HUBEI PROVINCE contains the important middle section of the Yangtze River where the Three Gorges Dam is located and where large ships can travel down river to the sea. Known as “E” for short, it is located in the center of China. Hubei means "north of the lake", referring to its position north of Lake Dongting. “È” is an ancient name associated with the eastern part of the province since the Qin dynasty. The popular name for Hubei is "Ch", derived from the powerful state of Chu that existed here during the Eastern Zhou dynasty. The famous Three Gorges and Three Gorges Dam is located at Yichang, in the west of the province. The provincial capital Wuhan is a major transportation thoroughfare and the political, cultural, and economic hub of Central China.
Hubei Province covers 185,900 square kilometers (71,800 square miles), is home to about 59 million people and has a population density of 310 people per square kilometer. About 60 percent of the population lives in urban areas. Wuhan is the capital and largest city, with about 9 million people in the city and 19 million in the metro area. About 95.6 percent of the population is Han Chinese; 3.7 percent are Tujia: 0.4 percent are Miao. Altogether 42 ethnic groups live in Hubei, including small numbers of Dong and Zhuang.
Hubei Province has many places of cultural and historic interest. According to the Beijing government: “It is known as the cradle of brilliant scholars and celebrities such as the ancestor Yandi (also known as Shen Nong), great poet Qu Yuan (340 B.C-278 B.C), one of the four beauties Wang Zhaojun, physician and pharmacologist Li Shizhen (1518-1593), the late chairmen of China Dong Biwu (1886-1975) and Li Xiannian (1909-1992). All these has cultivated Yandi Culture, Chu Culture, Taoist Culture and Red Culture. Important cities in addition to Wuhan are Yichang, the gateway to Three Gorges and Three Gorges Dam and the base for the gigantic hydroelectric projects of southwestern Hubei; Shiyan, a center of automotive industry and the gateway to the Wudang Mountains; Jingmen and Shashi.
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Maps of Hubei: chinamaps.org
Geography and Climate of Hubei Province
Hubei Province is situated on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River. It borders Henan to the north, Anhui to the east, Jiangxi to the southeast, Hunan to the south, Chongqing to the west, and Shaanxi to the northwest. The central and eastern parts of Hubei comprise the Jianghan Plain while the western periphery is more mountainous.
The Jianghan Plain takes up most of central and eastern Hubei. The Wudang Mountains, the Jing Mountains, the Daba Mountains, and the Wu Mountains — roughly in order of north to south — lie in the west and the peripheries of the province. The Dabie Mountains lie to the northeast of the Janghan Plain, on the border with Henan and Anhui. The Tongbai Mountains lie to the north on the border with Henan. The Mufu Mountains form the border with Jiangxi to the southeast. The highest peak in Hubei is 3105-meter (10,187-foot) Shennong Peak in the Daba Mountains in the of Shennongjia forest area
The two major river of Hubei — the Yangtze (Jiang River) and its left tributary Hanshui — give their name to the Jianghan Plain. The Yangtze River enters Hubei from the west from via the Three Gorges. The eastern half of the Three Gorges — Xiling Gorge and part of Wu Gorge — are located in western Hubei, while the western half is in neighbouring Chongqing. The Hanshui enters the province from the northwest. After crossing most of the province, the two great rivers meet at Wuhan. Among the notable tributaries of the Yangtze within Hubei are the Shen Nong Stream (a small northern tributary, severely affected by the Three Gorges Dam project); the Qing, a major waterway of southwestern Hubei; the Huangbo near Yichang; and the Fushui in the southeast.
Thousands of lakes are scattered across the Jianghan Plain in Hubei, earning it the name "Province of Lakes". Te largest of these lakes are Lake Liangzi and Hong Lake. Numerous hydroelectric projects and dams have created a number of large reservoirs, the largest of which is the Danjiangkou Reservoir on the Hanshui, on the border between Hubei and Henan.
Hubei has a humid subtropical climate with four seasons. Winters are cool to cold, with average temperatures of 1 to 6 °C (34 to 43 °F) in January, while summers are hot and humid, with average temperatures of 24 to 30 °C (75 to 86 °F) in July. Wuhan is notorious for having nasty summers with high humidity and temperatures sometimes topping 40 °C (104 °F) . The mountainous areas of western Hubei, particularly Shennongjia, have cooler summers, attracting many people escaping the heat in the summer, and often getting significant snows in the winter.
Tourist Sights in Hubei Province
Among the tourist sights and cultural and natural attractions in Hubei are Yellow Crane Tower, Jingzhou City Wall, Xianling Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty, Xianning Hot Spring, Enshi Grand Canyon and the Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains. The province also has historical sites connected with China's more recent history, such as the Wuchang Uprising Memorial in Wuhan, Project 131 site (a Cultural-Revolution-era underground military command center) in Xianning, and the National Mining Park in Huangshi. Hongping is the jumping off point for Shennongjia, a forest reserve where it is said yetis live. The Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains (near Shiyan) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Three Gorges of the Yangtze — shared with the adjacent Chongqing Municipality — is in the far west of the province. The gorges can be easily visited by one of the numerous tourist boats (or a regular passenger boats) that travel up the Yangtze from Yichang through the Three Gorges and into the neighboring Chongqing municipality.
The mountains of western Hubei, in particular in Shennongjia District, offer a welcome respite from Wuhan's and Yichang's summer heat, as well as skiing opportunities in winter. The tourist facilities in that area concentrated around Muyu in the southern part of Shennongjia, the gateway to Shennongjia National Nature Reserve . Closer to the provincial capital, Wuhan, is the Mount Jiugong (Jiugongshan) national park, in Tongshan County near the border with Jiangxi. Mount Wudang (Wudangshan) in the northwest of the province is an important site for both its natural beauty and cultural significance. Originally created early in the Ming Dynasty, its building complex has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.
