Hunan, “Xiang” for short, is located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River. It is called the “land of hibiscus,, because hibiscus has been widely planted here since ancient times.
The Hunan landscape is dominated by mountains and hills and the Dongting Lake, surrounded by plains. The area boasts water resorts like the Dongting Lake wetland, the mysterious and magnificent scenery of Zhangjiajie as well as the Danxia landform in Mount Lang.
Hunan enjoys a continental subtropical monsoon humid climate with abundant light and heat and ample rainfall. Vertical mountain climate changes significantly, particularly in the mountain area in Western and Southern Hunan.
The province has a long history and long-standing and well-established culture. Many talented people have come from the province. Numerous cultural and historical sites remain, such as the Yueyang Tower, Yuelu Academy, and others. Hunan is also Mao Zedong’s home province, making it an important location for visitors interested in the Chinese revolutionary history. Shaoshan City is especially important in this history, as numerous historical sites relevant to Mao Zedong have been preserved here.
Hunan is also rich in ethnic minority customs. Fenghuang Town and stilted buildings along the river demonstrate the mysterious charm of the Miao people in Western Hunan.
Hunan Province comprises 13 prefecture-level cities and 1 ethnic autonomous prefectures, including Changsha, Zhangjiajie, Changde, Yiyang, Yueyang, Zhuzhou, Xiangtan, Hengyang, Chenzhou, Yongzhou, Shaoyang, Huaihua, Loudi and Xiangxi.
Changsha has a long cultural history of 3,000 years. There are many famous attractions in Changsha such as the Yuelu Mountain, Mawangdui Han Dynasty Tomb and Orange Island Kaifu Temple. Hunan Satellite TV, China’s most popular entertainment TV, is located here. It is also a capital of famous delicacies.
Yuelu Mountain is located on the west bank of the Xiangjiang River. The Aiwan Pavilion, Temple of Yuelu Mountain, Grave of Cai E, Grave of Huang Xing and other attractions are all located in this scenic area. Yuelu Academy at the base of the mountain is one of the four ancient Chinese academies. Many ancient exquisite buildings have been preserved here.
Mawangdui Han Dynasty Tomb
The Mawangdui Han Dynasty Tomb is the cemetery of an early Western Han Dynasty duke family. The unearthed remains of a woman, finely woven silk garments, a large batch of utensils and silk paintings from the Western Han Dynasty are all preserved in Hunan Provincial Museum.
The Orange Isle is the world’s largest inland island. Its major attractions include the Wentian Platform, Statue of Chairman Mao, River Overlooking Pavilion, Firework Square and so on. The statue of a young Mao Zedong is the most famous of these attractions.
Located on the shore of the Dongting Lake, Yueyang is a historical and cultural city with a history of over 2,500 years. It is world-famous for the Yueyang Tower.
Yueyang Tower is one of three famous towers in the Jiangnan region, with a historical site of original Qing Dynasty construction preserved to this day. The tower is famous for its long history, natural scenery, artful craftsmanship, and excellent proses, poems and songs that mention it.
Being an islet in the Dongting Lake that stretches 400 km, Junshan Island faces the ancient Yueyang Tower at a distance. Junshan Island is made up of 72 peaks of different sizes, and boasts the Grave of Two Imperial Concubines, the Hall of Imperial Concubine Xiang and other attractions.
There are cottages with white walls, peach trees and green willows, simple and honest people, and nutritious and beautiful water and plants along the banks of the Miluo River, presenting the typical style of a Jiangnan watertown. Historical sites include the Grave of Qu Yuan and the Ancestral Hall of Qu Yuan, among others.
Shaoshan has a long history. According to legend, it got its name because Emperor Shun once played music here. Mao Zedong was born and raised here. There are many monuments and memorial buildings dedicated to Mao Zedong.
Birthplace of Mao Zedong
The Birthplace of Mao Zedong is a concave farmhouse of earthen and wooden structure facing the south. There are 18 houses. The 13 eastern tile rooms were Mao Zedong’s home, and the western four thatched cottages were public property belonging to people surnamed Mao. The public shared the middle house.
Mausoleum of Mao Zedong
The Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is a structure of cement, brick and wood. Creatively combining the Hunan farmhouse style with the Suzhou garden style, the whole building has a bright and spacious inner garden and a lively corridor.
Mao Zedong Square
The bronze statue of Mao Zedong at Mao Zedong Square weighs 3.7 tons and is 6 meters high. The pedestal is 4.1 meters high, and the full height is 10.1 meters, which refers to the date on which the People’s Republic of China was established.
Hengyang - Mount Heng
Mount Heng is the most famous holy place for Taoism in Southern China. Buddhism and Taoism coexist in harmony here, with an abundance of temples. There are 375 stone carvings and nine primitive forests on the mountain.
Tongdao - Wanfo Mountain
The Wanfb Mountain is one of China’s largest Danxia landform woodlands. It includes five major scenic spots including the Wanfo Mountain, Immortal Cave, the Qixing Mountain, the General Mountain, and the Ziyun Mountain.
