The road to Shu is hard. Harder than climbing the sky. On a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Chengdu, in April 2019, a few weeks into the beginning of the Year of the Pig, I am reading a passage in "Looking for Chengdu," a diary kept by the feminist Marxist anthropologist Hill Gates. She is recounting her anxiety upon arriving in Sichuan for the first time in 1987. Her mastery of the local dialect is poor, her research connections paper-thin, and Sichuan itself has only just begun to open up to Westerners after decades of isolation. But Gates bolsters her resolve by reflecting on the experiences of another woman who made her way to Sichuan when travel to southwestern China was exponentially more challenging.