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Video: In Chengdu, China, changing faces and rare beasts

Where do pandas come from? Here.

You could say Chengdu is a second-tier Chinese city -- the population is only 14 million. But as this video shows, it’s got assets travelers should know about.

Throughout China, it’s known for being more relaxed than Beijing or Shanghai, with legions of teahouses and a popular pedestrian passage known as Jin Li Ancient Street. As the capital of Sichuan province, it's got plenty of spicy food and a long history of Sichuan Opera performances (in which masks worn by the singers change rapidly and mysteriously throughout the show).

But the giant pandas are the big draw, especially for foreigners. The forests of Sichuan are the native land of the endangered animals, and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, on the northern outskirts of Chengdu, has dozens of them. In fact, as recently as 2013 (when this video was shot), if you paid an extra fee, you could get closer to a panda than the average U.S. zoo would ever allow.

“A Minute Away” is a video series in which nothing much happens -- except you see the world, and hear it, and get a respite from workaday life. We’ve covered Machu Picchu, Red Square, the Yucatan, the Alamo, an Alaskan float plane and the reading room of the New York Public Library, among other places. Since early 2013, we've been adding a new minute every week (and some of those “minutes” are actually closer to 120 seconds. So if you’d prefer 100 minutes away, we've got more than enough here for you…

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