Enshi Grand Canyon (in Banqiao Town of Enshi City, 400 kilometers west of Wuhan, 250 kilometers northeast of Chongqing) extends 108 kilometers in length and consists of 11 attractions including a forest park, steep mountains, spectacular waterfalls and karst landforms, including over 200 karst caves. Admission: 150 yuan;
Wuhan (600 kilometers west of Shanghai and 600 kilometers east of Chongqing) is the capital and largest city in Hubei Province, with about 9 million people in the city and 19 million in the metro area. The two major river of Hubei — the Yangtze (Jiang River) and its left tributary Hanshui — meet in Wuhan, which is a major transportation thoroughfare and the political, cultural, and economic hub of Central China. Linking Snake Hill to Wuhan is the mile-long Yangtze River Bridge, the first steel bridge built across the mighty Yangtze. This is one of the first modern bridges in China and is known as the "First Bridge".
Wuhan is the ninth largest city in China behind Shanghai, Shanghai, Chongqing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Nanjing and just ahead of Xian. Situated five days down the Yangtze river at a leisurely pace from Chongqing, Wuhan is a consolidation of three Han cities: Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang which were formed into a single unit in 1927 and put under one administration in 1950. In present-day Wuhan area the revolution against imperialist China first took shape in 1911. Now it is a bustling port city known today mainly as the places the coronavirus — Covid 19 — first appeared at alarming levels in January 2020 after hatching there or nearby a few months earlier.
Wuhan is a major commercial and industrial center for China — one of the largest in an inland area due to its location on the Yangtze, which is almost like being on the sea. Tea, silk, cotton, rice, oils, soap, timber, and steel are among the products that have a relatively long association with the city. Now it is sort of like China’s Detroit. Several automobile manufacturers — Dongfeng Honda, Citroen, Shanghai GM, DFM Passenger Vehicle and Dongfeng Renault. Dongfeng-Citroen Automobile Co., Ltd — have their headquarters there. There are car factories and many parts suppliers in the area that not only serve the Chinese car industry but the Japanese and international car industry as well.
The Wuhan metropolitan area consists of three parts — Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang — commonly called the "Three Towns of Wuhan". The name "Wuhan" was named by combining "Wu" from Wuchang with and "Han" from Hankou and Hanyang. The three “towns” face each other across the rivers and are linked by bridges. 1) Wuchang is located southeast of the Yangtze River, which separates it from Hankou and Hanyang. 2) Hankou lies north of the Yangtze River from Wuchang. Hankou is north of the Han River, which separates it from Hanyang. 3) Hanyang is situated west of the Yangtze, which separates it from Wuchang. Hanyang is south of the Han river from Hankou.
Tourist Office: Hubei Tourism Administration, 2 Building, Qingshiqiao Block Hanyang, 430050Wuhan, Hubei China, tel. (0)-27-484-3024, fax: (0)- 27-482-2513 Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Maps of Wuhan: chinamaps.org ; Joho Maps Joho Maps Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Wuhan is accessible by air, bus train and Yangtze river boat. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide
Wuchang Uprising in Present-Day Wuhan
Yangtze at Wuhan The Wuchang Uprising of 1911 led to the downfall of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China. Wuchang is now one of the main districts of Wuhan, Robert Saiget of AFP wrote: “When the army of the Qing Dynasty turned its guns on the state on October 10, 1911, it signalled the end of 2,000 years of imperial rule in China and the promise of a democratic republican government.The first shots were fired in Wuchang part of today's city of Wuhan sparking battles between imperial forces and rebel soldiers during which 16 other regions declared independence in what has come to be known as the Xinhai Revolution. The Wuchang Uprising led to the establishment of the Republic of China by revolutionary Sun Yat-sen's Nationalist Party, which fought under the banner of nationalism, democracy and the people's livelihood. [Source: Robert Saiget, AFP, October 10, 2011]
Pamela Kyle wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “China has a long history of uprisings against corrupt officials, high rents and foreign trespass. From the end of the 19th century, the Chinese demonstrated and occasionally rebelled against territorial seizures by foreign powers, the intrusion of foreign goods into Chinese markets, the foreign monopoly on railroads, official corruption and military incompetence. This resistance became a resource for those attempting to concentrate the fire of public discontent on the Qing court. [Source: Pamela Kyle, Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2011]
“Traditional Chinese society was skilled in organizing the resources necessary for sustaining civil action---and uncivil if needed---against the government. The power of the Chinese public to mobilize fuels reform and creativity in China, while marking some real limits to government abuse. This continues to define the Chinese identity in the 21st century. Yet it is so loathed by the Chinese Communist Party that even the phrase "civil society" is banned online and in print.
“The 1911 revolution was also international in origin and orientation. Its leading figures, including Sun Yat-sen, had been raised at the margins of traditional China, or had spent their entire adult lives abroad---whether in the British colony of Hong Kong, the United States and its Pacific possessions, the European colonies of Southeast Asia, or the cities and universities of liberal Meiji Japan. They were accustomed to legal protections on political speech, the idea of impartial government and the prospect of democracy.
“After being banished from the Qing territories in the 1890s, reformers and revolutionaries traveled to or published in the Chinese communities of the Pacific, Latin America, North America and Europe to raise money for their cause. Not surprisingly, when the new republic was erected, its international orientation persisted, though it lost some credibility as Japan became financially and militarily more predatory. Nevertheless, collaborative relations with the United States, the Soviet Union and Europe (including the despatch of more than 100,000 men to support British and French armies in World War I) remained a defining element of the first Chinese Republic, and in many forms persisted in the P.R.C. until the late 1950s.”
Saigat wrote: "Wuhan has always been proud of the Wuchang Uprising and its contribution to China's development, but the people are actually very indifferent to it," said retiree Guo Xinglian as he strolled in a park near where the uprising began. "Today a lot of people think the Communist Party is more corrupt than the Qing Dynasty, but they also know that the Communist Party is very strong and any attempt at an uprising will be crushed."
