end of the park where recently excavated relics of the Tang Dynasty are on display.

Music: Longing for the Red Army / Bird Counting

 

2. Jiuzhaigou Valley:

Five Flower Lake

Five Flower Lake is at the centre of Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan Province in China. Set between the scenic Pearl Shoal Waterfall and Panda Lake, Five Flower Lake has a depth of 5 metres and an altitude of 2,472 metres. The surrounding green vegetation and the miraculous blue of the lakes of the region are breath-taking. Unexpectedly trees grow in the middle of the lakes. This is caused by fertile pockets of calcium in the waters, which create their own seed-beds.

A jewel of Jiuzhaigou National Park, Five Flower Lake is of unforgettable natural beauty. Through the transparent yet multi-coloured water, springs are seen gushing out from the bottom of the lake. The fine views from the quiet forest trail between Mirror Lake and Panda Lake are unparalleled. The panoramic view of Five Flower Lake on the Tiger Stone is among the most striking.

Long Lake

The S-shaped Long Lake covers an area of 930,000 square metres, making it the largest lake at Jiuzhaigou National Park. The average altitude of the lake is 3,060 metres, with the highest reaching 4,457 metres. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Long Lake lies at the end of Zechawa Valley. It is over 690 metres wide and the deepest place is over 100 metres. Being the widest and deepest lake among all lakes at Jiuzhaigou National Park, Long Lake is vast without any outgoing waterways. It neither rises sharply during storm seasons in summer or autumn, nor dries up during winter or spring. It is said that monsters appear in the lake now and then, adding to the mystery of this well-known lake.

Five-Colour Pond

Five-Colour Pond is of particular beauty among all the lakes of Jiuzhaigou National Park, with its upper half blue and lower half orange. Different kinds of water plant grow in Five-Colour Pond. Owing to the chlorophyll of different shades contained in these plants, the water of Five-Colour Pond presents very different colours from place to place, with blue, green, yellow and orange. Here fertile pockets of calcium in the waters create their own seedbeds.

Five-Colour Pond is part of a multi-coloured group of pools at the very end of Huanglong. At an altitude of 3,900 metres, there are 693 pools of different size. As it is the highest scenic region in Huanglong, the climb can be very taxing for visitors, many of whom may abandon their original attempt midway.

Five-Colour Pond ressembles a great sapphire hidden in the forest. Covering an area of 5,645 square metres, it is the smallest lake in Jiuzhaigou National Park. The green of the surrounding vegetation and the varied colours of the lakes and pools are unforgettable. Even in a cold winter, Five-Colour Pond does not freeze.

Rhinoceros Lake

Rhinoceros Lake is at an altitude of about 2,315 metres and is 2.2 kilometres long, with an average depth of 12 metres. The volume of water in Rhinoceros Lake remains the same throughout the year. As the largest lake in Shuzheng Valley, it has a vast area of water, thus ranking as the second largest lake at Jiuzhaigou National Park. Rhinoceros Lake boasts of its ever-changing colours and is affectionately named “Crown of Lakes”. Every early morning, reflections in the lake water seem partly real and partly illusionary, when one is unable to tell the sky from the lake. Around the lakesides grow dense trees and grasses in different shades. According to the legend, a seriously sick old Tibetan lama once rode a rhinoceros to the bank of the lake. When he drank the lake water, he was miraculously healed. Absorbed by the mysterious beauty of this lake, the old Tibetan lama rode his rhinoceros into the lake, giving the Rhinoceros Lake its name.

Music: Huangyang Shoulder Pole / Grape Picking / The Scorched Sun

 

3. Chengdu:

Wuhou Memorial Temple

Wuhou Memorial Temple is dedicated to Zhuge Liang, the Martial Marquis of Shu in the Three Kingdoms (221 A.D.–263 A.D.). Memorial temples erected in many places include a famous one in Chengdu.