Xinning - Mount Lang
Mount Lang is the most typical Danxia landform in China. The scenic area contains various Danxia landforms and a unique geological structure. The six major attractions are the Pepper Peak, Tianyi Lane, Octagonal Village, and Natural Bridge.
Liuyang - Dawei Mountains
Mountains surround the territory of the Dawei Mountains, standing high and straight. This area is well-known for its strange peaks, unique rocks, flowing springs and falling waterfalls. In the scenic area many rare animals and plants grow, earning the place a reputation of a “natural museum of flora and fhuna”.
Fenghuang Ancient Town
Although Fenghuang Ancient Town has more than 300 years’ history, it remains well preserved. The quartzite streets in the town, the wooden-structured stilted buildings along the river, Chaoyang Palace, Heavenly King Temple, Longevity Palace, Dacheng Hall and other buildings all share ancient characteristics.
Former Residence of Shen Congwen
The Former Residence of Shen Congwen is a courtyard dwelling with strong Western Hunan characteristics. It is divided into front and back buildings with a red square stone courtyard in the middle. On both sides there are 11 side-rooms of different sizes. His posthumous handwriting, manuscripts, relics, portraits and others are displayed here.
The Longevity Palace, also known as Jiangxi Hall, is a group of grand, elaborate, distinctively-designed, and exquisitely- carved architectural complex. The buildings consist of over 20 palaces, towers and houses which present a magnificent spectacle of architectural art.
Located at the center of the Fenghuang Ancient Town, Hongqiao Bridge straddles the Tuojiang River, and is divided into two floors. On the first floor are mainly shops and grocery stores while the second floor serves as a folk culture building. Looking over Fenghuang Town from Hongqiao Bridge, a panoramic view of the picturesque scenery of both sides of the Tuojiang River can be enjoyed.
The crescent-shaped Nanhua Mountain surrounds Fenghuang Ancient Town. The clear Tuojiang River flows through the town, fbnning a beautiful landscape with the town in the forest and parks in the town. Main attractions are the Library Collection of Shen Congwen and the Nanhua Buddhist Temple.
Laodong Miao Village
As a stone citadel, Laodong Miao Village has a history of over 600 years. With a 9-grid and 8-trigram layout, it is designed elaborately. Moreover, the castle-like attack and defensive systems and the drainage system remain almost completely preserved.
In the Wolong Gorge there is a 100-meter-high valley waterfall, 100-meter hanging ladder Thread of Sky, a cluster of over 500 meter high cliffs, and the unique spectacle of boulders in shape of the dragon head and the tiger head.
Southern Great Wall
The Southern Great Wall was built in the Ming Dynasty. Every 3 to 5 li on the wall there is a border station, a camp and a checkpoint. The forts, fort barbettes and side walls can be vaguely seen at the Tingzi Pass, the Wuchao Pass, the Ala Pass, the Jingbian Pass and others.
Huangsiqiao Ancient Town
Huangsiqiao Ancient Town is the best- preserved Tang Dynasty castle found in China so far, used as a station for troops in ancient times. The ancient town is composed of bluestone and includes three gates on top of which are over 10 meter high towers in the Qing Dynasty style.
Zhangjiajie is a famous tourist city in China. Famous attractions are the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Suoxi Valley Scenic Spot, and Mount Tianzi Scenic Area. They are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
The rocks are peculiar in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, with thousands of rolling and overlapping pinnacles in it. The strange pinnacles are steep, towering in different shapes. Elegant peaks stand alone and other groups of peaks complement each other in perfect shapes, creating vivid landscape.
“Suoxi Valley” in the Tujia dialect means “a mountain village in a heavy mist”. Elegant peaks, secluded valleys, green waters, and mysterious caves are its features. The main attractions are the Western Sea, 10- H Gallery, Four Gates Surrounded by Water, 100-zhang Gorge, Yejiagang, Baofcng Lake, Huanglong Cave, and Guanyin Cave.
The most spectacular scenes here are seas of clouds, stone waves, winter snow, and the rosy clouds. The scenic region is covered with primitive forests. Odd trees and different plants grow everywhere. The main attractions are Yubi Peak, Shentang Gulf, Immortal Soldiers Gathering, Fairy Bridge, Midair Garden, etc.
The Tianmen Mountain is a natural mural in Zhangjiajie where towering old trees and vines grow everywhere like natural bonsai. There are four major scenic spots here, including the Opening Heaven Gate, Birthplace of Buddhist in Heaven, Fairy Wonderland, and Immortal Residence.
Zhangjiajie Tujia Customs Park
Zhangjiajie Tujia Customs Park is mainly composed of Tujia Architecture, folk custom shows, rare botanical gardens and other functional areas. The buildings in the park are mostly made of wood and stone with carved beams and painted rafters, which are magnificent.
The Town of Dayong Prefecture
The town of Dayong Prefecture is composed of eight buildings with an architectural style reflecting that of the Tujia, Miao, Bai, Yao and Dong ethnic groups in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Attractions include the Chaotian Building, Celestial Street, and the town of Dayong Prefecture.