Transportation in Wuhan
The Wuhan Metro opened in 2004 and has nine lines with 339 kilometers (211 miles) of track and 228 stations as of 2019. Owned and operated by Wuhan Metro Group Co., Ltd., it is the seventh urban subway city in China after those in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changchun, and Dalian. Line 2, which opened in December 2012, is the first metro line to cross the Yangtze River. Commuting across the Yangtze River and Han River had been the major bottleneck of Wuhan traffic but Wuhan Metro has greatly relieved the congestion.
With 1.22 billion annual passengers in 2019, Wuhan Metro is the sixth-busiest rapid transit system in China. A number of new lines and sections are under construction or have been proposed. The Wuhan government has promised to open at least two lines or sections every year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire network was shut down for two months from late January to late March 2020. Wuhan Subway Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net
The Wuhan Metro lines are:
Line 1 runs from Jinghe to Hankou North. Opened in 2004 and extended in 2017, it has 38 kilometers (23.5 miles) of track and 32 stations. It is elevated.
Line 2 runs from Tianhe International Airport to Fozuling. Opened in 2012 and extended in 2019, it has 60.3 kilometers (37.5 miles) of track and 38 stations. It is elevated and underground.
Line 3 runs from Zhuanyang Boulevard to Hongtu Boulevard. Opened in 2015, it has 29.7 kilometers (18.4 miles) of track and 24 stations. It is underground.
Line 4 runs from Bailin to Wuhan Railway Station. Opened in 2013 and extended in 2019, it has 49.7 kilometers (31 miles) of track and 37 stations. It is elevated and underground.
Line 6 runs from Jinyinhu Park to Dongfeng Motor Corporation. Opened in December 2016, it has 35.5 kilometers (22 miles) of track and 27 stations. It is underground.
Line 7 runs from Garden Expo North to Qinglongshan Ditiexiaozhen. Opened in 2018 and extended in 2018, it has 47 kilometers (29.2 miles) of track and 26 stations. It is underground.
Line 8 Phase 1 runs from Jintan Road to Liyuan. Opened in 2017, it has 16.2 kilometers (10 miles) of track and 12 stations. It is underground.
Line 8 Phase 2 runs from Yezhihu to Military Athletes' Village. Opened in 2019, it has 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) of track and 3 stations. It is underground.
Line 11 runs from Optics Valley Railway Station to Zuoling. Opened in 2018, it has 18.7 kilometers (11.6 miles) of track and 13 stations. It is underground.
Yangluo Line runs from Houhu Boulevard to Jintai. Opened in 2017, it has 34.6 kilometers (21.5 miles) of track and 16 stations. It is elevated and underground.
Trams were opened up in Wuhan in 2017. The first line to open was the Auto-city T1 Line. Currently Auto-city trams Lines T1, T2, T6, and T8 in the Wuhan Economic Development Area, in the far western reaches on Hanyang were open as of 2019. Optics Valley trams — the two lines T1 and T2 south and east of Guanggu Circle (Guanggu Guangchang) in southeastern Wuchang. — opened in 2018. Wuhan Tram Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net
Sights in Wuhan
Wuhan was the home of China's only legal horse racing track and tourists are drawn by it view the temples, scenic landscape, and the ancient musical terrace called Guqintai.. Linking Snake Hill to Wuhan is the mile-long Yangtze River Bridge, the first steel bridge built across the mighty Yangtze. In the eastern suburb of Wuhan is East Lake a fairly large recreation area surrounded by forests and small mountains. There is a memorial marking the place of the Wuchang Uprising of 1911, which led to the downfall of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China.
Wuhan Greenland Center is the 14th tallest building in the world. (as of 2020). Completed in 2019, it is 475.6 meters (1,560 feet) tall and has 97 floors. Wuhan Center in Wuhan is the 27th tallest building in the world. (as of 2020). Completed in 2016, it is 438 meters (1,437 feet) tall and has 88 floors. [Source: Wikipedia]
Yellow Crane Pagoda (on top of Snake Hill along the Yangtze River) is regarded as the symbol of Wuhan city and is one of the three famous pagodas south of the Yangtze River along with Yueyang Tower in Hunan and Tengwang Tower in Jiangxi. Yellow Crane has been rebuilt many times because of fire, most recently in 1985. It has five stories, rises 51.4 meters (169 feet) into the air and is supported by 72 huge pillars. Built on the site of military tower first raised in 476 B.C., the first Yellow Crane Tower was built in 223 A.D during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280) and was destroyed multiple times. The current structure was rebuilt in 1981 and covers an area of 3,219 square meters. The pagoda is covered with more than 100,000 yellow glazed tiles. It’s upturned yellow-tiled eaves look like heavily made-up eyelashes. Admission: 80 yuan.
East Lake (east suburbs of Wuchang) is one of Wuhan’s main attractions. Covering 33 square kilometers, it is the largest urban lake in China. Along its shores are many well-known spots, including the Xingyin Pavilion, the Lisao Stele, the Chu Heaven Platform and the Quyuan Memorial. There are also recreational facilities such as cable cars, boats and bicycles for hire. A popular place to take a stroll, it has a number of places of cultural significance, including Tingtao (Listening to Surging Waves), Baima (the White Horse), Luoyan (the Diving Wild Goose), Moshan (the Millstone Hill) and Chuidi (Playing Flutes). A special area is dedicated to the display of Chu culture.
Entertainment Areas of Wuhan
Hubu Alley (off of Ziyou Road in Wuchang District) is a 150-meter long alley-street is lined with various kinds of shops, snack stalls, and entertainment joints and has a 400 year history. It is arguable the best place in Wuhan to enjoy snacks and street food. There are 160 places selling 170 types of breakfast foods and snacks. Make sure to try authentic Re Gan Mian (hot-and-dry noodles), Fried Tofu Skin and shaomai (Steamed Pork Dumplings)
Jianghan Street was voted one of China’s Top Ten shopping streets and has been described as one of the five most famous commercial streets in China. There is a wide variety of stores and restaurants and offices with finance services and insurance. There are some European-style buildings, some of them are over a hundred years old. Strolling along Jianghan Walking Street at night is good way to enjoy Wuhan.