Wuhou Memorial Temple is located in the south of Chengdu and covers an area of 150,000 square metres. It consists of three major parts—Legacy Area (Three Kingdom Legacy), Nanjiao Park Area (Three Kingdoms culture) and Jinli Ancient Street (Jinli folk customs). The temple honours the first minister, Zhuge Liang, the ruler of the Kingdom of Shu, Liubei, and Shu heroes, and is an important monument to the Three Kingdoms. It was originally started in 223 when Liubei’s tomb was built. In 1961 the Chinese State Council declared it the First National Key Legacy Protection Unit. The Tomb Park Area and Jinli Ancient Street are respectively to the east and west of the building complex. The main body of the temple is divided into five sections, the Gate, the second Gate, the Hall of Liu Bei, the corridor, and the Hall of Zhuge Liang, all of which run south to north.

Chengdu Wuhou Memorial Temple is the most important museum dedicated to relics of the Three Kingdoms in China. The most valuable cultural relic within the temple is the Triple-Success Stele set up in 809. The three successes are: a statement about the morality and achievements of Zhuge Liang written by Pei Du, a famous minister of the Tang Dynasty, who served four emperors in succession, calligraphy by Liu Gongquan, one of the most brilliant calligraphers in Chinese history, and an inscription by the respected craftsman Lu Jian.

Kuanxiangzi Alley

Kuanxiangzi Alley in Chengdu is a relic of the Qing Dynasty. It is one of the three major historical and cultural conservation areas in the city. Kuanxiangzi Alley together with Zhai Alley is fully characteristic of ancient Chengdu City. Visitors walking here as the sun sets, seeing wisps of smoke from chimneys, may find themselves absorbed in the traditional life of those who live in these old lanes.

In 1718 Zungar forces intruded into Tibet. The imperial court dispatched more than three thousand officers and soldiers to suppress the revolt, and afterwards left about one thousand to construct Mancheng (known as Shaocheng) in Chengdu. The imperial government of the Qing Dynasty forbade officers and soldiers engaging in trade. Their salaries or subsidies were officially determined by their achievements in the spring and autumn physical prowess competitions held in Shaocheng Park (today’s People’s Park). As the years went on, only two alleys were left here, Kuanxiangzi Alley and Zhai Alley.

Qingyang Taoist Temple (Green-Ram Abbey)

Qingyang Taoist Temple is one of the most famous Taoist temples in China. It is conveniently located in the northwest part of Chengdu, in the Province of Sichuan. The temple was originally built in the Tang Dynasty (618 A.D.–907 A.D.), a period when Taoism was flourishing. Most of the parts of the temple that remain in existence are restorations from the Qing Dynasty (1644 A.D.–1911 A.D.), including Sanqing Hall, Doulao Hall, Hunyuan Palace, the Eight Trigrams Pavilion, and Wuji Palace.

The most magnificent piece of architecture of all the buildings is the Eight Trigrams Pavilion. Built on square foundations the Eight Trigrams Pavilion has a coloured glazed dome on top. The building is octagonal and reflects the ancient Chinese philosophy which says that “the sky is round and the earth is square”. There are eight pillars with dragons drawn in relief in the corridor.

Beside the altar of Sanqing Dian stand two eye-catching bronze goats, which were said to have been taken from Beijing during the Qing Dynasty. One of the goats is actually a strange creature with a mouse’s ears, an ox’s nose, a tiger’s claw, a rabbit’s mouth, a dragon’s horns, a snake’s tail, a horse’s face, a goat’s beard, a monkey’s neck, a chicken’s eyes, a dog’s belly and a pig’s thighs.

Music: Little Horse Rider / Shoulder Pole / Lazy Daughter-in-Law

 

4. Jiuzhaigou Valley:

Shuzheng Lakes

The Shuzheng Lakes are at the entrance to the magnificent Jiuzhaigou. The clear water, in shades of bright blue, varies in colour with the water-depth, the weather and the hues of mountains. Shuzheng Gully covers a length of 13.8 kilometres. With about 40 lakes of varying sizes, Shuzheng Gully occupies about 40% of the Jiuzhaigou land area. The Shuzheng Lakes extend for about 5 kilometres, consisting of interconnected large and small lakes and cascades. With an elevation difference of over 100 metres, they form an ocean of lakes in a terrace-like distribution, separated from each other by calcium dykes, on which cypresses, pines, and Chinese firs grow. The major scenic areas in Shuzheng Valley are Double-Dragon Lake, Miniature Landscape Shore, Reed Lake, Spark Lake, Tiger Lake, Shuzheng Waterfall, Rhinoceros Lake, and Nuorilang Waterfall. The whole lake group is marked by the blue of the waters and the green trees.

