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CHENGDU

 

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province has been known by two names: the "Hibiscus City" and the "Brocade City". Currently travelers use Chengdu as a gateway to Tibet, and to a lesser extent for those heading towards Chongqing and a cruise on the Yangtze River. Yet this vast city is also famous for four P's - pandas, peppers, poetry and people.

 

Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, home to more than 30% of the world's pandas which are classed as highly endangered, covers 924,500 ha with seven nature reserves and nine scenic parks in the Qionglai and Jiajin Mountains. The sanctuaries constitute the largest remaining contiguous habitat of the giant panda, a relict from the paleo-tropic forests of the Tertiary Era. It is also the species' most important site for captive breeding. The sanctuaries are home to other globally endangered animals such as the red panda, the snow leopard and clouded leopard. They are among the botanically richest sites of any region in the world outside the tropical rainforests, with between 5,000 and 6,000 species of flora in over 1,000 genera.

 

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Chongqing, the largest city in Southwest China. It is a hub of water and land communications and an important industrial center. It is also the starting point for a cruise on the Yangtze River to visit the scenic spots and historical sites along its banks. West of the city lies the well-known Stone Carvings of Dazu. In the city proper it has Beiwenquan (North Hot Spring), Nanwenquan (South Hot Spring), the Longevity Lake and other places of beauty. The view of Chongqing, a mountainous city, is most attractive at night.

 

Yangtze River, from the melting glaciers of the Tibetan plateau, plunging eastwards, ever downwards towards the silty fleshpots of Shanghai before finally ejecting into the salty East China Sea, Asia’s longest river enjoys countless names for its many sections and yet one particular stretch stands out: rightly or wrongly, the Three Gorges enthralls the Chinese people, poets and politicians. Whether it’s the Shibaozhai temple, Wuxia Gorge, Xiling Gorge, Qutang Gorge, Wutan Gorge, the hanging coffins or cheeky river monkeys, travel writers love to wax lyrical about this old, old river: “The ships navigating it are more numerous than in all the rivers of Christendom,” Marco Polo observed.

 

Through the Gezhouba and Three Gorges Dam, the Chinese Communist Party hopes to have taken the sting out of the once-deadly eddies that once so dominated the imagination and history of this region.