The highest peak of Mount Emeishan stands at almost 3100 m. A number of old temples are located on the mountain, some of which can be seen on the trails leading to the higher elevations.
Dujiangyan Irrigation System
The irrigation system to be found near the town of Guanxian on the upper reaches of the Minjian river, 55km/34mi northwest of Chengdu, was constructed in 250 BC by Li Bing, prefect of Sichuan at the time of the Warring Kingdoms, in order to prevent catastrophic flooding. He ordered the river to be divided up by means of earth dams, with one section branching out into tributaries and canals which served to irrigate the fields. The whole complex is made up of the ''Fish's Jaws'' (Yuzhui), which functions as a watershed and dike, the weir known as ''Flying Sands'' (Feisha Yan) and the canal, the ''Neck of the Precious Bottle'' (Baoping Kou). This ingenious system has meant that the Minjian has never again flooded its banks during the last 2200 years, and the Chengdu Plain of central Sichuan has become one of China's most fertile regions.
Wolong Nature Reserve
Covering an area of 2000sq.km/770sq.mi, this nature reserve lies some 130km/80mi west of Chengdu. Surrounded by mountains more than 5000m/1930ft high, the reserve is home to 60 different types of mammals, including pandas and snub-nosed apes, 300 kinds of birds and 4000 species of plants, including giant redwood trees. A research station has been set up here to study the habits of pandas.
Monastery of Precious Light
The Monastery of Precious Light (Baoguang Si) is to be found in Xindu, a small town 18km/11mi northeast of Chengdu. It is thought to date from the Han dynasty (24-220). More than twenty buildings (a pagoda, five temples and sixteen courtyards), almost all of which were constructed in 1670, are scattered over an area of 8ha/20acres. The 13-story Sarira Pagoda (Sheli Ta) from the Tang period (618-907) has survived. Archaeologically valuable items on display include a stone tablet with 1000 Buddha reliefs (AD 540) and 500 larger-than-life terracotta statues from the Qing period (1644-1911), which depict Luohans in an individual manner.
16km/10mi southwest of the Dujiangyan irrigation complex soars Mount Qingchengshan, with its 37 peaks. It is one of China's Taoist pilgrimage shrines. Some impressive palaces, towers and pavilions are scattered over this scenically beautiful mountain.
Palace of the Creation of Good Fortune
At the foot of Mount Qingchengshan stands the Taoist Palace of the Creation of Good Fortune (Jianfu Gong), which dates back to the Tang period (618-907). The present buildings were erected in 1888.
Cave of the Heavenly Master
Cave of the Heavenly Master (Tianshi Dong)that Zhang Daoling, the legendary founder of the Taoist religion, taught in a cave in Mount Qingchengsahn. Since then it has been called the Cave of the Heavenly Master. The temple dates from the Sui period (589-618), but was rebuilt at the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Visitors can see a terracotta likeness of Zhang Daoling and three 90cm/3ft statues dating from 723 and representing Fuxi, Shengong and Xianyuan, three rulers said to lived in China in prehistoric times.
Temple of the Utmost Purity
Built between 1860 and 1870, the Temple of the Utmost Purity (Shangqing Gong) stands majestically on the Laoxiao Ding mountain peak. It replaced a much older 3rd C building which burned down in the mid-17th C.
Temple of the Slayer of the Dragon
At the northern tip of a small island in the river, on a mound at the mouth of the ''Neck of the Precious Bottle'' canal, stands another building of historic importance, the Temple of the Slayer of the Dragon (Fulong Guan). According to legend, the reason the Minjiang river had flooded its banks so often was that a wicked dragon had its lair in the waters. Li Bing and his son succeeded in chaining the dragon so that there was no longer any fear of floods. It is uncertain when the first temple was built here in honor of the slayer of the dragon; it is only known that the present building dates from the Qing period (1644-1911). The impressive stone statue of Li Bing dates from the year 168; it stands 2m/9.5ft) high, weighs 4.5 tonnes, and was salvaged from the river in 1974. An inscription on the breast shows the year and month in which it was sculpted.
Huanglong (Yellow Dragon)
The national park of Huanglong (Yellow Dragon), situated north of Chengdu in the southern Mingshan mountains near the town of Songpan, was established in 1983 and declared a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992. The park is a high-lying valley surrounded by the snow-covered mountains of Sichuan. Its main attractions are the terraced, crystal-clear ponds that shine in amazing colored lights caused by algae, bacteria and reflections. A 9km/14mi footpath leads to the Huanglong temple after which the park has been named. The Five Color Ponds next to the temple, with their blaze of color caused by minerals, are very popular with visitors.
Jiuzhaigou Valley (Valley of the Nine Villages)
The Jiuzhaigou Valley (Valley of the Nine Villages), 110km/176mi north of Huanglong, was also declared a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992. It is characterized by wooded slopes and deep valleys, but here too the main attraction are the 108 crystal-clear ponds. The scenery is most impressive during the autumn when the leaves are changing color. A large variety of plants and animals live in the valley thanks to its abundance of water.
Shunan Bamboo Sea
The Shunan Bamboo Sea is a massive bamboo forest located south of Chengdu that is environmentally protected by the Chinese government. The area is fairly remote but attracts visitors for the beautiful scenery and the panda bear sightings.Within the forest are temples, the Bamboo Sea Museum, and old folk residences.
Temple of the Two Kings
On Mount Yulaishan, on the east bank of Minjiang, can be seen the imposing Temple of the Two Kings (Erwang Miao), built in the Qing period (1644-1911) on the ruins of an earlier 6th C edifice. Statues of the creators of the irrigation system, Li Bing and his son Li Erlang, stand in the halls of the temple.
Leshan is a small town some 120km/75mi south of Chengdu, at the western foot of Mount Lingyunshan.
Great Buddha of Leshan
This colossal stone statue of Maitreya is to be seen in Leshan. 71m/230ft high, it was carved out of the bare rock. A Buddhist monk by the name of Haitong was the first to work on it, from 713 until his death. After that a number of other monks and artists continued the mammoth task until it was eventually completed in 803. The figure is the largest sculpture of the Buddha to be found anywhere in the world.
Pagoda of Souls
On Mount Lingyunshan stands the Pagoda of the Souls (Lingbao Ta); it is 38m/125ft high and of the Song period (960-1279). Its 13 stories are bedecked with statues of the Buddha. From here there is a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.
35km/22mi east of Leshan, in Shawan Cheng, the parental home of the famous writer and politician Guo Moruo (1892-1978) is open to visitors.
The Rock Tombs to be found in the suburbs of Leshan are highly impressive. They date from the 1st to the 6th C and vary in depth between 6 and 90m/20 and 300ft.
The Wuyou Temple (Wuyou Si) was built on Mount Wuyoushan during the Tang period (618-907). Its treasures include three Buddha sculptures of gilded camphor wood.