Potted Landscape Shoal

Potted Landscape Shoal, at a height of 2140 metres, is one of the major scenic spots in Shuzheng Valley. Plants such as azaleas, willows, pines, and cypresses grow close to the golden and silver banks. These trees display their grace and hardiness in various shapes. The trees stand here as if growing in pots, with strange stones seeming to support the trees. These show the natural beauty of Jiuzhaigou. The distinguished Chinese writer Weiwei once described the beauty of Jiuzhaigou as “Natural beauty; beautiful nature. Heaven on earth; the world from paradise”. The trees grow in different shapes mainly because the mineral spring water in Jiuzhaigou contains a small amount of natrium and a large amount of calcium. An excessive calcium content gives the trees their present strange shapes.

Panda Lake

Panda Lake is situated at a height of 2,587 metres above sea level. It has a depth of 14 metres. Covering an area of 90,000 square metres, it is said to be a watering hole for giant pandas. The rock walls featuring unique textures are reflected in the lake. There is a white round rock in the water with natural black patterns, giving the rough appearance of a panda. The animal is regarded as a mascot of Tibet, deeply loved by the Tibetans in Jiuzhaigou.

Like Arrow Bamboo Lake, the water in Panda Lake is clear. On gloriously sunny days, the clear sky is dotted with white clouds. The trees and hills which edge the lake are reflected in the water, forming a dream world. In winter Arrow Bamboo Lake is still full of activity while Panda Lake, at a relatively low elevation, freezes over. This scene adds to the mystery of Jiuzhaigou.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is 2 kilometres away from Norlang and located on one side of Rizegou. It is 925 metres long and 262 metres wide, and is surrounded by precipitous cliffs covered with dense multi-layered forests, whose hues change with the seasons. In the rosy light of dawn the lake looks exactly like a mirror, still and smooth, reflecting its surroundings flawlessly: the blue sky, the white clouds, the distant mountains and nearby trees. The landscape is clearly reflected in the lake which seems to be melting into the sky. It presents a magnificent view of “fish swimming in the air, and birds flying in the depths of the water”.

Music: Thinking of Flowers / Collecting Flowers

 

5. Mount Qingcheng

A holy Taoist mountain some 68 kilometres west of Chengdu and 16 kilometres southwest of Dujiangyan City, Mount Qingcheng offers an excellent day trip into the subtropics.

With a summit of only 1,300 metres, Mount Qingcheng is known for its plum- and palm-tree-lined trails that have made this holy Taoist mountain one of the most popular excursions from Chengdu, a journey lined with gingko, temples, picturesque vistas and evocative sights along its four-hour return route. The weather here is better than on Emei Mountain, so the views are far less likely to be obscured by mist and cloud. It is also a far easier climb.

The front of Mount Qingcheng covers an area of about 15 square kilometres. It is crowded with tourists clamouring for the Yuecheng Lake ferry and then the cable car to the near-summit.

Tourists should also consider heading for Qingcheng Back Mountain, some 15 kilometres northwest of the base of Mount Qingcheng proper. Covering an area of 100 square kilometres with over 20 kilometres of hiking trails, this mountain provides a more natural environment, with Five Dragon Gorge offering dramatic vistas.

A famous holy Taoist mountain in China, Qingcheng boasts dozens of well-preserved Taoist temples all made of natural materials. They blend well with surrounding forests and springs and fully embody the Taoist spirit—simplicity and naturalness.

Varied mountain scenery, together with springs, temples, plum- and palm-tree-lined trails, has made peaceful yet secluded Mount Qingcheng a 5A-Grade National Scenic Area.

Music: Joy of Sunrise / Burning Sun / When will hops bloom?

 

6. Jiuzhaigou Valley:

Sparkling Lake

Sparkling Lake, located between the Twin Dragons Lake and the Sleeping Dragon Lake in the Shuzheng Gully Scenic Area, is one of the most beautiful lakes in Jiuzhaigou Valley. It is 2,187 metres above sea level and nine metres deep. Surrounded by green trees, the dark blue lake is as smooth as a mirror. When the morning mist has dispersed and the sun is shining, the lake is dazzling and sparkles, hence the name “Sparkling Lake”.