One traveler wrote in the China Daily: “Over the past decade, many Western-style pubs and cafes have sprung up along the banks of the Yangtze. But I preferred to check out the original flavors of Wuhan in the Dapaidang, or street restaurants serving local snacks. Jiqing Street lies in the central part of the old city in Hankou and is Wuhan's most famous street for evening dining and entertainment. This narrow street packs all the local flavors you can think of, such as spicy shrimp balls and snails, tasty beef soups, fish and dumplings. Of course, it has the must-have delicious spicy duck necks too. The relaxed ambience perfectly complemented these mouth-tickling flavors, making for a very laid-back experience.[Source: China Daily April 30, 2009]
“But walking through the 170 meter-long street wasn't easy. Waiters and waitresses kept trying to pull us into their restaurants. Finally, a slim young girl managed to talk us into her restaurant. Just as we got ready to tuck into our spicy duck necks, we found our table surrounded by dozens of artists and vendors. Singers, artists, flower sellers, comedians and others kept coming at us. I could not help visualizing a patch of sugar water surrounded by an army of ants. But our uninvited guests were nowhere near as quiet as ants. They were determined to entertain us. "Sir, please allow me to sing an opera for you, only 15 yuan per song!" said a middle-aged woman in a red opera costume. "We were reported on by a newspaper! We are good! Sir! Let us play for you!" pleaded a couple of men holding musical instruments. "Hi, gentlemen, you should buy some flowers for your beautiful girls," said the flower-seller.
“I thought it was quite fun. But my friends looked annoyed. They just wanted to have their delicious dinner. However, the waitress refused to oust the performers. "This is how Jiqing Street has always been. We share the street, thriving and vanishing together," she said. We finally tasted the duck necks while listening to an old opera song from the classic White Snake tale.”
Museums and Universities in Wuhan
Hubei Provincial Museum (Wuchang District) is the only provincial museum in Hubei province. Covering an area of 49,611 square meters, it houses over 200,000 historical and cultural relics, including pottery, porcelain, jade, bronze, and ancient musical instruments, of which nearly 1,000 are listed as first-class relics of China. The Chime Bells Exhibition Hall contains two parts: the Exhibition Hall and the Music Hall, which is the largest ancient instrument exhibition hall in China. The museum hosts cultural exhibits and performance presentations of ancient music and dance. This is one of the best places to learn about the ancient state of Chu, which flourished on the territory of present-day Hubei during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty which developed its own unique culture, quite distinct from that of the Shang-Zhou civilization of the northern China. Artifacts dating back to the 5th century B.C. are on display. The museum is centrally located and has a nice park around it.
Long Museum is a private art museum founded by Chinese billionaire collectors Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei. The museum has two locations in Shanghai. In 2016, a third location was opened in Chongqing and forth branch was slated to open in Wuhan in 2018. The Long Museum Pudong was officially opened in 2012. The Long Museum West Bund opened in 2014 and was China's largest private museum at the time of its opening. The architecture was designed by Liu Yichun of Atelier Deshaus. Website: /thelongmuseum.org
Wuhan University (near East Lake) was named one the ten most beautiful universities in China. According to China.org. “The history of Wuhan University can be traced back to 1893, making it one of the oldest universities in China. It is considered one of the most beautiful universities featuring the scenic Luojia Hill. The campus is particularly famous for its cherry blossoms. Every spring, thousands of people flock to a blossom festival on the campus.
Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and the Origins of Covid 19
Huanan Seafood Wholesale market was initially fingered at the place where the new coronavirus began, theoretically originated in bats, then jumped to humans via an intermediary animal species. According to to Bloomberg Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market is “a traditional “wet market” where crowds of shoppers, freshly slaughtered and unwrapped meat and live animals commingle in close quarters. Hens stuffed in metal cages and snakes wriggling in plastic buckets, often sitting alongside garbage and rotten food, are common sights in such markets across China. They also create an ideal breeding ground for dangerous pathogens.”
Authorities in Wuhan linked the first reported cases of the virus with the Hunan Seafood Wholesale Market but after an investigation of animals sold there, the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Chinese CDC) said that it has ruled the site out as the origin point of the outbreak. According to the Wall Street Journal, Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese CDC, told Chinese state media: "It now turns out that the market is one of the victims." Samples collected from animals at the market came back negative for the new coronavirus, suggesting that they couldn't have infected shoppers.
Now it is believed to be that wet market could have been the site of a super-spreader event, meaning that someone with the virus showed up at the market and spread it a bunch of people there. A majority of the initial 41 cases of the coronavirus in Wuhan were linked to the wet market, which was shut down on January 1 The virus seems to have been circulating in Wuhan before those 41 cases were reported: Research published in January showed that the first person to test positive for the coronavirus was likely exposed to it on December 1, then showed symptoms on December 8. The researchers behind the study also found that 13 of the 41 original cases showed no link to the wet market. The identity of "patient zero" hasn't been confirmed, but it may have been a 55-year-old man from Hubei province who was infected on November 17, according to the South China Morning Post. [Source: Aylin Woodward, Business Insider, May 29, 2020]
One traveler wrote in the China Daily: “Before my trip, my knowledge of Wuhan was limited to the spicy duck neck, a famous Hubei snack that is even more popular than Peking Duck. Even in Beijing, you can see long queues in front of restaurants that specialize in these delicacies. Looking forward to enjoying a cold beer with spicy duck necks on the banks of the Yangtze River, I set off for Wuhan at the end of March.” [Source: China Daily April 30, 2009]
My “hotel stands at the corner of a street named "Zhuo Dao Quan", or "blade-thrust spring". The name arises out of a popular story. It is believed that in the Three Kingdoms (A.D. 220-280) period, when General Guan Yu led his army stationed in Wuchang during a severe drought in AD 207, the powerful general pierced the ground with his big dragon blade, and out gushed copious amounts of water. This spring can still be seen in the suburb of Wuchang, near the famous East Lake. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), a temple named Yu Quan, or Spring Guard, was even built to worship General Guan and record the myth of the spring.
