Hunan Province Highlights
Hunan has a humid, subtropical climate. Monsoon rains fall mostly from April through June. During July and August, Changsha earns a moniker as one of the five “furnaces” of China with its hot and humid weather. As a result, the best time to visit is in the Fall or early Winter. Hunan has a population of roughly 65 million people and the capital city of Changsha is a key city in China.
Hunan has a history as an important communications center because of its location on the Yangtze River. It is located on the part of what was called “the Imperial Highway” -- a key pathway between northern and southern China during the Imperial times. Initially it was populated primarily by ethnic groups of the Maio, Dong, and Yao. However, during several hundreds of years from 350BC and onward, Hunan became a magnet for migration for the Han Chinese from the north who cleared forests and began rice farming in the valleys and plains. It became a major center of Chinese agriculture, with key crops being rice, tea, and oranges. With heavy migration, Hunan became the “breadbasket of China” and fed many other provinces with its surpluses during the 19th century. It soon became overcrowded and was the site of several peasant uprisings.
Mao Zedong was born in Shaoshan, though he began his political career in Changsha. Initially he was a student, and then a principal at the Hunan Teachers' Training School in Changsha between 1913 and 1922. In 1927 he began to lead nationally, and in 1949 he became the leader of the People’s Republic of China and the iconic leader of the Communist party. Several other key historical figures have come from Hunan Province including Quyuan, the patriotic poet, who committed suicide by throwing himself into the Miluo River. The story of his death and the search for his body is the basis for the tradition of the Dragon Boat Festival. Zhang Zhongjing and Zhu Rongji, Prime Minister of China (1997-2002) are from Hunan province. The people of Hunan have a strong sense of great pride in being home to many key national leaders. The Hunan Communist party leaders were slower than other provinces in adopting reform measures of “opening up” set in motion by Deng Xiaoping in 1978.
Hunan's products include Xiang embroidery, one of China's four famous embroideries. Designs on Xiang embroidery originate primarily from traditional paintings of landscapes, human figures, flowers, birds or animals. The most common designs on Xiang embroidery are lions and tigers. People also highly value the chrysanthemum stone carvings found in Liuyang. Liuyang is also known for its loud and large firecrackers, which are popular all over China.
Mt. Yuelu is at the foot of Mt. Hengshan (called the Southern Mountain) and is on the bank of the Xiangjiang River in western Changsha City. It is a scenic area with beautiful azaleas flowering in spring, towering trees offering coolness in summer,maple leaves showing rich colors in autumn and the silver-colored trees glistening with snow in the winter. Besides the natural scenery, Yuelu Mountain boasts a rich cultural history as well. The coexistence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism creates a most unique culture in this mountain area. The Yuelu Academy is situated at the east foot of the mountain and was built in the 10th century. It was one of the 'Four Academies' in China at that time. Later, it was changed into a college for higher learning and in the 1920’s the Academy was changed to Hunan University.
In 1982, China established its first national forest park, the Zhangjiajie National Forest in northwestern Hunan. This 240-mile square park is full of stunning karst pillars of sandstone rock formations, streams, waterfalls, caves and forests; all of which are in a climate of a subtropical rainforest. The park is often covered in fog, which obscures the views and adds mystique. The region along the Yuanjiang River is particularly well known as a result of being written about as an isolated Utopia-like paradise where generations of people had escaped from the difficulties that others experienced. As a result, the Yuanjiang River region has been a popular travel destination since ancient times.
Changsha Capital city:
Changsha was the site of Mao Zedong's conversion to communism. It was the scene of major battles in the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45 and suffered a devastating fire that leveled the city during that time. Rebuilt since 1949, its population nearly tripled between the late 1940s and the early 1980 and currently has a population of roughly 6 million residents. The city is now a major port and a commercial and industrial center and is considered one of China’s top 20 economically advanced cities.
Recently, Changsha has become an important creative center for media and entertainment field with many TV stations producing the most popular programs in China. The program “Super Girl” is a Chinese female version of American Idol and is currently the most watched program airing on Chinese TV.
Fenghuang means "Phoenix" in Mandarin. This ancient city earned its name because of a peak, which looks very similar to the mythical bird. It is situated on the western boundary of Hunan Province in an area of outstanding natural beauty where mountains, water and blue skies are the key elements. It is often called one of the two most beautiful towns in all of China and one
In the city of Fenghuang, the Tuo Jiang River is integral to daily life for local people. In its waters women wash their clothes and the men fish with their nets. On the river bank, food is prepared in much the same way as it has been for centuries. Fenghuang is a wonderful example of what villages were like prior to the onset of modernization. Dozens of alleys paved with flagstones run between the houses, each showing wear caused by the feet of generations of local people. There are bridges over water and unique houses built on stilts and this often portrayed in traditional Chinese paintings.
The Food and the People
The people of Hunan like eating peppery foods and nearly every dish is hot. Pickled red peppers are a particular local delicacy and their appetizing smell wafts from the many small family-run restaurants. The hot and sour taste of Hunan food is a competitor to the spicy food of Sichuan.
The Miao, Dong and Yao minority cultures and ethnic customs attract many tourists. The Miao people are settled here and a visit to a Miao village is a must when going to Fenghuang. The Miao women are renowned for having a natural beauty and often dress in traditional blue garments set off with a white scarf and often wear silver jewelry, particularly during festivals. Visitors will find a large array of hand made items of silver ornaments, batik cloths and hand made tie dye cloths. The Miao are hospitable and often showcase a variety of traditional activities to interested visitors.
Adoptive Family & Lotus Travel Connections
There are a large number of adoptive families with ties to the Hunan province. In Yahoo groups, there are more than 50 different Hunan adoption Yahoo groups for parents of children adopted from Hunan. This December, our own Louie Yi will lead a winter tour group to Hunan (click Hunan Tour ) and an SWI-sponsored visit to the Changsha SWI. This will be a one-of-a-kind tour since Louie grew up in Hunan province, initially in Changsha and later in Luizhou. All families appreciate the extraordinary guidance of “Uncle Louie” provides.
So, Hunan has one more reason to be proud of one of its native sons, Lotus Travel’s own Louie Yi!