The best time of the day to admire the lake scenery is at sunrise. The water is green like a huge piece of jade and the glitter seems to promise treasures. The sun is always late coming, appearing only after eight o’clock. As the sun illuminates the woods and the distant mountains step back into darkness, Sparkling Lake looks more mysterious and beautiful.

The scenery here in summer is marvellous, with clusters of flowers in full bloom. The lake water is always crystal clear. Blue sky, white clouds, big mountains and green trees are all reflected in the lake. The water is still while the clouds are moving. It seems that there are fish swimming in the clouds and birds flying in the water. The beauty of the scene is beyond words.

Reed Lake

Reed Lake is the first lake to be seen at the entrance to Jiuzhai Valley. It is a semi-marsh lake, 2,140 metres above sea level, 2.2 kilometres long and three metres deep. It is really a miracle that reeds can flourish at over 2,000 metres above sea level. Overgrown with reeds, the lake is a paradise where birds in Jiuzhai Valley inhabit, find food and breed.

Crystal clear and azure blue like a painting, a stream winds through the flourishing reeds. Resembling a jade belt, it is called the Jade Belt River, and is said to be the silk waistband of Mountain Goddess Semo. With the changes of seasons the lake scenery appears different. In spring the lake is as green as the reeds. In summer and autumn when the reeds come into bloom, the scenery is spectacular: the white reed ears float in the air like white waves, attracting many herons and mallards. The lake is suddenly full of life. When winter sets in, the reeds gradually turn brown and finally as yellow as gold.

Music: Coming with the Sun / Embroidered Purse

 

7. Dujiangyan Area

The Dujiangyan Irrigation Project is located on the west of Dujiangyan City, in the middle reaches of the Minjiang River on the west of the Chengdu Plain. It has a history of over 2,200 years. In 256 B.C., Li Bing, a local official of Sichuan Province at the time, together with his son, managed to construct the famous irrigation project to prevent flooding and benefit the people. It is the oldest and the only surviving no-dam irrigation system in the world. Now the project still plays a rôle in draining off floodwater and irrigating farms, turning the Chengdu Plain into a Land of Plenty.

Dujiangyan is not only a world-famous ancient Chinese irrigation project, but also a well-known scenic resort with many historical sites, such as Erwang Temple, Fulong Temple, Anlan Cable Bridge, among others.

Erwang Temple is located on the mountain by the right side bank of the Minjiang River. It was built to commemorate Li Bing and his son, the statues of whom can be seen in the Grand Hall. Many Chinese characters depicting experiences of water control are engraved on the stone walls of the temple.

Fulong Temple, located in Lidui Park, is said to be the place where Li Bing subjugated the evil dragon that caused flooding. The temple now has three surviving halls. In the front courtyard, we can see the stone statue of Li Bing carved in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 A.D.–220 A.D.) In the back courtyard, we can see the working principles of Dujiangyan replicated in an electric model of the irrigation system.

The construction of the Anlan Cable Bridge originally commenced before the Song Dynasty (960 A.D.–1279 A.D.). The 500-metre-long bridge ranks among the Top Five Ancient Chinese Bridges. It is the most distinctive sight in Dujiangyan, from where you can see the entire layout of the Dujiangyan irrigation system. The bridge piers used to be wooden blocks and seat stones; the bridge itself was made of pieces of wood on thick bamboo cables, and the handrails were made of bamboo. At the end of the Ming Dynasty (17th century), the bridge was destroyed in a war. Now the wood and bamboo have been replaced with steel and reinforced concrete to ensure the security of visitors.

In 1982 Dujiangyan, was listed in the first batch of State-Level Scenic Resorts by the State Council, as an essential part of the Mount Qingcheng-Dujiangyan Scenery Zone, On 8 May 2007, the spot was officially approved as a National AAAAA Class Scenic Spot by the China National Tourism Administration. As an ideal tourist destination, Dujiangyan is attracting numerous visitors from home and abroad.

