Once the city center of the Han Dynasty’s Changsha Kingdom, Changsha City is now the capital China’s Hunan Province in the southern central part of the country. It is also the province’s most populous with over 7 million residents in the city center alone. Located in the lower part of the Xiang River, it sits on a valley and divided by the river in two, with the commercial area situated in the east and the cultural and university areas thriving in the western part. Changsha City was declared a ‘Creative City’ in media arts by UNESCO in 2017 for its huge development in cultural and creative industries aimed at the preservation of its rich cultural history that dates back to over 3,000 years ago. The city, whose name means ‘long, sandy [place]’ first began opening to foreign trade in the early 1900s and got a pummeling in the Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s and 1940s. Changsha is also where China’s founding father, the communist revolutionary leader Mao Zedong first converted to Communism. Today, Changsha is a major manufacturing, commercial, and transportation hubs, with industries geared towards timber, oil extraction, tobacco production, meat processing, textile industries, among others. It enjoys four seasons with very hot summers, dry autumns, chilly winters with the occasional cold snaps, and rainy and humid springs.
1. Strong Historical RootsChangsha is proud of its rich and strong historical and cultural legacy. The city’s development began some 3,000 years ago and archeological diggings showed that people were already living in the area during the Bronze Age. Furthermore, archeological discoveries revealed over 3,000 tombs dating back to the Warring States Period, from 475 to 221 B.C., with precious artifacts that include what is considered to be the earliest copies of the classical Chinese text, Tao Te Ching, penned by famed philosopher and writer Lao Tzu, as well as other historical and literary pieces. Changsha also takes pride in its rice production that dates back to the 17th century when the city was hailed a one of China’s primary rice markets. Changsha is also best known for launching Mao Zedong’s political career where he learned about the tenets of Communism.
2. Flourishing EconomyChangsha City, in recent years, have become a natural magnet for big businesses and investors. Now a big industrial city, the city’s development particularly of heavy industries began in the 1960s where it saw huge manufacturing of heavy machinery. The city is also known as the country’s center of aluminum industry but is also known for its production of rubber and cement, paper and ceramic. It is considered to be one of China’s 15 most developed and economically progressive cities, and a high-income city, according to the World Bank. As a thriving financial hub, Changsha has attracted a significant number of foreign investments, especially in the high-tech industry, as well as in food production, services, and manufacturing. Nonetheless, despite all these advancements, it hasn’t forgotten its traditional industries, which it continues to develop, including traditional handicrafts, its famous Xiang-style embroidery, umbrellas, buttons, and leather goods, to name some.
3. A Fun Haven for Shopaholics and FoodiesVisitors to Changsha, especially avid shoppers and food lovers will have a fun time discovering the nooks and crannies of the city in search for that memorable item or that remarkable local dish.The city has several modern shopping malls with state-of-the-art cinema houses, well-known cafes and restaurants. There are also shopping malls showcasing popular global brands, and even a 24-hour bookstore-cum-library. The city also has quaint and old-style curio shops featuring local handicrafts. Pedestrian streets lined with shops and eateries are huge attractions. Especially sought-after are the cheap yet tasty local eats, such as the seasonal spicy crayfish dishes, and other hot and spicy treats the city is known for. Tourist-friendly areas for shoppers and foodies include places close to the river, such as Wuyi, Huangxing, and Zhongshan roads.
Changsha Tourist Spots
1. Mount Yuelu Park: Daytrippers’ FavoriteAn easy day trip adventure is a hike up (and down) Mount Yuelu while checking out its many attractions in between leisurely and with lots of selfies to boot. If you think you need the exercise after gorging on Changsha’s local food the previous evening, then say no to the cable car going up this hill and just walk about an hour to the top while enjoying nature and ogling at the city view from above. Among the park’s many attractions are the historical monuments dotting the lush landscape, the Confucian Temple, the Lecture Hall and the Book Tower at Yuelu Academy, first built in 976 A.D. Still operational, the Academy was one of China’s first four educational institutions to be built thousands of years ago. A favorite serene attraction is Lushan Temple, which also has an ancient history dating back to more than 1,700 years.
2. Huangxing Road Pedestrian Street: Cheap and Tasty EatsChangsha wouldn’t be complete without a pedestrian street and Huangxing Road rules over all the other streets in this bustling city. Just a stone’s throw away from the riverside, this famous walking street offers the familiar little eateries and cafes, small shops, and ubiquitous snack stands all offering budget-friendly prices and a huge variety of products and items. A closer look at all the attractions here will also reveal the presence of bars and clubs, western style shopping areas, and a modern cinema complex. The two-kilometer street also has hidden alleys worth checking out. Don’t forget to try its famous grubs, including stinky tofu, grilled octopus, and peanut nibbles. If you’re luck and it’s the summer season, you can even watch a fireworks display during weekends.
3. Orange Island: More Than Just an Orange OrchardOrange Island, located right smack at the center of Changsha on Xiangiang River, is famous for the thousands of orange trees that groan with juicy fruits in the Fall. But this narrow island, arguably the second most popular tourist attraction after Mount Yuelu, has so much more to offer. Visitors to the island have several gorgeous gardens to explore and lots of winding peaceful paths to navigate. Those who are not keen walkers can go around the island via golf carts or mini buses and marvel at its attractions, including the Ode to Oranges Pavilion, Poem Tablet, the ‘Who Dominates the Rise and Fall’ sculpture garden, the 100-Meter Fountain, Fireworks Square, and the natural swimming pool open for visitors in the summer. Don’t miss the huge and iconic statue of Mao Zedong’s head at the southern part of the island. There are also nice fireworks display most evenings and several music festivals at certain times of the year.