Travel Destinations: Changsha, Hunan Province, China

Travel Destinations: Changsha, Hunan Province, China

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell once described Changsha as resembling ‘a medieval town’ in the 1920s when it passed through it on a visit to China. Today, Changsha in Hunan Province looks much the same as other Chinese cities.

The Changsha area has been inhabited for more than 3000 years. By the time of the Warring States Period, a large permanent settlement had been established here, due to the fertile plains of the Xiang River (Xiang Jiang).

Changsha is mostly known as the gateway to the village of Shaoshan, the birthplace of the infamous Chairman Mao, as well as its own Mao related attractions.

Hunan Provincial Museum (Hunan Sheng Bowuguan) is the first place tourists should visit when in Changsha. This museum is one of the best in China; the museum showcases some incredible artefacts including exhibits from the 2100 year old Western Han Mawangdui Tombs which can be found 5km east of the city.

This museum can offer visitors a chance to learn and understand more about life and art in the Western Han period; the expressions of the wooden figures are truly incredible. There are also more than 700 pieces of exquisite lacquer ware, Han silk textiles, and magnificent silk and bamboo wooden slips which record ancient manuscripts. One of these includes an early version of the Zhouyi (the Yijing, otherwise known as the I Ching), which is written in the formal Han clerical script.

The highlight of the museum is the body of the Marquess of Dai. She has been extracted from her incredibly beautiful and elegant multi-layered coffin, where she has been wonderfully preserved. However, she does have an unusually horrified look upon her face.

Further on in the museum, there are some lovely bronzes discovered in Hunan from the Shang and Zhou dynasties. One of the most interesting is the ‘elephant-shaped zun’.

Yuelu Park (Yuelu gongyuan) can be found at the base of the High Mountain Park is a lovely place to visit and unwind. The University here was built on the earlier YueluAcademy, built in the Song dynasty. For exquisite views, hike from here to Loving Dusk Pavilion (Aiwan Ting).

Changsha is known for its Mao related attractions. These include the massive 1968 statue of Chairman Mao, which greets visitors as they enter the Changsha City Musuem (Shi Bowuguan). You can also visit the former site of the Hunan CPC Committee, which is located inside the museum. Here, you can view some interesting photos and other items from Mao’s living quarters from the 1920s.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, there is a small but lovely antiques market held at the museum entrance gate. Here, you can pick up some unusual and interesting objects.

Changsha is reachable via bus, train and plane. There are buses that run here to and from Shaoshan (two hours), Guilin (six hours), Heng Shan (two to three hours) and Jinggang Shan (five hours). There are two daily trains on the Guangzhou-Changsha-Beijing route, as well as a daily train to and from Shanghai (20 hours). If coming from Hong Kong, the train running from Kowloon to Beijing also stops at Changsha.

If coming via plane, the nearest airport is the Hunanghua International Airport, around 26km from the city. There are shuttle buses to and from the airport to the Civil Aviation Hotel on Wuyi Dadao.

Changsha is a wonderful city that can offer the international traveller everything that they could possibly want. Come visit today and soak in the history, the culture and the friendliness of Changsha.