Day trips reveal ancient splendour

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am


There are some tremendous sights near Chengdu and they are easily accessible for day trips. The highlights are the Leshan Grand Buddha, Emei Mountain, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System and a series of old towns that ring the municipality, most notably Luodai, the centre of Sichuan's Hakka culture.

Most people do not have the time to visit all the sights in and around Chengdu, but that is no bad thing. The best way to experience a city is through multiple trips spread across different seasons and Chengdu is no exception.

The Ming-style Southern Bridge and the River District are popular because of the many restaurants along the mighty, rushing Min River, and the proximity to the Dujiangyan Dam Park.

The entrance to the park is right by the Southern Bridge and its attractions include the Erwang Temple, which was completely destroyed by the 2008 earthquake, but is now being rebuilt.

The centrepiece, however, is the irrigation system that was built more than 2,000 years ago and which uses ingenious methods to divert the Min River, so that the Chengdu Basin was not only irrigated but also safe from destructive flooding.

Like much of Dujiangyan, the 2008 earthquake devastated the Taoist Qingcheng Mountain. Miraculously, although almost all of the villages, and smaller, newer temples were flattened or buried, the old White Cloud Monastery at the mountain's top survived relatively unscathed.

Another must see is the Leshan Grand Buddha statue, whose toes are taller than a man.

The Buddha is more than 1,000 years old and you can climb up close to him.

You can also take a boat on the river and take a picture of the Buddha as he gazes down upon you.

There is a newly built park on the far side of the statue with a sculpture garden, some modern temples and many hawkers and stalls.

Luodai is the de-facto capital of Sichuan's Hakka people - an ethnic group hailing from the eastern seaboard. They were lured during the late Ming and Qing dynasties to resettle and cultivate the wild and ravaged lands of Sichuan.

The Hakka families built ornate guildhalls to represent the original large families, towns or regions of their birth.

Some of the more famous of these structures are the massive Guangdong Guildhall, which was built in 1746, and the Jiangxi Guildhall.

The halls were used as gathering places, religious sites, places to do business, settle disputes and, most importantly, a spot where people could socialise over a cup of tea.

The Dongshan Museum tells the story of the Hakka migrants and their achievements, and also has a list of their prominent people.

Luodai is popular with urban residents looking for a chance to get away at the weekend.