Xichang is the capital of and gateway to Liangshan Prefecture, located in Southwest Sichuan Province. The prefecture is comprised of 16 counties and has a population of more than 4.5 million. Many of them come from more than 10 minority groups such as the Yi, Tibetan, Hui, Miao, Mongolian, Lisu, Naxi, Bai, Buyi, Zhuang and Dai. The Yi minority people make up 43% of the overall population and hence this land is aptly named the Yi Autonomous Prefecture. This people group originates from a slave matriarchal society with an intricate caste system, and celebrates several unique festivals such as the Torch Festival and the Yi New Year.
Lying at an altitude of 1630 m above sea level, Xichang has a population of half a million people. It is MSI’s earliest long-term location and has played an important role in moving work up to Zhaojue County. With good transportation links to major cities like Chengdu and Kunming as well as to all the sixteen counties in the Liangshan Prefecture, Xichang is in a very strategic location and has an important role in reaching the rest of the prefecture.