Province of central China, bounded to the north by Qinghai, Gansu, and Shaanxi; to the east by Hubei and Hunan; to the south by Guizhou and Yunnan; and to the west by Tibet; area 539,000 sq km/208,000 sq mi; population (2013 est) 81,070,000. The capital is Chengdu. There are coal, natural gas, iron ore, salt brine, textile, engineering, and electronics industries. Rice, wheat, and maize are grown.
History Sichuan was annexed by China during the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC). Before World War II the political situation in Sichuan was very unstable and it was the scene of frequent fighting between rival warlords. During the second of the Sino-Japanese Wars the nationalist Guomindang government withdrew to a new western capital at Chongqing. Many industries were also transferred to the province from the coastal cities at this time. In 1955 the province nearly doubled in size with the addition of all but the western part of Xikang. Sichuan had a second wave of industrial development in the 1960s and 1970s when the central government transferred heavy and defence industries into Sichuan, away from areas of potential invasion in the east and north of China. In the late 1970s Sichuan's chief administrator, former premier Zhao Ziyang, pioneered radical and market-oriented rural reforms in the province. In 1997 Sichuan lost a tenth of its area and a quarter of its population when Chongqing was enlarged to include the east and southeast of the province, and was made administratively independent of the province as the fourth municipality directly under the central government.
Geography Sichuan was formerly identified with the Sichuan Basin, a broad fertile plateau in western China at a general height of about 500 m/1,640 ft surrounded by mountains, but two major boundary changes since 1949 have radically altered the nature of the province. The merger of most of Xikang province added a large territory of mountains with steep-sided river valleys at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and the separation of the municipality of Chongqing took away the eastern part of the plateau and its hills. Sichuan is now divided into two main parts; the western and northern areas are mountainous, but the eastern regions consist of a well-watered plain. Towns and cities include Nanchong, Neijiang, Zigong, and Panzhihua.
The ‘four rivers’ of Sichuan's name are generally considered to be the Chang Jiang, which runs through the province from west to east, and three of its principal tributaries, the Min, Tuo, and Jialing. The rivers irrigate the large alluvial fan formed by the Min River near Chengdu. This area has been irrigated since the 3rd century BC when the Dujiangyan project was undertaken to divert the waters of the Min into channels. The Chang Jiang is an important artery of commerce to other parts of China.
Climate Because it is protected from climatic extremes by the encircling mountains, the Sichuan Basin has a generally mild climate which is very favourable for agriculture. The growing season extends for 11 months of the year over most of the province, and year round in the south. Winter temperatures are mild and the summers are hot and humid. Most of Sichuan's rainfall comes in the summer months.
Economy Cultivation involves much terracing and is extremely intensive wherever topographically possible; rural population densities are some of the highest in China. Rice, wheat, and maize are the principal grains, but there is a great variety of other agricultural products, including sugar cane, tea, cotton, silk, oranges, lychees, and tobacco. Sichuan is the leading province in the numbers of cattle and pigs reared and there is also pastoral farming of sheep, horses, donkeys, and yaks, especially in the drier western areas.
Sichuan is richly endowed with mineral resources. Coal underlies much of the province and is mined at several sites, the principal ones being Pazhihua and Rongchang to the south and Wangang in the north. Natural gas and oil are produced at Nanchong in the north. Iron ore, copper, bauxite, zinc, nickel, cobalt, asbestos, mica, and salt are also exploited. There are significant mineral deposits around Yibin in the south. Natural gas is found in Fuling. Chengdu is an important industrial town with engineering and chemical, electronics, and textile manufactures. Panzhihua is the largest mineral-processing centre in southwest China.
Conservation areas The mountains of western Sichuan contain several outstanding natural conservation areas. These include the nature reserve for the giant panda at Wolong, in wooded hills west of Chengdu; and Jiuzhaigou, close to the border with Gansu, with steeply-falling rivers on the slopes of Mount Zanglong. Emei Shan is a Buddhist holy mountain, 3,099 m/10,168 ft high, with temples among the forests on the pilgrims' path to the summit. The Hailuogou, Asia's lowest glacier, lies on the slopes of Mount Gongga, which rises to 7,556 m/24,790 ft in the southwest of the province.
Famous people Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997), Chinese Communist Party leader.
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