“But I am inclined to believe it is not all myth. The general must indeed have been a very thirsty man. Known as one of the "Three Furnaces" in China, along with Chongqing and Nanjing, Wuhan's summer is oppressively humid and hot, and can make you feel like you are in a steam room. A local guide told us very seriously that even the stones and walls sweat in summer in Wuhan. I certainly felt lucky to find myself there in the mild weather of spring. Although the 9 million locals may curse their terrible summers, they can hardly complain about the choice of food and entertainment available in the streets.”
Yangtze in Wuhan
The two major river of Hubei Province — the Yangtze (Jiang River) and its left tributary Hanshui — meet in Wuhan. The Yangtze River enters Hubei from the west from via the Three Gorges. The Hanshui enters the province from the northwest. After crossing most of the province, the two great rivers meet at Wuhan. The Wuhan metropolitan area consists of three parts — Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang — which face each other across the rivers and are linked by bridges. Linking Snake Hill to Wuhan is the mile-long Yangtze River Bridge, the first steel bridge built across the mighty Yangtze. This is one of the first modern bridges in China and is known as the "First Bridge".
One traveler wrote for Xinhua: “The Yangtze River is one of Wuhan's most well-known hallmarks and has lured travelers for centuries....With the Yangtze River's mystique, visitors often imagine a picturesque and serene river flowing rapidly by, but they may be disappointed by the slow moving river... Revered as the cradle of Chinese civilization, one can almost feel the mighty river's history as it meanders through the city just as it has for thousands of years. Locals will tell you that there are two ways to experience the river's greatness, walking its banks or crossing its broad body by ferry. I chose the latter. Feeling the breeze through my hair, smelling the freshness of the waters, I looked toward the horizon where the sky and the waters seem to meet, dreaming of one day swimming in the river. [Source: Xinhua, May 13, 2009]
Another traveler wrote in the China Daily: “On my second night in Wuhan, we took a boat trip on the Yangtze River. As we cruised the river, a thick fog fell over it. With the banks blocked from sight, I felt like we were floating on a sea. I looked up and was taken aback to see some twinkling red objects floating across the sky. My first thought: UFOs? [Source: China Daily April 30, 2009]
“ In fact, they were hot-air balloons named Kongming Lanterns, my tour guide told me. This also has a colorful story behind it that dates to the Three Kingdom period. When the Chancellor of Shu Kingdom, Zhuge Kongming, the greatest strategist of those times, found himself surrounded by his enemy, he made a lantern and released it in a bid to seek help. Today, it has become a tradition for local people to write their wishes on the lanterns and release them into the sky, praying their dreams come true.
“As the fog cleared, the riverbanks came into plain view. The lights from the pubs and bars dotting the riverside twinkled in the night and young people walking in the riverside park let their lanterns soar into the sky. Feeling the cool breeze on board the ship, the romantic Wuhan spring night felt like a dreamlike wonderland.”
Xianling Mausoleum of Ming Dynasty
Xianling Mausoleum (7.5 kilometers north of Zhongxiang County, 100 kilometers west-northwest of Wuhan) was built by the Ming Dynasty Jiajing Emperor for his parents at their fief near Zhongxiang. Located in Chunde Mountain, Xianling Mausoleum was the mausoleum of Zhu Youyuan and his wife, the parents of Emperor Shizong of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It was built in fourteenth year of Zhengde Reign (1519) and was completed in 1540. Covering an area of 183.13 hectares, it is surrounded by red walls 6 meters high and 1.8 meters in width. On both sides of the passageway there are various kinds of animals, including lions, elephants, unicorns and sitting and standing horses. Admission: 50 yuan;
Xianling Mausoleum is one of Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties that were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, 2003 and 2004. According to UNESCO: “The Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties were built between 1368 and 1915 A.D. in Beijing Municipality, Hebei Province, Hubei Province, Jiangsu Province and Liaoning Province of China. They comprise of the Xianling Tombs of the Ming Dynasty and the Eastern and Western Qing Tombs inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000; the Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty and the Ming Tombs in Beijing added to the inscription in 2003, and the Three Imperial Tombs of Shenyang, Liaoning Province (Yongling Tomb, Fuling Tomb, and Zhaoling Tomb, all of the Qing Dynasty) added in 2004.
“The Ming and Qing imperial tombs are located in topographical settings carefully chosen according to principles of geomancy (Fengshui) and comprise numerous buildings of traditional architectural design and decoration. The tombs and buildings are laid out according to Chinese hierarchical rules and incorporate sacred ways lined with stone monuments and sculptures designed to accommodate ongoing royal ceremonies as well as the passage of the spirits of the dead. They illustrate the great importance attached by the Ming and Qing rulers over five centuries to the building of imposing mausolea, reflecting not only the general belief in an afterlife but also an affirmation of authority.
“The tomb of the first Ming Emperor, the Xiaoling Tomb broke with the past and established the basic design for those that followed in Beijing, and also the Xianling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty in Zhongxiang, the Western Qing Tombs and the Eastern Qing Tombs. The Three Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty in Liaoning Province (Yongling Tomb, Fuling Tomb, and Zhaoling Tomb) were all built in the 17th century for the founding emperors of the Qing Dynasty and their ancestors, integrating the tradition inherited from previous dynasties with new features from the Manchu civilization.
“The Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are masterpieces of human creative genius by reason of their organic integration into nature, and a unique testimony to the cultural and architectural traditions of the last two feudal dynasties (Ming and Qing) in the history of China between the 14th and 20th centuries. They are fine works combining the architectural arts of the Han and Manchu civilizations. Their siting, planning and design reflect both the philosophical idea of “harmony between man and nature” according to Fengshui principles and the rules of social hierarchy, and illustrate the conception of the world and power prevalent in the later period of the ancient society of China."