Music: Cattle Grazing on a Mountain Top / Tie Up the Sun / Horses Galloping on Mountains

 

8. San’ao Snow Mountain

San’ao Snow Mountain, known as “the Oriental Alps”, is situated in the Heishui county of Aba Prefecture, Sichuan province. It is 16 kilometres from the town and covers an area of 140 square kilometres. In the Long March (1934–1936), the Red Army soldiers climbed over it.

The three major peaks of the San’ao ranges are: Aotaiji (5286 metres) which in Tibetan means “Father of the mountains”, Aotaimei (5257 metres) “Mother of the mountains”, and Aotaina (5210 metres) “Son of the mountains”. The three mountains stand side by side like the pyramids and appear quite spectacular. Aotaiji is regarded as a “Magic Mountain” by the Tibetan people. The Tibetan Buddhist Scripture says: “As the Father of all the mountains, he has the magic power of the largest Living Buddha and the largest Lama. He can drive away and fight against the evil as long as you sincerely worship him.” Therefore, whenever the Tibetans around this area have any misfortunes, any occasions for celebration or a good harvest, they come to pay homage to the “Magic Mountain” and ask for his blessing.

The mountain is capped with snow all the year round, is complex, dangerously steep and magnificent as well. It has become a paradise and a challenge for mountaineers. It is also a good area for hiking, to admire the snow-covered mountain landscape.

There are thick forests growing on the lower part of the mountains. Rare animals such as river deer, brown bears, pheasants and gazelles often emerge from the dense forest. At the foot of the mountain is a vast grassland, around which a dozen lakes of different colour and size are scattered. The whole scene is intoxicating in its beauty and variety.

Music: Sharp Hill / Waiting for My Lover

 

9. Jinli Old Street

Jinli Old Street, located to the east of the Wuhou Memorial Temple of Chengdu, is particularly typical of this city. It is recorded that as early as the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.–206 B.C.), Jinli Street was the most famous place for silk brocade, and it was one of the busiest commercial streets during the Shu Kingdom (221 A.D.–263 A.D.). In order to reclaim the street’s prosperity of former days, it was restored with contributions from the Wuhou Memorial Temple and was opened to the public in October 2004.

The street, paved with green flagstones, winds through Chengdu for a length of 350 metres. At one end of the street is an imposing archway with “Jinli Street” carved on it. By combining the culture of the Three Kingdoms Period with the folk customs of Sichuan, the buildings on both sides of the street, including tea-houses, stores and hotels, are modelled on the architectural style of a traditional old town in western Sichuan Province from the Qing Dynasty (1644 A.D.–1911 A.D.). The wooden steles and the brick-walls exhibit an ancient charm.

The street is lined with traditional shops, a source of possible souvenirs, Shu embroidery, lacquer products, folk handicrafts, curios, calligraphy and paintings of celebrities. All of these stores have their unique style but also have one thing in common: no matter how busy the street is, the shops are peaceful and relaxing. The stalls outside are busier but equally attractive, selling traditional arts such as delicate paper-cut and life-like clay figurines made by skilled craftsmen. There are also traditional shadow puppet or hand puppet shows, giving a taste of the true life of the local people and offering some reminders of China’s past in what is now a modern city.

In the middle of the street there is a wooden stage which looks like an ancient pavilion. It is used from time to time for performing classic Sichuan operas. At the end of the street there are typical food-stalls. San Da Pao is a distinctive snack of Sichuan Province, made from sticky rice, brown sugar, sesame, and beans. Some other local snacks include wontons, boiled dumplings and other famous Sichuan dishes, giving the place a reputation as a home for gourmets.

Music: Forget how to Sing / Waiting for Him

 

10. Nuorilang Falls

As the symbol of Jiuzhai Valley, Nuorilang Falls is the widest waterfall in the Valley. It is also one of China’s largest calcium falls. Located between Rize Gully and Shuzheng Gully, it has a drop in height of 30 metres and is about 300 metres wide.

The waterfall is famed for its breadth and magnificence from which it gets its name. In the Tibetan language, Nuorilang means “grand and magnificent”. Opposite Nuorilang Waterfall there is a viewing platform, from which one has a panoramic view of the waterfall. The top of the waterfall is very flat. Rushing over the cliff overgrown with willows, the massive water currents from Rize Gully drop some 30 metres down and form a chain of spectacular waterfalls of diverse shapes and sizes in a stair-like pattern. When the sun shines in the morning, rainbows can be seen in the sky, adding to the splendour of the scene.

