Central China Travel Guide


  • Jingzhou
  • Wuhan
  • Wudang Shan
  • Shennongjia
  • Yichang
  • The Three Gorges Dam
  • Daoist statue, Changchun Guan
    Daoist statue, Changchun Guan

    An important port on the yangzi, Hubei’s capital is an amalgamation of three older cities. Wuchang, capital of the State of Wu (770–221 BC), and Hanyang, founded in the Sui era (AD 581–618), are ancient settlements, while Hankou was founded in 1861 when it became a treaty port for foreign trade. As a result the city was a center for early Chinese industrialization, when iron and steel works were built here in the 19th century. It was also the site of the first uprising of the 1911 Revolution that led to the fall of the Qing dynasty and the formation of Republican China.

    Visitors' checklist

  • 470 miles (750 km) W of Shanghai
  • 7,950,000
  • Hankou Train Station, Wuchang Train Station
  • CAAC (buses to airport), Hankou Bus Station, Hanyang Bus Station, Wuchang Bus Station
  • Yangzi Ferry Terminal
  • 26 Taibei Yilu, Hankou, 027 8578 4125

    Wuhan City Center
    Wuhan City Center

    Wuhan City Center

    • Gui Shan (5)
    • Guiyuan Si (6)
    • Hankou (7)
    • Hubei Provincial Museum (1)
    • Mao’s Villa (2)
    • Yangzi Bridge (4)
    • Yellow Crane Pavilion (3)
    Ancestral musical instruments at the Hubei Provincial Museum
    Ancestral musical instruments
    at the Hubei Provincial Museum

    Hubei Provincial Museum

    • 156 Donghu Rd.
    • 027 8679 4127
    • 8:30am–4:30pm daily

    Located on the shore of Dong Hu, this is one of China’s best museums. Among its highlights are items excavated in 1978 from the tomb of the Marquis of Yi, an eminent figure from the Warring States period. He died in 433 BC and was buried in a lacquered coffin, accompanied by his concubines, his dog, and thousands of bronze, stone, and wooden items. Many of these are on display, but the most impressive is the panoply of bronze bells which produce two notes each when struck.

    Ferry rides are available to explore the scenic area around Dong Hu, with its many pavilions and gardens.

    Mao’s Villa

    • Donghu Rd.
    • 027 6888 1918
    • 8am–5pm daily

    This pleasant villa (Mao Zedong Bieshu) was Mao’s hideaway between 1960 and 1974, where he stayed for prolonged periods during the first years of the Cultural Revolution. It is set in a spacious garden, and visitors can see his living quarters, conference room, bomb shelter, and swimming pool.

    Enormous bronze bell behind the Yellow Crane Pavilion
    Enormous bronze bell behind
    the Yellow Crane Pavilion
    Daoist priests depicted in a wall painting at Changchun Guan
    Daoist priests depicted in a wall painting
    at Changchun Guan

    Yellow Crane Pavilion

  • Wuluo Rd.
  • daily

    The Yellow Crane Pavilion on She Shan, south of the Yangzi in Wuchang district, is a reconstruction of a 3rd-century edifice that burned down in 1884. According to legend, it was built to honor one of the Daoist Eight Immortals, who paid his tavern bills by drawing cranes on the walls. The 164-ft (50-m) high pavilion is a handsome Qing-style building. It can be climbed for fine views across the city. On the eastern part of the hill is Changchun Guan, a Daoist temple with a pharmacy, where a doctor dispenses locally collected herbs. To the south is Hong Ge, a red-brick building that housed the Former Headquarters of the Hubei Military Government (Hong Lou) during the 1911 uprising, provoked by Sun Yat-sen, Behind the Pavilion itself is an enormous bronze temple bell which, for a small fee, visitors may strike. Sun Yat-sen’s statue stands in front of the building.

    Yangzi Bridge
    This impressive 361-ft (110-m) long bridge was built in 1957 by the Communists. Before its construction, all road and rail traffic crossed the river by ferry. A second bridge was built a short way downriver in 1995.

    Gui Shan
    Wuhan’s industrial quarter of Hanyang has a few sights of interest most of which lie on or around Gui Shan or Turtle Hill. This was named after a magic turtle that defeated a threatening water demon and prevented the Han and Yangzi rivers from flooding. The Guqin Tai (Lute Terrace) was where the legendary musician, Bo Ya, would come to play his lute. After the death of his friend, the woodcutter who could understand his music, Bo Ya destroyed his lute and vowed never to play again. A couple of tombs survive in the eastern part of the mountain. Near the tomb of He Jingyu (1895–1928), one of the first women leaders in Communist China, lies that of a semi-mythical hero from a much earlier era–Lu Su, a Wu general from the Three Kingdoms period.

    Buddha statue, Guiyuan Si
    Buddha statue, Guiyuan Si

    Guiyuan Si

  • 20 Cuiweiheng Rd.
  • 027 8484 4756
  • daily

    This Buddhist temple in western Hanyang was founded in the early Qing era (1644–62), although the current buildings are late Qing and early Republican. It has a few ancient relics including a Northern Wei Buddha statue, but is most famous for its hall of 500 arhat statues sculpted in the 1820s. The main hall has a statue of Buddha carved from a single piece of jade.

    From 1861, the district of Hankou was the site of the former foreign concession. This area has several fine examples of European-style colonial architecture. The best are located between the river and Zhongshan Dadao, particularly along Yanjiang Dadao and Jianghan Road. The old Customs House looking over the river is a vast Renaissance style building with a striking grey-stone portico and Corinthian capitals.

