The Sichuan Basin
Physical characteristics: The defining physical feature of this region
is the large Sichuan Basin, which is divided into two parts, Chengdu
and Chongqing. High and difficult mountains surround the basin. Primary
access to eastern China is via the Yangzi River, which traverses the
famous Three Gorges. This geographic setting creates a mild climate.
Extremely fertile soils are largely derived from old lake sediments.
Farmers not only can count on several crops every year, they can depend
on a diversity of food crops as well as specialties.
History: It is often said that "Sichuan in the first province to
declare independence and the last to be reunited after there is peace."
Located in a highly protected, productive setting and adjacent to
virtually every major region of historic China, Sichuan is capable of
being wholly independent from the rest of China. Yet, control of
Sichuan and its agricultural riches provided access to every other
major political and economic realm, making it the target of many
outside warlords and emperors.
Economic activities and resources today: Sichuan has always been known
for its tea, silk, flowers, medicinal herbs, and diverse wildlife,
including pandas, deer, and tigers. These resources remain a major
staple of its modern economy as do the raising of sheep, pork, and
grain. Tourism is also crucial to Sichuan's economy. Popular tourist
sites include the Thousand-Buddha Cliff, Qingcheng Mountain, the Bamboo
Forest, the Corridor of Cypresses, Woolong Nature Reserve (for panda
conservation), and Xiling National Forest Park. The Yangzi River is a
thoroughfare of trade, meaning that Sichuan is rapidly changing with
the influx of foreign investors and developers.
Housing: timber, stone, or straw houses in rural areas; large apartment buildings in the cities
Social organization: village clusters in rural areas
Transportation: walking, mule, horses, in the mountains; bicycles and cars on the plains, boats on rivers
Food staples: varied