This research base, veterinary lab, panda habitat, and zoo is one of the best places to see giant pandas. Since the much more wild and natural Wolong Nature Reserve was damaged by the 2008 earthquake would be better, but -- except in its panda enclosures -- panda sightings are few and far between. The stated purpose of the breeding center is to increase the captive population of pandas in order to reintroduce some to the wild. The grounds of the research base, covered with trees, flowers, and 14 species of bamboo, are lovely and, at the very least, provide a pleasant escape from the noise and congestion of Chengdu proper. As you follow pathways through the reserve you may see not only giant pandas but red pandas (closer to a raccoon than a panda), black-necked cranes, and white storks. You might also run into visiting field researchers. Your best chance of seeing pandas is at feeding time, 8:30 to 10am, although a few, mostly those for breeding, are in cages. Ask if there are cubs around -- a mother panda with babe in arms is a sight not to be missed. Allow an hour to get to the base, two to stroll the grounds. Alternately you can take a tour cart for ¥10 and reduce the visit to about 50 minutes; the tour is conducted in Chinese, but at least you go straight to the pandas.