Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, is a famous historical and cultural city whose tourist resources are predicated on its historical heritage. Among the city’s 20 or so major attractions are Yuelu Academy, Han tombs at Mawangdui, King of Wu Sun Quan’s government archives on bamboo slips found at Zhoumalou, and Hunan Embroidery Institute.
Yuelu Academy at the foot of Yuelu Mountain in west Changsha, was the most important of all the four academies of the Song as well as China’s earliest government-funded institution of higher learning. The buildings extant on the premises are mostly a Qing legacy. Since the Song many famous scholars had lectured and studied in this academy.
Han Tombs at Mawangdui
It seemed Manwangdui, a place in the eastern suburb of Changsha, achieved world fame overnight in the 1970s with the discovery of precious cultural relics from three large Han tombs. Most eye-catching of these finds was a woman’s corpse so well preserved that some of its bone joints could still be flexed, and some of its soft tissues were still elastic, despite the passage of 2,100 years. Among the other invaluable finds were 3,000 exquisite pieces of lacquer ware and paintings on silk. The corpse and the other artifacts are on display in Hunan Museum.
Archives on Bamboo Slips
A total of 170,000 bamboo slips were excavated from Zhoumalou, Changsha, in December 1996. Inscribed on these slips were official documents of Changsha Prefecture during the reign of Sun Quan of the Kingdom of Wu. These files have furnished valuable material for research into the history of the Three Kingdoms Period (196-265).
Poised atop Changsha’s 30-metre-high ancient city wall, Tianxinge Pavilion provides an overview of the entire city.
Mao’s Residence in Shaoshan
Shaoshan, 104 km west of Changsha, was the birthplace of Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China. Mao’s former residence is furnished the way it was during his childhood and teenage years.
Yueyang, situated where the Yangtze flows past Dongting Lake in north Hunan, was known as Baling or Yuezhou in old times. Today, it is a famous historical and cultural city and a key tourist center whose major scenic spots include Yueyang Tower, Junshan Mountain, Qu Yuan’s Temple and Tuanhu Lake. Yueyang is also the venue of a world-famous international dragon boat competition that takes place during the Dragon Boat Festival every June.
Covering an area of 2,820 square km, Dongting is the second largest freshwater lake which is connected with the mighty Yangtze. The lake’s Junshan Island, looking magnificent with 72 peaks, is known for a kind of local tea.
Qu Yuan’s Temple
The temple, situated on Yusi Mountain by Miluo River in Yueyang, was dedicated to Qu Yuan, a celebrated patriotic poet of ancient China.
The Tuanhu (Circular) Lake in Junshan District and some 20 km from downtown Yueyang, covers an area of 200 hectares. In summer, lotus flowers protruding from the midst of green leaves in a riot of colours, and it is the best season for boating and picking lotus seeds.
The Yueyang Tower, poised atop the western city gate of Yueyang, is one of the three major towers in south China. Construction of this tower began in 716, or the 4th year of Kaiyuan reign of the Tang. The fame of this tower stems largely from the essay “On Yueyang Tower” by Fan Zhongyan, a famed Song writer.
The south Hunan city of Hengyang is 45km south of Hengshan Mountain, the southern holy mountain of China and a famed national tourist resort. Most visitors choose to stop over at Hengyang before proceeding to Hengshan Mountain.
The southern holy mountain in China, Hengshan looks at once old, graceful, mysterious, breathtaking and exotic. Its 72 peaks form a range that serpentines for as far as 400km. Atop Zhurong, the major peak 1,290 metres above sea level, are Zhurong Hall, Southern Heavenly Gate and Moon Gazing Terrace. Nanyue Temple on Zhenbei Street at the entrance to the mountain is a giant 9,800-square-metre complex laid out in roughly the same way as the Former Imperial Palace of Beijing. Eight Taoist temples on the eastern side are arranged symmetrically with eight Buddhist temples on the western side to indicate equality between Buddhism and Taoism. This largest group of ancient structures in south China is the site of a grand temple fair every August.
Emperor Yan’s Mausoleum
Fifteen km to the southwest of Yanling County is the mausoleum of Emperor Yan, the legendary Divine Peasant who is regarded as a father of China. The buildings at the mausoleum were reconstructed in 1988, forming a five-part complex in the style of a majestic imperial palace. A grand ceremony is held every October to pay tribute to this legendary forefather.
Zhangjiajie, a northwest Hunan city 400 km from Changsha, is the site of the national Wulingyuan scenic resort, the first in China to be endorsed by UNESCO as a world natural heritage. The resort covers more than 500 square km and consists of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and two nature reserves-Suoxi Gully and Tianzi Mountain. With an unmatched sandy quartzie and karst landform, the resort is a sublime configuration of mountains, rivers, wood and caves. Major sights: Yellowstone Village, Golden Whip Stream, Tianzhi Mountain, Yellow Dragon Cave, Baofeng Lake and Maoyan River. Zhangjiajie International Forest Protection Festival is an annual event which takes place every September.
Located on the eastern side of Wuling Mountain in northwest Hunan, Jishou is the seat of Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. Visitors are attracted by the distinct folkways of ethnic Tujia and Miao peoples.
There is something serene and mystic about Mengdong River as it twists and turns across the karst terrain of Yongshun County 90 km west of Zhangjiajie. Narrow and swift, and strewn with dangerous shoals and rapids, the river is cut out for daredevils. Rubber dinghies are provided for those who come to raft the river.
Ancient Phoenix City
Ming and Qing architecture remains large intact in the ancient city of Fenghuang (Phoenix) 53 km to the south of Jishou City. The streets are paved with slate, and most dwellings sit on stilts, looking classically elegant with flying eaves and curving roof corners. The former residence of Shen Congwen, a modern Chinese author, is in the city.
Wangcun, an Ancient Town
For the most part of its 2,000-year history, Wangchun Town was the capital of local ethnical tribal kings. Situated on the confluence of Mengdong and Yuanshui rivers, the town features a bluestone-flagged 2.5-km-long main street, an ancient town wall also built of bluestone, and ethnic Tujia residents’ stilted dwellings.
Taohuayuan Tourist Zone
Taohuayuan, the Shangri-la described in the famous Jin writer Tao Yuanming’s “Accounts of Taohuayuan”, is in Taoyuan County under the jurisdiction of Changde. The place is actually a world of peach orchards, which look unusually beautiful when peach flowers are in full bloom. The peach flower=watching festival takes place at Taohuayuan every March and April.