The appearance of the waterfall changes from season to season. During the rainy season in summer, it produces a tremendous roar, reverberating unceasingly in the gully. In the dry season of autumn, however, the waterfall presents another wonder—its tiny streams look like sheets of colourful silk fabric hanging over the cliff, contrasted with the surrounding multi-coloured bushes, one complementing the other…In winter it becomes a dazzling glacial cascade hanging over the steep cliff. At its bottom, you can see bunches of icicles, some of which are more than two metres long and are vividly suggestive of swords and spears.

Music: Count the Toads

 

11. Leshan Giant Buddha

Leshan Giant Buddha, 160 kilometres from Chengdu, is situated where the Minjiang River, the Qingyi River and the Daduhe River converge. It is the greatest stone statue of Maitreya Buddha in the world. It is recorded that the huge project of carving the Giant Buddha out of the mountain lasted 90 years, starting in the first year of Emperor Xuanzong (713 A.D.) and completed in the 19th year of Emperor Dezong’s reign (803 A.D.) in the Tang Dynasty.

The carving of the statue is generally believed to have been started by the venerable monk Haitong of the Lingyun Temple. In the Tang Dynasty people worshipped Maitreya, regarding him as the symbol of a bright future. Haitong first asked the craftsmen to make a small sample statue of Maitreya. Then he surveyed the mountain rocks and rivers to decide on its position and finally began construction.

The Giant Buddha is 71 metres in height with a head measuring 14.7 metres in length and 10 metres in width. On its head are clustered 1,021 hair curls, each of which is as big as a huge round table. Each ear is 7 metres long, and could accommodate two people; over 100 people could be seated on one of its 8.5 metre-wide steps. The Buddha is properly shaped with accurate proportions, a solemn expression and a strong sense of movement, and its delicate, hidden drainage system can protect it from erosion by rain water. The Mountain is a Buddha, the Buddha is a Mountain.

To the right of the Buddha is the famous Nine-Turn Plank Walkway, which was cut out when the Buddha was carved. Its widest part is 1.45 metres, and the narrowest is 0.6 metre. It has 217 stone steps in all. The walkway leads to the bottom of the Buddha’s feet, its height presenting the sight of a dangerous abyss. The Dongpo Pavilion, a two-story wooden structure behind the Buddha, was built in the Song Dynasty (960 A.D.–1279 A.D.) and named after the celebrated poet Su Shi, whose pen-name was Su Dongpo. A statue of Su Dongpo, posing with a dignified air, stands in the middle of the ground floor. In front of the Pavilion lies a pool, called the Ink-Washed Pool, where Dongpo supposedly washed his writing brushes.

Music: Planting the Gardenia along the Wall

 

12. Huanglong

Huanglong is located in Songpan County, Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. At an altitude of over 3,000 metres, the scenic area extends over 700 square kilometres, mainly consisting of two sections—the Huanglong section and the Mouni Valley. Huanglong boasts the most spectacular calcified sight in the world. In 1992 it was entered on the World Heritage List.

Among various unique natural attractions of the scenic area, the most eye-catching is the Huanglong (Yellow Dragon) Ravine. The Ravine, located at the foot of the Xuebao Peak in the Minshan Mountain, is 3.6 kilometres long and 30 to 170 metres wide. In the Ravine there is talpatate, rock blending sand and volcanic ash, seen in talpatate ponds, beaches, waterfalls, caves and dykes. In the sunshine, the 3,400 colourful talpatate ponds in different shapes and sizes look like a golden dragon winding its way through the forest.

Huanglong attracts not only for its unique talpatate scenery but its plants and animals. From the bottom of Huanglong Ravine (altitude: 2,000 metres), to the peak (altitude: 3,800 metres), the views range from subtropical evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forest, coniferous broad-leaved mixed forest, to subalpine coniferous forest, and alpine shrub meadow. A dozen types of rare animals, such as giant pandas and golden monkeys, live in their natural habitat. The climate here is moist and cold. The annual mean temperature is 7°C, and the sunshine is sufficient. The winter here is quite long, and summer is so short that spring and autumn come close together. The best season to visit is the late spring and the early autumn, the end of September and October, to be exact.