The tombs are important because: 1) “The harmonious integration of remarkable architectural groups in a natural environment chosen to meet the criteria of geomancy (Fengshui) makes the Ming and Qing Imperial Tombs masterpieces of human creative genius. 2) The tombs represent a phase of development, where the previous traditions are integrated into the forms of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, also becoming the basis for the subsequent development. 3) The imperial mausolea are outstanding testimony to a cultural and architectural tradition that for over five hundred years dominated this part of the world. 4) The architectures of the Imperial Tombs integrated into the natural environment perfectly, making up a unique ensemble of cultural landscapes. They are the exceptional examples of the ancient imperial tombs of China. 5) The Ming and Qing Tombs are dazzling illustrations of the beliefs, world view, and geomantic theories of Fengshui prevalent in feudal China. They have served as burial edifices for illustrious personages and as the theatre for major events that have marked the history of China.
Yangtze After Three River Gorge
Yangtze After Three River Gorge is only 12 meters feet above sea level. Here the river broadens in some areas to a width of over a mile and becomes one of the world's busiest waterways. The pollution here is terrible, and it is not unusual to see corpses floating down the river. Before the river finally reaches the East China Sea, near Shanghai, it passes the Grand Canal. In this area many canals are linked to the Yangtze.
Yichang (down river from the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province) is the terminus of many Three Gorges river trips and the closest city to the Three Gorges Dam. It boasts a new bridge over the Yangtze.
Hanging Coffins (in Zigui Count, 30 kilometers west of Yichang) are an ancient funeral custom of some ethnic groups, especially the Bo people of southern China. Coffins of various shapes were mostly carved from one whole piece of wood. Hanging coffins either lie on beams projecting outward from vertical faces such as mountains, are placed in caves in the face of cliffs, or sit on natural rock projections on mountain faces. It was said that the hanging coffins could prevent bodies from being taken by beasts and also bless the soul eternally. Spiritually, the Bo people viewed the mountain cliffs as a stairway to heaven and believed that by placing the coffins up high the deceased would be closer to heaven. A practical reason for placing the coffins on cliffs includes isolation, so that they are hard for animals to reach and less vulnerable to destruction.” [Source: Wikipedia]
Yichang (down river from the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province) is the terminus of many Three Gorges river trips and the closest city to the Three Gorges Dam. It boasts a new bridge over the Yangtze.
Tourist Office: Yichang Tourism Administration, 17 Hezuo Rd, 430017 Wuhan China, tel. (0)-717-283-3107, fax: (0)- 717-281-7868 Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; Maps of Yichang: chinamaps.org ; Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Yichang is accessible by air, bus train and Yangtze river boat. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet
Three Kingdom’s Chi Bi (Red Cliff)
Chi Bi (Red Cliff) (38 kilometers northwest of town of Chibi, 70 kilometers south-southeast of Wuhan) is situated on the right banki of the Yangtze River. The spot includes a statue of Zhou Yu, an Exhibition Hall of the Chi Bi Battle and a few named pavilions. The Chinese characters “Chi Bi” carved on the rock are allegedly the handwriting of Zhou Yu. The sight conjures up images of the fierce battle fought ever here.
The Battle of Red Cliff is one of the key episodes of “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms." It is a real historical event, otherwise known as the Battle of Chibi, that took place on the Yangtze river in the winter of A.D. 208-209 during the end of Han dynasty, 12 years before the beginning of the Three Kingdoms period. Cao Cao's navy is moored on one bank of the Yangtze while Liu Bei and his ally Sun Quan are plotting on the other. Cao Cao is ultimately defeated and forced to flee back to Jingzhou. Liu Bei and Sun Quan's victory thwarts Cao Cao's effort to conquer the land south of the Yangtze River and reunite the territory of the Eastern Han dynasty. Liu Bei and Sun Quan in turn take control of the Yangtze, which provides them with a line of defence and the basis for the later creation of the two southern states of Shu Han and Eastern Wu. The battle has been called the largest naval battle in history in terms of numbers involved.
The de facto leader of the Wei kingdom, Cao Cao was the most powerful leader in the Battle at Red Cliff and was one of the most powerful men in China at that time. He commanded an 800,000-strong army and wanted to expand his kingdom to the south and west. Sun Quan is the King of the southern state Wu. Liu Bei is the leader of a western state. Zhiu Yu, the viceroy of Wu and Zhuge Liang, a military advisor for Liu Bei, form a friendship and convince the leader of Wu and Shu to form an alliance to battle Cao Cao and ultimately prevail with a force of only 50,000 men. There are a number if warriors such as Zhoa Yun, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu that play key parts in the battle. At first it takes some time to become familiar with all the characters and their relationships to one another---particularly for Western audiences who are not familiar with the story.
The Battle of Red Cliff determined the borders of the Three Kingdoms period, when China had three separate rulers. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “ From the initial marshaling of forces on both sides, to the final decisive pitched battle, the whole sequence of events lasted mere several months, but has since then inspired people's imagination for over a thousand years, and even well into today. Poets, painters, calligraphers, playwrights, novelists, and many others, all in their various creative ways, join to extol this historical and historic romance of the legendary battle, as well as its constellation of heroes and heroines... On the whole, the battle set the stage for the ultimate partitioning of the then nominal existence of a weak Empire into three independent kingdoms, Wei, Shu, and Wu. Yet the subsequent and culminating reunification of the whole China once again as an empire, was not effected by any of the three original aspiring camps. History does have a life of its own."Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]
Jingzhou and Its Ming-Era City Wall
Jingzhou (near Shashi, down river from Yichang) is an ancient city. Situated on a piece of land fought over many times in China's past, it contains a polygon-shaped wall built in 1644. The wall is nine meters high, 30 meters thick and 11.3 kilometers in length. The earthen wall and moat inside the outer wall are unique in this part of China. Inside the inner walls are many cultural relics, burial mounds and tombs damaged in the floods.