Lakes and Rivers
Sangzhi - Maoyan River
Cliffs are along the banks of the Maoyan River. With many dangerous shoals, rapids, waterfalls, and ancient trees in this region, it has earned the title of “100-li Gallery.” Around Fengzhangxi in the upper reaches of the river, there are strange peaks, unique rocks, and deep enigmatic ravines, giving it a mysterious atmosphere.
Zixing - Dongjiang Lake
The vast surface of the Dongjiang Lake is covered with mist and there are islands everywhere, earning it a reputation of “a lake in heaven on earth, containing thousands of scenes”. The morning mist over the Small Dongjiang River is especially famous.
Lianyuan - Meijiang River
The Meijiang River is beautiful with its exotic scenery and panoramic landscape. The scenic area is made up of 40 villages in the five townships of Shitao, Gutang, Qicun, Daqiao, and Sigu. The attractions here include Guanyin Cliff, Lotus Pond, Saihai, Hezhang Cliff, Guzong Cliff and Xianglu Peak among others.
Ancient Villages and Towns
Jishou - Dehang Miao Village
Dehang Miao Village is located in the depths of a canyon where there are elegant peaks and streams running freely. The Miao Village is built alongside the mountain, and the houses are made of gray tiles and wood, with stone roads winding between them. This quiet and comfortable village preserves a rich ancient atmosphere.
Yongshun - Furong Town
Furong Town is officially called Wang Village, and was an imperial capital of a Tusi king in the Qin and Han dynasties as well as a place inhabited by Tujia people. Quartzite roads and rows of Tujia stilted buildings have been preserved here.
Yueyang - Zhangguying Village
Zhangguying Village is the most completely preserved ancient architecture in Southern China. The architecture of Zhangguying Village is composed of three major structural groups, namely, Dangdamen, Wangjiaduan, and Shangxinwu.
Recommended Tourist Itineraries
Tour of Towns and Villages
Route: Hongjiang — Fenghuang — Dehang — Chadong — Furong Town
Sights: This route includes towns and villages characteristic of western Hunan. There is Fenghuang, China’s most beautiful small town, Hongjiang, an old bussiness City, Dehang, a quiet and comfortable Miao Village, Furong Town, rich with ethnic customs, and much more. The different atmospheres of many ancient towns can be experienced in this province.
Tour of Mountains and Rivers
Route: Zhangjiajie — Changsha — Liuyang — Hengyang — Xinning
Sights: This route passes through mountains and rivers, allowing one to experience the mountainous landscapes of the south. Numerous mountains are linked together in the province, including Zhangjiajie, the Yuclu Mountain, the Dawei Mountains, Mount Heng, Mount Lang and others.
As one of the eight major Chinese cuisines, Hunan cuisine is fresh, spicy, and fragrant. Famous dishes include tasty shrimp, Smoky Flavors Steamed Together, fire baked fish, Mala chicken, steamed fish head in chili sauce, etc. Snack food includes longevity spiced dried tofu with sauce, stinky tofu and so on.
Steamed Fish Head in Chili Sauce
Steamed fish head in chili sauce is a famous dish in Hunan. This dish infuses the “salty” and “spicy” flavors of the chopped chili into the fish head and combines the “fresh flavors” of fish head and the “spicy flavor” of chopped chili together, creating a unique taste.
Changsha Stinky Tofu
It is dry and yellowish, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, refreshing, salty, distinctive, fresh, spicy and matchlessly delicious. It is crisp but not burned, delicious but not greasy. It smells stinky at first but very attractive then.
Special local products include Hunan embroidery, Liuyang chrysanthemum stone carvings, Yiyang oiled-paper unbrellas, Junshan Island Silver Needle Tea, etc. In addition, silver jewelry and handicrafts of Tujia of Miao people in Western Hunan are also very typical.
One of the four famous Chinese embroideries. Due to a rigorous layout, vivid colors, and a variety of expressive stitches, the embroidered figures, animals, landscapes, flowers and birds have special artistic qualities.
Changsha is the aviation center of Hunan Province. There are multiple flights to major cities at home and abroad at Changsha Huanghua International Airport. The other four civilian airports are Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport, Changde Taohuayuan Airport, Yongzhou Lingling Airport, and Huaihua Zhijiang Airport.
Hunan’s rail network is developed, with the Beijing-Guangzhou Railway, Shanghai- Kunming Railway, Hunan-Guangxi Railway, Shimen-Changsha Railway, Luoyang-Zhanjiang Railway, Jiaozuo-Liuzhou Railway, Chongqing-Huaihua railway and others running throughout the province. The four major railway centers are Changsha, Zhuzhou, Hengyang, and Huaihua.
The highway mileage across the whole province totals over 60,000 kilometers. National Highways 106, 107, 207, 209, 319, 320, 322 and so on go through it. Buses connect all the tourist cities and scenic regions.