The fertile valleys of northeastern Sichuan wind through hilly, heavily farmed countryside, terminating around 400km from Chengdu at severe escarpments marking the border with Shaanxi. Originally, the sole way through these ranges was provided by Shudao, the “Road to Sichuan” linking Chengdu with the former imperial capital Xi’an, along which culture and personalities flowed over the centuries. The region contains the hometowns of the great poet Li Bai and the country’s only empress; it was the escape route down which the Tang emperor Xuan Zong fled the An Lushan rebellion of 756 AD; while Shudao itself breaks out of the region through a sheer cleft in the ranges known as Jianmenguan, the Sword Pass. Shudao can also serve as the first stage in a journey to Jiuzhaigou; given the seemingly permanent roadworks under way on the Chengdu–Songpan highway, it’s sometimes the only viable route.

Well east from Shudao, a large grid of old streets at the pleasant riverside town of Langzhong is one of the few places in Sichuan where you can still see substantial areas of archaic architecture – a welcome refuge from the country’s frenzied demolition of its past.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

China features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
7 Chinese street foods you need to try

7 Chinese street foods you need to try

Thanks to China’s sheer enormity, travelling through the country is as much a tastebud odyssey as it is a history lesson. And eating your way around the stre…

05 Oct 2017 • Aimee White insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook