Ranked as one of China’s most-liveable cities, Chengdu – the capital of Sichuan Province – is a great starting point from which to explore Sichuan. Although the city centre has scores of cars thronging its streets, the bustling side streets are chock-full of gingko trees and hibiscus flowers.
Emei Shan – a cool mountainside sanctuary that presents a sharp contrast to Sichuan basin’s sweltering heat – is located 130 kilometres southwest of Chengdu.
Leshan – home to the world’s tallest Buddha statue – is a tranquil riverside town not far from Emei Shan; it’s not a bad place to hang around for a day or two – the riverfront along Binhe Lu is especially beautiful at night.
Emei Shan (Mount Emei)
Emei Shan, one of the Middle Kingdom’s four famous Buddhist Mountains, is a smorgasbord of luxuriant mountain greenery, cheeky thieving macaques and lots of temples. The sunrise views from atop the sacred mountains are truly jaw-dropping. The mountains west of it are known as Daxiangling while the large surrounding area of countryside is known as the Permian Emeishan Large Igneous Province.
The many temples throughout Emei Shan are not the original structures dating from the advent of Buddhism in China – most of the originals were destroyed or looted during the war with Japan and the Cultural Revolution. This mountainside is frequented by visitors who stop over for a day or two at the monasteries that dot the area but still this nature reserve remains an isolated locale lined with cedar, fir and pine trees and towering cliffs, cloud-kissing crags and gorgeous flora and fauna.
Emei Shan is situated 130 kilometres south of Chengdu and is the perfect place to give your hiking boots a good workout. This cool misty retreat is best known for its fantastic sunrises as well as the Jingding Temple, Fuhu Monastery, Baoguo Temple and Qinying Pavillion.
Leshan Giant Buddha
Leshan is a good spot to explore for a few days. Its pride and joy is the impressive Grand Buddha engraved into a cliff face overlooking the Dadu and the Min rivers.
Leshan is situated not far from Emei Shan – is best known for the Grand Buddha carving. Erected by Buddhist monk Haitong in the hopes that it would stave off lethal currents, protect boatmen and calm the swift rivers, this statue is showing signs of age but remains an impressive sight. Located on the south-western fringe of the Red Basin in southern Sichuan, Leshan is also noted for the many temples scattered throughout the area; visitors often stopover at the Mahaoya Tombs Museum and the Wuyou Temple.