Map of Hunan Jiangxi Hubei Guangdong Guangxi Chongqing Guizhou

Hunan Province

Name ( nán) ['lake' 'south']
Population67.139 million (4.88 %) [7th] comparison table
Area212,000 km2 [81,853 mile2] (2.21 %) [10th]
GDP40,287 (10.81 %) [19th]
Position of Hunan in China
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Google map of Hunan
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Hubei Jiangxi Guangdong Guangxi Guizhou Chongqing

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Hunan province is defined by the river basins of the Yuan and Xiang rivers that both drain north-eastwards into the vast Dongting Lake and from there to the Yangzi River (known in China as the Chang Jiang). The name originates from its position south of the Dongting Lake (the second largest freshwater lake in China) which is on the flood plain of the Yangzi. The shortened name for the province is the river name ‘Xiang ’.

Hunan stands in the rich heartland of south central China surrounded by mountains. It has produced food to feed the northern provinces for centuries. The rapid growth of population in the 19th century led to famine, fueling support for the Taiping Rebellion and in the 20th century the Republican movement.

Hunan, lake, boat
Fisherman at Zixing, Hunan
Leaders of Modern China

Leaders of Modern China

Modern History

The leadership of the People's Republic since 1949 has been one of stability with an emphasis of continuity and steady progress. This was not the case in the early years. With China such a major power it is important to understand the background to the handful of people who have led China in a new direction.

Hunan History

In the Five Dynasties it became, briefly the kingdom of Ma before being absorbed into the Tang empire. Qu Yuan met his death in the Miluo river north of Changsha, and the Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu) marks this event throughout the world. The mountainous fringes of Hunan are home to a number of minority people: Miao; Tujia; Dong and Yao, but most of the rich lowland area has been settled by Han Chinese since the Warring States Period. During the Qing dynasty friction with Han settlers led to a series of Miao Rebellions which were brutally put down. Hunan is famous as the birthplace of Mao Zedong at Shaoshan. Liu Shaoqi, one time Chairman of the Communist Party, was also born in the province at Ningxiang. In 1928 the Communist Pingjiang Uprising took place in Hunan against the Guomindang.

Changsha, Hunan
The Huángxīng Lù Commercial Pedestrian Street in Changsha. 15 Jun 2006
Image by X. Zhou available under a Creative Commons license

Women in China

Gender equality in China has been a long time coming. Traditions dating back thounsands of years are hard to shift. There has yet to be a woman appointed to the top rung of government committee. Change really only started to come after the foundation of the Peoples Republic in 1949. Our page on attitudes to women covers the few Imperial women leaders, marriage and concubines as well as foot binding.
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Places to visit in Hunan

Changsha is the largest city in Hunan and its history goes back 4,000 years, it stands on the busy overland route to Guangzhou, Guangdong. The Mawangdui museum in Changsha holds many archaeological finds from ancient China. There is a legacy of foreign development which came when the city became a treaty port in 1903. It was one of the last cities to fall to Japanese occupation in 1944. Orange Island has a memorial to Mao Zedong complete with a carving of his poem called ‘Changsha’ celebrating his home province. The city has a number of other sites relating to Mao's life.

Hunan, Changsha, Mao Zedong, PRC, sculpture
Sphinx like sculpture of Mao Zedong at Changsha, Hunan

Alone I stand in the autumn cold
On the tip of Orange Island,
The Xiang flows northward;
I see a thousand hills crimsoned through
By their serried woods deep-colored,
And a hundred barges vying
Over crystal blue waters.
Eagles split the air,
Fish glide in the limpid deep;
Under freezing skies millions of creatures contend for freedom.
Brooding over this immensity,
I ask, on this boundless land
Who rules over man's destiny?

Part of Mao Zedong's poem “Changsha”.

Liuyang to the north east is famous for the manufacture of firecrackers - an indispensable part of any Chinese celebration. Up the Xiang river Hengyang is a large industrial city which also mines nearby mineral deposits. Mount Heng (the southernmost of two with that bear this name) is a famous Daoist sacred mountain with temples dotted around the forested slopes. Furongzhen is famous as the ‘Hibiscus Town’ of writer Gu Hua . Wulingyuan Scenic Area is in the north west of the province, it is a large 243 sq miles [629 sq kms] forested and mountainous area. UNESCO has designated the area as important for its wildlife.

Hunan, mountains, landform, view
Zhangjiajie mountains, Hunan
Wed 8th Aug

Double clean-up in Shanxi

Shanxi province is rich in coal deposits and for many years has the reputation as the most polluted areas on Earth. Although the government in Beijing has set targets to curb air pollution the problem persisted. The reason has become clear and it is a familiar story. Local officials in Linfen cheated the system so that pollution monitoring systems would give lower readings and so show they were meeting the improvement targets. Sixteen officials have now been tried and found guilty of fabricating data in May this year. There are now moves to get a real grip on this problem. It exemplifies a common weakness of governance in China, particularly on environmental issues, central government may set out bold and ambitious targets but it is down to local officials to make sure they are implemented. At the local level economic growth trumps any wider environmental considerations.

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Yueyang Tower is an ancient pavilion overlooking Dongting Lake at the northern tip of the province. It commemorates battles going back to the Warring States period but has been rebuilt several times most recently in 1867; the tower now forms the western gate of Yueyang City. To the side of the tower is a pavilion named Drunk Three Times commemorating the legendary life of Tang itinerant and Daoist immortal Lu Dongbin. Both Du Fu and Li Bai , famous poets of the Tang dynasty wrote poems about the tower at Yueyang. Dongting Lake has for thousands of years acted as a buffer reservoir for the Yangzi when it is high in the late summer to prevent flooding further downstream. The lake can grow to seven times its size. With the Three Gorges Dam and higher water abstraction the lake has been diminishing. A mausoleum to China's legendary Emperor Shennong is at Yandi Park , Zhuzhou.

Hunan (or Xiang) Cuisine is famous for its spicy dishes. Green Tea produced at Dayong and Yinfeng are highly regarded teas. Junshun Silver Needle tea, ‘The tea of Emperors’ is grown to the west of Dongting Lake.

By many statistical measures Hunan is an average province, so it typifies the whole of China which befits its central geographical position.

Hunan Climate

Temperature axisClimate ChartRainfall axis
Climate chart for Hunan
Both Temp Rainfall ° C/mms ° F/ins Key
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Major CitiesPopulation
Changde 517,780
Changsha 3,093,980
Fenghuang 370,000
Hengyang 759,602
Liuyang 1,278,928
Shaoyang 339,575
Xiangtan湘潭 674,189
Yiyang 202,608
Yueyang 1,200,000
Zhangjiajie 1,476,521
Zhuzhou 709,358


Changsha Huanghua International Airport 长沙黄花国际机场 CSX IATA / ZGHA ICAO
The airport has 2 terminals and is located 14.9 miles (24.0 kms) from Changsha. Live Flight information , Airport information , rank in China 14
International Links to :Korea
See map of location Changsha Huanghua International Airport
Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport 张家界荷花国际机场 DYG IATA / ZGDY ICAO
The airport has 1 terminal and is located 2.5 miles (4.0 kms) from Zhangjiajie. Live Flight information , rank in China 58
See map of location Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport

City populations for 2012, Province statistics National Bureau of Statistics 2014

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