Flowers bloom and trees stretch skyward, despite the obstacles in their way: crumbling buildings, smashed automobiles and mounds of broken concrete. Here in Beichuan, China, a city in Sichuan province, all of the town's structures and their accoutrements remain in one form or another. But the people are long gone.
In May 2008, Sichuan province was rocked by a powerful 8.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated the region and killed more than 70,000 people. One of the hardest-hit cities was Beichuan. The city's surviving residents were relocated to a town in Yongchang, 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) away. Afterward, Chinese authorities decided to turn all of Beichuan into a memorial for those who perished. The ruined city was left as-is, with the remaining standing buildings stabilized for safety [sources: Taylor, Amusing Planet].
Today tourists can walk throughout the city, which looks pretty much exactly as it did the minute the earth stopped rumbling. In addition to listing buildings, smashed vehicles and innumerable piles of rubble, you'll see the national flag fluttering above the ruins of the Beichuan Middle School and the quake-re-routed Jian River, which flows through a mountain road tunnel and onto a broken bridge, cascading over the fracture and onto the earth below [sources: Taylor, Amusing Planet].