\Apr. 3, 2019 -- Members of a Tibetan family in Jinchuan county, Sichuan province, sing a song to welcome visitors.[Photo by Liu Lanying/For China Daily]
Apr. 3, 2019 -- Jinchuan's blossoming orchards, ethnic cultures and historical le gacies are attracting a growing number of visitors. Huang Zhiling and Sui Jintao explore the colorful county.
The road leading from Chengdu, Sichuan's provincial capital, to Jinchuan county in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture has been packed with tourists, especially on weekends, since late March.
Even though the drive takes seven to nine hours, travelers from throughout the country make the trip to admire the county's vast seas of pear blossoms.
Aba also hosts the second-largest population of ethnic Tibetans and the largest concentration of alpine bears in the country.
Jinchuan is situated in the transitional zone between the Hengduan Mountains and the Sichuan basin.
Over 1 million pear trees explode with blossoms that climb up the rocky mountains and tumble down the river valleys in late March. They blaze beneath azure skies splashed with white clouds. The landscape is also dotted with yaks, horses and Tibetan-style houses. Some of the centuries-old trees tower higher than multistory buildings.
Apr. 3, 2019 -- A local family prepares homemade dishes for visitors.[Photo by Liu Lanying/For China Daily]
Locals have cultivated pear orchards since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), says Tang Yan, deputy head of the publicity department of Jinchuan's Party committee.
Jinchuan also hosts 137 ancient peach trees planted in the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The oldest is nearly 400 years old. Its trunk is far too thick for a single person to wrap their arms around.
It used to take three days to reach Jinchuan from Chengdu. But improved transportation has brought floods of tourists, who enjoy the oceans of pear blooms, in recent years.
The county staged its first pear-blossom festival in 2014. Over 200,000 people attended last year's celebration, says Wu Yonghong, head of the county's tourism bureau.
Apr. 3, 2019 -- Tourists visit the Guangfa Temple in Jinchuan.[Photo by Liu Lanying/For China Daily]
Authorities expect even more at this year's event, which started on March 16 and ends on April 10. The challenge is that the county's hotels have only 6,000 beds, Wu says.
Jinchuan covers 5,550 square kilometers and is home to 14 ethnic groups, including the Qiang, Han and Hui.
The settlement features prominently in Qing emperor Qianlong's historical conquests.
From 1737 to 1747, Tibetan strongman Sha Luoben tried to subjugate the neighboring areas, endangering stability in Aba and neighboring Tibet.
In 1747, the emperor dispatched soldiers, who forced Sha Luoben's surrender in 1749.
In 1770, Suo Nuomu, the 19-year-old son of Sha Luoben's nephew, became the new strongman. The next year, he killed another warlord and refused to obey the emperor's order to return the newly vanquished land to the warlord's family.
So, the emperor sent troops. The war lasted half a decade.
Apr, 3, 2019 -- Jinchuan county in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture has vast seas of pear blossoms, which attract tourists from around the country.[Photo by Liu Lanying/For China Daily]
Nearly 20,000 Qing soldiers died and more than 130,000 were wounded in the war for Jinchuan. The county's population decreased from around 30,000 to about 5,000.
The military conflict from 1747 to 1749 cost one-third of the national treasury for one year. And the second conflict from 1771 to 1776 depleted the entire budget for one year, says Zheng Gang, another local researcher.
The war lasted so long and was so cruel that nearly all Jinchuan residents can tell stories about the battles that have been passed down from their ancestors by oral tradition.
Qianlong, who considered his conquest of Jinchuan one of the"10 military feats" of his 60-year reign, ordered the erection of a massive stone tablet in the county to commemorate his victory.
It's written in the Tibetan, Mongolian, Han and Hui languages, and continues to convey Jinchuan's historical legacy to modern people from different ethnicities and places, who make the journey to this once-remote and long-important destination.