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Sichuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu.
The province and its vicinity were the cradle of unique local civilizations, which can be dated back to at least the fifteenth century BC (coinciding with the later years of Shang Dynasty). Beginning from the ninth century BC, Shu (today Chengdu) and Ba (today Chongqing City) emerged as cultural and administrative centers where two rival kingdoms were established.
Shu's existence was unknown until an archaeological discovery in 1986 at a small village named Sanxingdui in Guanghan County. It is believed to be an ancient city of the Shu Kingdom, where excavations have yielded invaluable archaeological information.
Although the Qin Dynasty destroyed the kingdoms of Shu and Ba, the Qin government accelerated the technological and agricultural advancements of Sichuan making it comparable to that of the Huang He (Yellow River) Valley. The Dujiangyan Irrigation System, built in the 3rd century BC under the inspection of Li Bing, was the symbol of modernization of that period. Composed of a series of dams, it redirected the flow of the Min Jiang, a major tributary of the Yangtze River, to fields, relieving the damage of seasonal floods. The construction and various other projects greatly increased the harvest of the area which thus became the main source of provisions and men for Qin's unification of China.
Various ores were abundant. Adding to its significance, the area was also on the trade route from the Huang He Valley to foreign countries of the southwest, especially India.
The area's military importance matches its commercial and agricultural significance. As a basin surrounded by the Himalayas to the west, the Qinling Range to the north, and mountainous areas of Yunnan to the south, Sichuan is prone to fog. Since the Yangtze flows through the basin and is thus upstream of eastern China, navies could be easily sailed downstream. Therefore Sichuan was the base for numerous amphibious military forces and also served as the refuge of Chinese governments throughout history. A few independent regimes were founded; the most famous was Shu Han of the Three Kingdoms. The Jin Dynasty first conquered Shu Han on its path of unification. During the Tang Dynasty, it was a battlefront against Tibet.
The Southern Song Dynasty established coordinated defenses against the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty in Sichuan and Xiangyang. The Sichuan tea industry was monopolized by the state to pay for warhorses, but this worsened the situation. The line of defense was finally broken through after the first use of firearms in history during the six-year siege of Xiangyang, which ended in 1273.
During the Ming Dynasty major architectural works were created in Sichuan. Bao'en Temple is a well-preserved fifteenth century monastery complex built between 1440 and 1446 during Emperor Yingzong's reign (1427–64) in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Dabei Hall enshrines a thousand-armed wooden image of Guanyin and Huayan Hall is a repository with a revolving sutra cabinet. The wall paintings, sculptures and other ornamental details are masterpieces of the Ming period.
The Chinese rebel leader, Zhang Xianzhong, nicknamed Yellow Tiger, conquered Sichuan Province in the middle of the 17th century and massacred a large native population. A massive resettlement called Huguang fill Sichuan lasted more than a century during the Qing Dynasty. A landslide dam on the Dadu River caused by an earthquake gave way on 10 June 1786. The resulting flood killed 100,000 people.
The current borders of Sichuan(which then included Chongqing) were established in the early 18th century. In the early 20th century the newly-founded Republic of China established Chuanbian Special Administrative District, which latter became Xikang province, including the western part of Sichuan province inhabited by Yi, Tibetan and Qiang minorities and eastern part of modern Tibet Autonomous Region.
In the 20th century, as Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Wuhan had all been lost to the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the capital of the Republic of China had been temporary relocated to Chongqing. The difficulty of accessing the region overland from the eastern China and the foggy climate hindering the accuracy of Japanese bombing of the Sichuan basin and the city of Chongqing made the region the stronghold of Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang government during 1938-45.
As the Second Sino-Japanese War was soon followed by the resumed Chinese Civil War, and the cities of the east fell to the Communists one after another, the Kuomintang government again tried to make Sichuan its stronghold on the mainland. Chiang Kai-Shek himself flew to Chongqing from Taiwan in November 1949 to lead the defense. But the same month Chongqing fell to the Communists, followed by Chengdu on 10 December. The Kuomintang general Wang Sheng wanted to stay behind with his troops to continue anticommunist guerilla war in Sichuan, but was recalled to Taiwan, many of his soldiers making their way there as well, via Burma.
The People's Republic of China, founded in 1949, abolished Xikang province of the Republic of China and merged western part of that province into Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965 while the rest of Xikang was returned to Sichuan province in 1955.
The province was deeply affected by the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-1961, during which period some 9.4 million people (13.07% of the population at the time) died. When Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978, Sichuan was one of the first provinces to undergo limited experimentation with free enterprise.
From 1955 until 1997 Sichuan had been China's most populous province, hitting 100 million mark shortly after the 1982 census figure of 99,730,000. This changed in 1997 when the city of Chongqing as well as the surrounding counties of Fuling and Wanxian were split off into the new Chongqing Municipality. The new municipality was formed to spearhead China's effort to develop its western provinces, as well as to coordinate the resettlement of residents from the reservoir areas of the Three Gorges Dam project. In 1997 when Sichuan split, the sum of the two parts was recorded to be 114,720,000 people. As of 2010, Sichuan ranks as both the 3rd largest and 4th most populous province in China.
In May 2008, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9/8.0 hit just 79 km northwest of the provincial capital of Chengdu. Official figures recorded a death toll of nearly 70,000 people, and millions of people were left homeless.