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Cultural Features of Sichuan
Sichuan features various cultural and ethnic groups and, with relation to their social customs and traditions, they are generally associated to particular geographic areas and environments. Below you can find a short introduction to Sichuan culture with regard to its diverse ethnic groupings.
In principle Sichuan can be divided into the Sichuan Basin, with Han-Chinese making up nearly 100% of the population, and the western part of the province with Tibetan, Qiang and Yi communities. Western Sichuan contains the most eastern part of the Tibetan High Plateau – an area that was incorporated into the province after 1955. The new communist government split the former Xikang Province (roughly similar in boundary to what we know today as the Kham area) into a part west of the Jinsha Jiang River (=Chang Jiang, tib. Dri Chu) — also known as Qamdo Region — and the part east of the stream — nowadays called Ganzi or Garze Prefecture. Additionally, the most southern part of the Tibetan Cultural Province Amdo also belongs to Western Sichuan. Here the Counties of Ngawa (chin. Aba), Mewa (chin. Hongyuan), Zoige (chin. Ruo’ergai) und Dzamthang (chin. Rangtang) should be mentioned.
In the Sichuan Basin the ancient Kingdoms of Shu and Ba date back to about 3000 BC. Since this period the Sichuan Basin has been playing an important role within Chinese Culture. Many leaders, poets and scholars have had their roots in Sichuan – the „Land of Heavenly Abundance”.
The vast grasslands on the Eastern Tibetan High Plateau are the home of ancient nomadic traditions. Here Tibetan Buddhism is wide-spread and even exists in some old and near-forgotten forms, such as Boen or Jonang traditions. However, due to its vicinity to the Silk Road, Muslim and Mongolian influences can also be found – especially in the northeastern corner of this area, within parts of the Cultural Province of Amdo.
There is another area between the Sichuan Basin and the Tibetan High Plateau that’s worthy of mention: Gyarong. The Gyarong Tibetan culture is very distinctive and unique — something again that makes Western Sichuan such an extraordinary area. Here reside ancient Tibetan tribes and other ethnic groups with their own individual cultural backgrounds, such as Baima and Qiang. Many cultural features have been preserved throughout the centuries, since steep slopes, high mountain ridges and deep gorges made, and still make, this area hardly accessible and thus well protected against intruders and outside influences.
In 2000 a new policy came into force: the „Great Development of West China”. Resultant developments brought about visible changes for Sichuan, with special emphasis being laid on the development of tourism and hydro power. The Tibetan areas became subject for special attention, and are about to enter a new stage of sozial development.
However, there still are many areas which are not (over-)developed or destroyed by mass tourism, and our journeys focus on these places. We give you the opportunity to gain a feeling and experience for Tibetan culture through walking, hiking and driving off-beaten routes. We enable you to experience the simple life of nomads and mountain peasants and to get various impressions of the religious aspect of Tibetan culture — either by visiting cultural monuments and buildings or just by joining the daily duties of the Buddhist monks.
Our aim is not to exploit the last unspoiled areas but to give local people the chance to maintain their livelihoods while preserving their unique cultures without being forced to sell it off as a tourist souvenir. With this aim our tours are intended to return a direct benefit to the local communities. We offer two sorts of tours: either tailored to your individual request/needs or package tours in small groups. Through a dialogue with our customers, over requests and possibilities, our tours can be tailored to suite everybody.