|Name||湖南 (hú nán) ['lake' 'south']|
|Population||67.139 million (4.88 %) [7th] comparison table|
|Area||212,000 km2 [81,853 mile2] (2.21 %) [10th]|
|GDP||40,287 (10.81 %) [19th]|
Hunan province is defined by the river basins of the Yuan and Xiang rivers that both drain north-eastwards into Dongting Lake and from there to the Yangzi (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 湘’.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 of the famous Tang poets Du Fu and Li Bai wrote poems about the tower at Yueyang. A mausoleum to China's founding Emperor Yan 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.
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