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