In the Warring States period about 2,200 years ago, the engineer Li Bing and his son led the construction of the Dujiangyan irrigation system. This allowed the taming of the river and the irrigation of the surrounding lands. Before the completion of the irrigation system, the plains around the Min River were prone to flash flooding, due to the fast moving river flowing down from the mountains and meeting level ground. The irrigation system protected the area from flooding and drought, making the Chengdu plain one of the most fertile and wealthy regions in China. It may be no coincidence that a few decades later, the State of Qin (which ruled this area) succeeded in conquering the other Chinese states, and unifying China for the first time.
A high-speed rail service connects Chengdu to Dujiangyan in about 35 minutes. However, the schedule is irregular and trains are often sold out, so it's highly recommended to buy your tickets a day in advance. Trains depart from one of two Chengdu stations: Chengdu North is the main train station (reached by subway line 1), and Xipu is a suburban station (reached by subway line 2). Trains reach one of two stations in Dujiangyan city: Dujiangyan or Liduigongyuan.
- 1 Dujiangyan train station. On the outskirts of the city and requires a bus (line 4) or taxi ride to the tourist sites.
- 2 Liduigongyuan/Lidui Park train station. A 3-minute walk from the old city.
Buses take 75 minutes from Chadianzi Bus Station in Chengdu (subway Line 2, Chadianzi Bus Terminal stop). These buses are extremely frequent and cheap, but there may be a long line to board. Buy a ticket before getting in line. English is neither written nor spoken in the bus terminals, and intercity buses do not have numbers. But people are helpful, so things should work out.
- 3 Dujiangyan Passenger Transportation Center. The city's central bus station, a 15-minute walk from the old city.
There is an extensive local bus system (see map).
Taxis within the city are cheap.
- 1 Dujiangyan old city. While little in the old city is original, it has been beautifully reconstructed as a tourist site. The old city is absolutely worth strolling through for its architecture, and there are interesting descriptions of the place's history. But the stores are of no particular interest and you'll probably choose to avoid them. Be sure to see the east city gate (very impressive, but rebuilt only in 2010!) and the street inside it.
- 2 Dujiangyan irrigation system (next to the old city). Built in 256 BC, this is the world's oldest irrigation system that is still in use. By diverting most of the annual flood away from the agricultural region, this system minimized the impact of both droughts and floods, making Sichuan the most productive agricultural place in China. The site includes beautiful hillside walking trails and historic temples. ¥90.
- 3 Qingchengshan-Dujiangyan National Park. Known for its Taoist temples.
- 1 Dujiangyan Panda Base, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A panda zoo, which is (as of 2016) the only place in the world where you can get your picture taken while holding a giant panda. This is extremely expensive (¥1800 per person) but the money is supposed to go to conservation. Some people remember this experience for the rest of their lives, while others are surprised that it ends so quickly (~15 seconds per person). The pandas are generally 1-2 years old, so they have lost the cuteness of the baby pandas you'll see in some older pictures from other places in China. If you don't want to pay for this, for free you can walk into the panda zoo and see dozens of pandas at a normal zoo distance. They are normally let out of their dens at around 09:30 and proceed to eat breakfast. To arrive, take the 102 bus from just outside the Dujiangyan bus station (or from the Qingcheng Mountain train station, which the 102 passes along its route). This bus runs frequently during the day. The panda base is on the side of the road, about 4 km south of the Qingcheng Mountain train station. Reserve your visit ahead of time by email.