Chengdu (also called
Rongcheng), the capital
of Sichuan Province in the southwest, has been the economic and
cultural center of China's most populous province since 400 BC .
During the Eastern Han Dynasty (35-330 AD), the imperial court
appointed an official to supervise the fast-growing brocade industry
in the town. It was then known as Jincheng, or Brocade Town. When it
was discovered that the brocade turned brighter and fresher after
being washed in a nearby river, the river was given the name Jin
Jiang, or Brocade River.
During the Five Dynasties
era (907-960 A. D.), it was for a time the capital of China, and
hibiscus was planted all along the city wall. Because of this, it then
became known as the City of Furong or Hibiscus. Today, flowers and trees
grace the wide streets and its many parks. Agriculture and light
industry are the mainstays of the region. Brocade is still manufactured
along with other textiles and handicrafts. If you stay in Chengdu, you
may be able to see an operatic production. The Sichuan Opera has been in
existence for many years and is slowly winning nationwide fame.
Tourist Attractions in
Places of interest in the city include Du Fu Caotang, a small thatched
hut in which the great poet, Du Fu, of the Tang Dynasty, wrote many of
his 340-odd poems.
But more exciting sights can be seen on excursions to Mt. Emei, the
Great Buddha Statue at Leshan, the Thousand Buddha Cliffs at Guangyuan
and the Guanxian Dam.
Mmunt Emei (Emeishan)
Mount Emei rises sharply on the left bank of the Dadu River 135 miles
south from Chengdu by road. Reaching a height of 10,337 ft., it is the
highest of the four sacred Buddhist Mountains in China. There were once
over 70 temples and monasteries that sheltered thousands of Buddhist
monks. Pilgrims spent days climbing to the top of Mt. Emei to offer
prayers to the Buddha. Most of the temples still remain, and you can see
them on your climb to the summit. The climb is tiring and the path
difficult to follow in places. At the summit you may see the sun rise
over the famous Ocean of Clouds. Late in the afternoon, if you are lucky
enough, you may also see the Precious Light of Buddha formed by the
diffraction of light passing through moisture particles in the
Great Buddha Status at
Leshan, about 100 miles southwest of Chengdu, once known as Jiading or
Jiazhou, is a 1,300-year-old city in southwestern Sichuan Province,
where the Minjiang River and the Dadu River converge. It is a junction
for land and water traffic in southern Sichuan.
On Lingyun Hill, an enormous Buddha, 331 ft. tall, sits erect with an
armed guard standing at either side, a path with nine bends winds down
the cliff from the top of the Buddha's head, at the crest of the hill,
to the statue's feet. Legend has it the Monk Hai Tong of Lingyun
Monastery, disturbed at seeing many boats capsized in the turbulent
waters nearby, initiated the carving of this Buddha to subdue the waters
and ensure the safety of the river folks. It was completed in 803, in
the Tang Dynasty, after 90 years of work. The figure, not only a great
work of art, incorporates the sophisticated technical features of hidden
drains, which were skillfully cut through the body to prevent the
surface from weathering.
Thousand Buddha Cliffs at Guangyuan
If you travel from Chengdu to Xi'an by train and are interested in
Buddhist cave sculptures, it is worth stopping at Guangyuan, about 175
miles north of Chengdu and only 30 miles from the Shaanxi border. Not
far from the town is the Thousand Buddha Cliffs, or Qian Fo Yan, where
there are Buddhist sculptures comparable with those at Yungang (see
Datong) and Long Men (see Luoyang). The carvings were begun in the early
part of the eighth century. Of the original 17,000 statues, only a few
The Guanxian Dam This dam
is located about 30 miles northwest of Chengdu. The Minjiang River
splits into four tributaries near the town, two of which flow on either
side of Chengdu.
Over the centuries, a series of water systems have been developed at
Guanxian, the first as far back as 350 BC The water has been diverted
from Minjiang River to the nearby plains, creating one of the most
productive agricultural areas in China.
There are models at the dam site that illustrate the water systems, as
well as inscriptions commemorating the scholar, Li Bing and his son, who
began the task of diverting the waters more than 33 centuries ago.
Nearby is a Taoist temple, the Fulongguan, commanding a superb view of
the river valley. A short drive away stands the Two Kings' Temple, built
in honor of Li Bing and his son, who were both awarded the title of
“King” after their deaths.