The wall has a history over 2000 years. First established in the East Han Dynasty (25 AD-220), it was been damaged and repaired multiple times during the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties. The current wall was built in the third year of Shunzhi Reign (1646) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The wall has three parts: inner earth city, middle brick city and outer water city.
The City Wall in Jingzhou was one of the City Walls of the Ming and Qing Dynasties nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The origin of the City Wall in Jinagzhou was earth city and was built by General Guan Yu in one of the three kingdoms named Shu. The latest archaeological excavating data indicated that the time of building Jingzhou City Wall lasted from Dong Nan Dynasty to Qing Dynasty with more than 1,800 years history and it lasted the longest time till today in our country. It experienced most dynasties and it was gradually developed into brick city from earth city. In 996, the State Council announced that Jingzhou City Wall as a heritage site under the national protection of the first lot.” [Source: State Administration of Cultural Heritage, People’s Republic of China]
The Jingzhou City Wall has a long history. It has been kept integrated and has a unique constructive style. The craft technique is more distinctive than other buildings of the same kind. Jingzhou City Wall as ancient defending and flood control forces against wars owns high value of arts and historical studies. The present brick city wall was built in Ming Dynasty. It is 3.75 kilometers long from east to west and 1.2 kilometers wide from north to south with circle length 11.28 kilometers. Its total area is 4.5 square kilometers. The wall is 9 meters high. There are six Chenglou, three Dilou and 25 gun emplacements altogether. The Chaozonglou among those buildings above the Arched Door was rebuilt in the eighteenth year of Qing Daoguang (1938).The Bing Yang Building above the Yinbing Door was rebuilt in 1987. All the parts of Jingzhou City Wall has been kept perfect without any damage except for Dilou.
Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books. Admission: 20 yuan;
Shennongjia Forest Area: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Shennongjia (300 kilometers west-northwest of Wuhan and 350 kilometers south of Xian) is a forest reserve where it is said yetis live. The highest peak in Hubei is 3105-meter (10,187-foot) Shennong Peak in the Daba Mountains in Shennongjia, which has relatively cool summers, attracting many people escaping the heat in Wuhan and other lowland cities. Shennonjia Scenic Area, located in the south part of Shennongjia Forestry District, is famous for its varied plant species, wildlife and mountains. Regarded as the "Lungs of Central China", the forest coverage exceeds 90 percent here. The average altitude in the mountains is 1,700 meters. Sometimes clouds stretch around mountains, rewarding tourists will views of mountain islands piercing the sea of clouds. Among the rare animals found here are golden monkeys and giant salamanders. Admission: 140 yuan;
Hubei Shennongjia was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016. According to UNESCO: “The property covers 73,318 hectares and consists of two components, the larger Shennongding/Badong component in the west and the smaller Laojunshan component to the east. A buffer zone of 41,536 hectares surrounds the property. It protects the largest primary forests remaining in Central China and provides habitat for many rare animal species, such as the Chinese Giant Salamander, the Golden or Sichuan Snub-nosed Monkey, the Clouded Leopard, Common Leopard and the Asian Black Bear. Hubei Shennongjia is one of three centres of biodiversity in China. The site features prominently in the history of botanical research and was the object of international plant collecting expeditions in the 19th and 20th centuries. [Source: UNESCO]
“Hubei Shennongjia is located in the Shennongjia Forestry District and Badong County in China’s Hubei Province. Shennongjia is on the ecotone from the plains and foothill regions of eastern China to the mountainous region of central China. It is also situated along a zone of climate transition, where the climate shifts from the subtropical zone to warm temperate zone, and where warm and cold air masses from north and south meet and are controlled by the Subtropical Gyre.”
There are concerns about overdevelopment. “The concern stems from the potential of tourism use at the property to increase significantly. Significant improvements to transport infrastructure, most notably the opening of the nearby Shennongjia Airport in 2014, has the potential to dramatically increase visitation and consequent impact.”
Shennongjia Forest Area Ecosystem and Wildlife
According to UNESCO: Hubei Shennongjia includes 11 types of vegetation which are characterized by a diversity of altitudinal gradients. The Shennongjia region is considered to be one of three centres of endemic plant species in China, a reflection of its geographical transitional position which has shaped its biodiversity, ecosystems and biological evolution. Hubei Shennongjia exhibits globally impressive levels of species richness and endemism especially within its flora, 3,767 vascular plant species have been recorded including a remarkable 590 temperate plant genera. In addition, 205 plant species and 2 genera are endemic to the property, and 1,793 species endemic to China. A concern stems from the potential of tourism use at the property to increase significantly. Significant improvements to transport infrastructure, most notably the opening of the nearby Shennongjia Airport in 2014, has the potential to dramatically increase visitation and consequent impact. Tourism planning, management and monitoring need to anticipate increasing demand and mitigate negative impacts.
“Among the fauna, more than 600 vertebrate species have been recorded including 92 mammal, 399 bird, 55 fish, 53 reptile and 37 amphibian species. 4,365 insect species have been identified. The property includes numerous rare and endangered species such as the Golden or Sichuan Snub-nosed Monkey, Clouded Leopard, Common Leopard, Asian Golden Cat, Dhole, Asian Black Bear, Indian Civet, Musk Deer, Chinese Goral and Chinese Serow, Golden Eagle, Reeve’s Pheasant and the world’s largest amphibian the Chinese Giant Salamander.
“Shennongjia has been a place of significant scientific interest and its mountains have featured prominently in the history of botanical inquiry. The site has a special status for botany and has been the object of celebrated international plant collecting expeditions conducted in the 19th and 20th centuries. From 1884 to 1889 more than 500 new species were recorded from the area. Shennongjia is also the global type location for many species.
