Beijing Getaways: Changsha 长沙
Changsha is the capital of Hunan Province and has been an important commercial and political center since before the Qin dynasty (221207 BCE).
Located on the wide Xiang River, a branch of the Yangtze River, Changsha has a population in excess of 6 million people.
Wuyi Dadao is the 4km main street that runs east-west from the station to the Xiangjiang Bridge to Juzi Dao and across the Xiang River.
Changsha is known for its connections with Mao Zedong, who was born in the village of Shaoshan 130km away and attended school in Changsha from the age of 16.
It was while a student in Changsha that Mao was first exposed to revolutionary ideas and became a convert to socialism and later communism.
After a spell in Beijing, Mao returned to Changsha to take up a teaching post and edited a radical student newspaper.
The Hunan Provincial Museum houses important cultural artifacts excavated from the Han-era tombs at Mawangdui, 5km east of the city. On display are ancient manuscripts, bronzes, silk textiles and one of the earliest versions of the I Ching or (Book of Changes).
The centerpiece of the collection, however, is the preserved body of Xin Zui the Marquess of Dai on display in a liquid-filled tank. The museum is located in the north west corner of the pretty Martyrs' Park - complete with pagodas and ornamental lakes and bridges.
Qingshui Tang on Bayi Lu is Mao's former home in Changsha where Mao lived with his second wife Yang Kaihui after moving here from Beijing. There's a large white statue of the "Great Helmsman" at the gate and the walls of the garden are covered with stone tablets of Mao's poems and epigrams.
Other places on the Mao circuit are Hunan No 1 Teachers' Training College , where Mao attended classes from 1913-1918 and returned to teach between 1920-1922. Visitors can visit the still active college and see the well where Mao used to bathe in cold water to strengthen himself and the halls where he held political meetings.
Hunan University, west of the Xiang River, evolved from the Yuelu Academy which was a large college for scholars sitting the civil examinations established in 976 during the Song dynasty. Another Mao statue stands in the grounds. Take bus #202 to reach the academy. Yeulu Park is a pleasant place to walk and climb uphill to two pavilions: Aiwan Ting (Loving the Dusk Pavilion) and Wangxiang Ting - with views of the city below.
The last remaining parts of the old city walls are in Tianxin Ge off Chengnan Xilu. Juzi Dao (Tangerine Island) sits in the middle of the Xiang River and was a place of refuge for the European inhabitants after the European quarter was sacked by rioters in 1910 after the British raised the price of rice. Mao swam to shore from the southern tip of the island on his 65th birthday!
View more images of China by Russell Uebergang
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