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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!