“Hubei Shennongjia’s unique terrain and climate has been relatively little affected by glaciation and thus creates a haven for numerous rare, endangered and endemic species, as well as many of the world’s deciduous woody species. The property exhibits high levels of species richness, especially among vascular plants, and remarkably contains more than 63 percent of the temperate genera found across all of China, a megabiodiverse country with the world’s greatest diversity of temperate plant genera. The property includes 12.9 percent of the country’s vascular plant species. The mountainous terrain also contains critical habitat for a range of flagship animal species. 1,550 Golden or Sichuan Snub nosed Monkeys are recorded in the property. The Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys in Shennongjia are the most endangered of the 3 sub-species in China and are entirely restricted to the property.”
Wudang Mountain: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Wudang Mountain (southwest of Danjiangkou City, 350 kilometers northwest of Wuhan) is located is one of the four famous Taoist mountains in China and is famed for its magical scenery, magnificent ancient buildings, cultural treasures, martial arts, Taoist culture and inspiring legends. Also known as Taihe Mountain, Wudang is both a tourist scenic spot and a holy site of Taoism, China's indigenous religion. It is regarded as the birthplace of Taoism and has been a major center of the belief since the Tang Dynasty. There are a large number of well-preserved Taoist buildings built mainly in the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Admission: 140 yuan; Web Site: Travel China Guide Shiyan Travel China Guide UNESCO World Heritage Site site: UNESCO
The Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. According to UNESCO: “The palaces and temples which form the nucleus of this group of secular and religious buildings exemplify the architectural and artistic achievements of China's Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Situated in the scenic valleys and on the slopes of the Wudang mountains in Hubei Province, the site, which was built as an organized complex during the Ming dynasty (14th–17th centuries), contains Taoist buildings from as early as the 7th century. It represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly 1,000 years.” [Source: UNESCO]
The site is important because: 1) ancient buildings in the Wudang Mountains represent the highest standards in Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly one thousand years. 2) The Wudang buildings exercised an enormous influence on the development of religious and public art and architecture in China. 3) The religious complex in the Wudang Mountains was the centre of Taoism, one of the major eastern religions and one which played a profound role in the development of belief and philosophy in the region.
Taoist Buildings at Wudang
According to UNESCO: The palaces and temples of the Ancient Building Complex are located amongst the peaks, ravines and gullies of the picturesque Wudang Mountains, Hubei Province. Established as a Taoist centre from the early Tang Dynasty, some Taoist buildings could be traced back to the 7th century. However the surviving buildings exemplify the architectural and artistic achievements of China’s secular and religious buildings of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The Ancient Building Complex reached its apogee during the Ming dynasty, with 9 palaces, 9 monasteries, 36 nunneries and 72 temples, following the major building campaign undertaken by Emperor Zhu Di to align his imperial regime with Taoism. [Source: UNESCO]
“Today, 53 ancient buildings and 9 architectural sites survive, including the Golden Shrine and the Ancient Bronze Shrine, which are prefabricated buildings in bronze made in 1307; the stone-walled Forbidden City of 1419; Purple Heaven Palace built originally in the 12th century, rebuilt in the 15th century and extended in the 19th century; the Nanyang Palace of the 12th and 13thcenturies; the Fuzhen Temple of the 15th and 17th centuries and the stone Zhishi-Xuanyue Gateway built to mark the entrance to the Wudang Mountains in 1522.
“The buildings in the Wudang Mountains exhibit exceptional architectural art and technology and represent the highest level of Chinese art and architecture achieved over a period of nearly 1,000 years. They are examples of religious and secular buildings closely associated with the growth of Taoism in China and lavishly endowed by successive Emperors. As an exceptionally large and well-preserved Taoist building complex it is important material evidence for studying early Ming politics and the Chinese history of religion.
“All the 62 ancient buildings and sites have been included in the property boundaries surrounded by extensive buffer zones with signs and enhanced safety control. Meanwhile, guided by the principle of “giving priority to the protection of cultural relics and attaching primary importance to their rescue”, priority is given to each building in terms of maintenance and repairs to ensure the integrity of the property.”
Tusi Sites: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Tusi Sites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. According to UNESCO: “Located in the mountainous areas of southwest China, this property encompasses remains of several tribal domains whose chiefs were appointed by the central government as ‘Tusi’, hereditary rulers from the 13th to the early 20thcentury. The Tusi system arose from the ethnic minorities’ dynastic systems of government dating back to the 3rd century B.C.. Its purpose was to unify national administration, while allowing ethnic minorities to retain their customs and way of life. The sites of Laosicheng (50 kilometers west-southwest of Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province ), Tangya (Xianfeng County, Hubei Province) and Hailongtun Fortress (Gaoping Town, Zunyi City, Guizhou Province) that make up the site bear exceptional testimony to this form of governance, which derived from the Chinese civilization of the Yuan and Ming periods. [Source: UNESCO]
Distributed around the mountainous areas of southwest China are the remains of tribal domains whose leaders were appointed by the central government as ‘Tusi’, hereditary rulers of their regions from the 13th to the early 20th century. This system of administrative government was aimed at unifying national administration while simultaneously allowing ethnic minorities to retain their customs and way of life. The three sites of Laosicheng, Tangya and the Hailongtun Fortress combine as a serial property to represent this system of governance. The archaeological sites and standing remains of Laosicheng Tusi Domain and Hailongtun Fortress represent domains of highest ranking Tusi; the Memorial Archway and remains of the Administration Area, boundary walls, drainage ditches and tombs at Tangya Tusi Domain represent the domain of a lower ranked Tusi. Their combinations of local ethnic and central Chinese features exhibit an interchange of values and testify to imperial Chinese administrative methods, while retaining their association with the living cultural traditions of the ethnic minority groups represented by the cultural traditions and practices of the Tujia communities at Laosicheng.
“ Tusi sites of Laosicheng, Tangya and the Hailongtun Fortress clearly exhibit the interchange of human values between local ethnic cultures of Southwest China, and national identity expressed through the structures of the central government.” They “ are evidence of the Tusi system of governance in the Southwestern region of China and thus bear exceptional testimony to this form of governance which derived from earlier systems of ethnic minority administration in China, and to the Chinese civilisation in the Yuan, Ming and Qing periods.”
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020