Music: A Boatman’s Song / Gardenia Blooming

 

13. Leisure Life in Chengdu

Chengdu City is well-known in China for its leisurely life-style, which differs greatly from the northern provinces, or the coastline cities in the east, or even the southern areas in China. The willingness to be easily contented and to live a slow-paced life are characteristics of the local people.

Chengdu has an amazingly large number of tea-houses. From early moring till midnight they are packed with customers, men or women, young or old, chatting, playing cards or chess, reading, drinking tea, or sitting meditating. This partly explains why so many newspapers flourish in Chengdu.

Bustling side streets are full of gingko trees and hibiscus flowers, and bicycles compete in number with cars and buses. In the parks old men walk their song birds, carrying their cages, or hunch over a game of chess. The city has a number of traditional craftsmen.

People go to theatres to see Sichuan Opera and go to visit Qing Cheng Mountain, Huanglong, and Jiuzhaigou at weekends or holidays, when they feel like getting out of town for a change.

The laid-back attitude, admirable green areas and hot spicy food... all these contribute to making Chengdu City one of the nation’s most congenial.

Sichuan Opera

With a long history, Sichuan Opera is an important type of Chinese Opera. With its large popular traditional repertoire, Sichuan Opera has always been well received by the local people in Sichuan, Yunan, and Guizhou Province.

Sichuan Opera is a combination of five distinctive stage forms: Gaoqiang, Kunqiang, Huqing, Tanxi, and Dengxi. Except for Dengxi, they came into Sichuan from other provinces between the late Ming and mid Qing dynasties.

Chengdu City is the birthplace of Sichuan Opera. Even in Tang Dynasty, there was a saying: “Sichuan Opera—the best in the world. Apart from its distinctive “Gaoqiang” (“high pitched music”), Sichuan Opera is also well-known for its rich, lively, and humorous language, which has enjoyed great popularity among the local Sichuan people.

The Chinese have a saying “Shi Zai Zhongguo; Wei Zai Sichuan” (China is the place for food but Sichuan is the place for flavour). Chengdu hot pot and Sichuan cuisine are popular throughout China. All the restaurants specializing in Sichuan snacks seem always packed with guests from day to night, just like the tea houses.

Music: Watching Lanterns / Sweet Osmanthus Blooming Everywhere in August

 

14. Mount Emei

130 kilometres southwest of Chengdu, Mount Emei is a cool and misty retreat from the Sichuan basin’s sweltering heat. It is one of the Middle Kingdom’s four famous Buddhist mountains (the others are Putuo Shan, Wutai Shan, and Jiuhua Shan). There you will find lush mountain scenery, plantations of tea trees, many temples, macaques (monkeys) demanding tribute for safe passage, and the chance to see the most glorious sunrises.

Mount Emei has little of its original temple-work left (from 100 temples dating from the advent of Buddhism in China). Glittering Jinding Temple, with its brass tiling engraved with Tibetan script, was completely gutted by fire. Other temples suffered the same fate. At present there are about 30 temples on Mount Emei. Of these the eight major temples are Declare Nation Temple, Crouching Tiger Monastery, Pure Sound Pavilion, Long Life Monastery, Magic Peak Monastery, Venerable Trees Terrace, Elephant Bathing Pool, and Golden Summit Temple.

The best time to visit Mount Emei is between May and October. The most popular route up and down the mountain is to ascend via Long Life Monastery, Chu Temple, Elephant Bathing Pool and onto the summit. On the way down it is best to take the path off towards Magic Peak Monastery after reaching Elephant Bathing Pool. This path leads past Venerable Trees Terrace and Pure Sound Pavilion. The majority of hikers agree that the descent offers superior sights and views.

The crowds of pilgrims, tourists and hawkers during peak season quickly eliminate solitude on the mountain but they do add to the atmosphere. The crowds gather largely around the monasteries; away from them, the path is not lined so much with stalls as with the fir, pine and cedar trees that clothe the slopes. Lofty crags, looming precipices, butterflies and azaleas together form a nature reserve, and the mountain proudly joins Le Mountain and Jiuzhaigou on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Music: I Follow the Red Army for the Revolution / Sheep Herding Song


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