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Our five nights at Guilin Ming Garden were great as well! It is certainly our favorite place in China. The apartment is remodeled, extremely clean and has a great view; having internet access is a nice touch and there is plenty of room for our entire family. After a long day of fun, it was relaxing to come home to delicious home cooked meals prepared by our nanny Mrs Huang.She made us feel right at home with her traditional Cantonese home cooked dinners: her normal dinner consist of soup, two meat dishes and two vegetable dishes; very much like the meals our Cantonese parents made for us when we were younger and the meals had brought back fond memories.
-Helen Lee

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Sichuan Province

Sichuan, known throughout the world as the home to China’s cultural icon, the giant panda, is also considered the largest province in China.  It draws Chinese tourists as well as visitors from around the globe who want to immerse themselves in the rich traditions and experiences offered here. Sichuan has long been considered a key agricultural asset for the nation and is sometimes referred to as the “Valley of Abundance”.  It boasts 87 million people, has a land mass of 187,000 miles and is bordered on the west by the Tibetan Highlands and by the Three Gorges Dam and Yangtze River on the east.    

Food
In addition, there are a host of other attractions in Sichuan for those whose children have origins there or those who wish to explore and spend time visiting this beautiful valley basin area of China. Of course, for all visitors to Sichuan, it is a perfect opportunity to dig into the famously “hot and spicy” Sichuan cuisine.  Spicy, hot, fresh and fragrant are the words used to describe this famous cuisine.  Sichuan food is considered one of the great traditions of Chinese cuisine. It is typified with bold and spicy flavors infused with garlic, chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorn as well as the pungent flavors of peanuts, sesame paste and ginger.  Kung Pao chicken is just one of the well-known Sichuan dishes known around the world.  During many Lotus Travel tours, there is an opportunity to prepare your own local Sichuan “hot pot” dishes and delight in eating them. 

“Must See”
Following a wonderful Sichuan meal, another “must see” for a visitor is to visit a local park and tea house sporting teapots with an elongated tea spout (up to 3 feet long).   It is fun to watch the server pour your drink into a tiny teacup while standing 4-5 feet away--- and not spill a drop!  Many families drink their tea in an open air tea house with a lovely evening breeze and take in local performance of Sichuan opera.  This is a regional cultural tradition, which originated atthe end of the Ming Dynasty (around 1600’s) when immigrants flooded into the area for its fertile land. Sichuan opera, which is brisk and humorous, evolved from the different dramas which had been brought in to blend with the local dialect, customs, folk music and dances.  This unique regional cultural tradition derived its identity from traditions of ancient people who painted their faces to drive away wild animals.  Now this local artistry absorbs this ancient skill and perfects it into an art.
Sometimes, actors will change more than 10 masks in less than 20 seconds!  Different masks are used to show different emotions, expressing moods and feelings with the masks. From green to blue, red, yellow, brown, black, dark and gold, these masks show fear, tension, relaxation, shyness, deceit, desperation, outrage, and more emotions to fit the story. “Face changing” happens so quickly that most visitors leave the performance engrossed in deep discussion on how what they just witnessed on stage could be humanly possible. Locals consider this art form very highly and skilled “face changers” are specifically trained and perform in Sichuan province.

Another popular spot to visit is the Giant Leshan Buddha, which is located roughly 100 miles from Chengdu, the capital city.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was started in 713 (completed in 803AD).  It was the brainchild of a monk who faithfully collected alms for 20 years to pay for building the statue. Tradition tells that when city officials were interested in taking the money once he had collected enough to build the statue, the monk said they could have his eyeball, but not the money.  He poked out his eyeball and handed it to them, which apparently effectively frightened them off.  Today it stands over 225 feet high and its fingers are 11 feet long.   The statue’s instep is large enough for 100 people to sit upon. The statue, which was completed after the monk had died, has several compelling architectural features.  One is the elaborate drainage system, which is made up of hidden gutters, channels interspersed on the head, arms, ears and clothes.  The drainage system helps displace rainwater and keep the inner sections of the statue dry. It is a fascinating site to visit.

Locales & Ethnicities
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, is the center of politics, commerce, and military of the Sichuan Area.  Chengdu is the habitat of the giant pandasand city of the cotton rose hibiscus because of this it is known as the capital of “heavenly state” (Tian Fu Zhi Guo). It is the center for processing adoptions in Sichuan and is a key tourist city for visiting foreigners from around the world.  Though it is a modern city, it retains a relaxed charm and boasts a large number of lush parks where city dwellers relax, visit and spend their free time. Many parks also contain tea houses and gardens and some visitors declare Chengdu their favorite China city.

There are several minority groups now living in Sichuan along with Han Chinese people.  There are also Yi, Hui, Quian, Miao and Tibetan, which infuses the province with many local customs and there are several local dialects spoken, which may be indistinguishable to other Chinese citizens from big cities like Guangdong or Beijing.

Sichuan has three places on the world cultural and natural heritage list which are: the Jiuzhaigou known for its multi-level waterfalls and colorful lakes:  the Huanglong scenic area’s breathtaking landscapes and geological landforms; and the Emei Mountain where visitors can interact with friendly monkeys.  However, what draws more tourists than the beautiful scenery is the opportunity to hold a panda at the Chengdu Panda Research and Breeding Center.  This reserve is the only spot in the world which provides this opportunity for visitors and is considered a “must see” for many adoptive families. 

Special Volunteer Tour
During July 2011, Lotus Travel will be sponsoring a unique volunteer opportunity in coordination with Habitat for Humanity which will undertake building a housing project near Chengdu in an undeveloped area.  Click Habitat tour to see full details. 

This rich and varied province offers many opportunities for visiting families!
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