Note: Sichuan is often misspelled as Szechuan. The old spelling system has been abandoned since then, but old habits persist.

Sichuan is a big inland province in southwest China, is located in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River (Yellow River). It covers 570,000 sq km and has a population of 110 million. To the east of Sichuan are the provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan; to the west is the Tibetan Autonomous Region; and to the north are Qinghai, Gansu and Shanxi provinces. Sichuan is inhabited by over 15 different ethnic groups including Han, Yi, Qiang, Miao, Tujia, Hui, Mongolian, lisu, Manchu, Laxi, Buyi, Bai, Dai and Zhuang.

Sichuan is of great importance to the agricultural production of China, and is the biggest producer of grain and livestock in the country. Sichuan is also considered as one of the prime industrial bases of China. It boasts, at present, 39 of the country's total 40 industrial sectors, with its power, metallurgy, mining, chemicals, space technology, aircraft and electronics sectors occupying important positions in the national industrial structure.

The province is known for its spicy cuisine, which is very tasty, as well as its historical significance. The fabled ancient Shang capital of Anyang, dated back to beyond 2000 B.C., was discovered in this province, and it has been the home of many empires over the millenia. Due to its fertile soil from the Yellow River banks, it is acknowledged as the Cradle of Civilization of the Han. Unfortunately, this province is always the hardest hit when the annual floods arrive. Nonetheless, Sichuan is one of China's most productive provinces as well as one of its fastest growing economies.

Sichuan means "four rivers," which refers either to four major local tributaries to the Chang Jiang (Yangtze), or to the Chang Jiang itself and three tributaries. Although its heart is a region of fertile plains, mountains made access to the area hard in earlier days, and so an old phrase meaning "road to Sichuan" now indicates something that's very difficult.

Although still sometimes considered a frontier region by many central-coastal Chinese, its capital, Chengdu, is a major city, and Sichuan has the largest population of any province in China. Chongqing (Chun King) was formerly a large Sichuan city, but in 1997, Sichuan lost 10% of its area and 25% (!!) of its population when Chongqing was enlarged and made administratively independent of the province as a so-called "municipality."

Sichuan is famous for its pandas--85% of the world's panda population live in Sichuan, including a major panda preserve in Wolong. There's also a forest preserve called Jiuzhaigou.

Famous Sichuanese include Deng Xiaoping, Zhao Ziyang, the poet Li Bai, and the poet Du Fu, whose cottage is a major tourist attraction for domestic travelers.

Famous Sichuan dishes include mapo dofu, gongbao chicken, and fish-flavored pork.

Sichuan is a fascinating province with lots offirst-rate history, scenery, culture and cuisine. Major advancements in early Chinese technology were made here, too (mostly in Chengdu). Don't miss it just because it doesn't have Beijing or Shanghai!

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