    Jingzhou Museum, part of the Taoist Kaiyuan Temple
    Jingzhou Museum, part of
    the Taoist Kaiyuan Temple


    • Jingzhou Municipality. 150 miles (240 km) W of Wuhan
    • 1,600,000
    • 52 Jingding Rd.

    A worthwhile short stop if cruising the river, the ancient town of Jingzhou is about 8 kms to the west of its modern counterpart Shashi. The old town is ringed by walls 20 ft (7 m) in height, which were constructed by General Guan Yu of the State of Shu (AD 221–63). Within the walls stands the Jingzhou Museum. This has a large collection of ancient silk and fabrics and, more notably, finds from a Western Han tomb of a court official called Sui including his gory but well-preserved corpse complete with organs.


    • Yichang District. 155 miles (250 km) W of Wuhan
    • 0717 624 1875
    • 52 Jiefang Rd, 0717 676 0392

    Yichang, which was once a treaty port for foreign traders, is now associated with the Gezhou Dam, completed in 1986 and the huge and controversial Three Gorges Dam, completed in 2007. It is possible to visit the site of the Three Gorges Dam at Sandouping, which lies 24 miles (38 km) upstream. The town is also a starting point for a visit to Shennongjia scenic area.


    • 124 miles (200 km) NW of Yichang
    • from Yichang to entrance at Muyu, then hire a car
    • 18 Longkang Rd, Yichang, 0717 868 6799
    • from Yichang tourist office & Forestry Office Travel Service, Muyu

    This remote and little-visited forest reserve has some remarkable scenery. It is covered with rare trees and several hundred species of plants used in traditional medicine, samples of which were introduced to the West by the botanist Ernest Wilson in the early 20th century. It is also home to many of China’s rarest animals, including the splendid golden monkey.

    Inside the reserve, at Xiao-long Tan, is a museum dedicated to the legendary Chinese Wild Man (ye ren), who is like the Himalayan Yeti and just as hard to find. The first reported sighting was in 1924. Walking trails around Xiaolong Tan lead into the heart of the reserve, providing an excellent opportunity to see the rare golden monkeys, giant salamanders, and golden pheasants. Some trails follow forest roads, others meander gently across meadows, while the crudest lead to mountain tops. Foreign visitors can explore the Muyu area, where peaks reach 10,187 ft (3,105 m). It may be possible to visit the main town of Song-bai, but only if accompanied by a tour guide. An airport will be completed by 2012.

    Wudang Shan

    • 218 miles (350 km) NW of Wuhan
    • from Wuhan or Xiangfan to Wudang Shan town
    • from Shiyan, Xiangfan or Liuliping to Wudang Shan town

    The many peaks of Wudang Shan – the highest reaching 5,289 ft (1,612 m) at Tianzhu (Heavenly Pillar) Peak – have been associated with Daoism since the Tang era. Wudang Shan has also been known for its martial arts since the Song-dynasty monk, Zhang Sanfeng, created a style called Wudang boxing from which tai ji quan later developed. After years of neglect, the many temples here have been refur-bished and are now flourishing. The entry point is the town of Wudang Shan, which has little to offer except the temple museum of Tai Shan Miao and the ruins of Yuxu Gong temple. Wudang Shan lies to the south of town, and there are several ways of reaching it. A path near the railway station takes eight hours to reach the summit at Tianzhu Peak. Minibuses go about three-quarters of the way up, from where it is another two hours on foot to the top. Other options are sedan chairs and a cable car that runs between a point called Qiongtai and the summit. Going up by minibus, visitors first pass the Martial Arts School and then the Zixiao Gong (Purple Cloud Palace), an impressive Ming temple that has become the busiest in the area. Inside the main hall is a beautiful spiral cupola. From the minibus terminus, a short diversion leads to the Nanyan Gong temple at the very edge of the cliff. Nearby is Dragon Head Rock that projects horizontally from the edge, and is covered in sculpted designs. The main path goes past Lang Mei Xian Ci, a shrine dedicated to the monk Zhang Sanfeng. The path eventually divides into two at Huanglong Dong. Of the two paths, it is easier to take the one leading straight on to the group of temples at Tianzhu Peak. At the summit, the peak is surmounted by Jindian Gong (Golden Hall), built of gilded copper and bronze in 1416. It has a statue of the Ming emperor Zhen Wu, who retreated to Wudang Shan in the 15th century. The views from Tianzhu, of razor-edge cliffs covered in mist, are magnificent.

    The Sword set involves the use of a weapon to aid balance and concentration. The simple sword form, with some 50 movements, is related to the water element, whilst the sabre is related to fire.
    The Sword set involvesthe use of
    a weapon to aid balance and
    concentration. The simple sword
    form, with some 50 movements,
    is related to the water element,
    whilst the sabre is related to fire.
    Exercising in public squares is a feature of daily life in China. Early in the morning crowds of mostly elderly people perform tai ji quan in large groups executing the movements in graceful unison.
    Exercising in public squaresis a feature
    of daily life in China.Early in the morning
    crowds of mostly elderly people perform
    tai ji quan in large groups executing
    the movements in graceful unison.
    Zhang Sanfeng, an official, retired in disgust at the Court to Wudang Shan. Inspired by a battle between a crane and a snake, he came up with the basis for tai ji quan, combining knowledge of kung fu and Daoist health principles.
    Zhang Sanfeng, an official, retired indisgust
    at the Court to Wudang Shan. Inspired by
    a battle between a craneand a snake,
    he came up with the basis for tai ji quan,
    combining knowledgeof kung fu and
    Daoist health principles.

    Tai Ji Quan (Tai Chi)
    Practiced daily by millions of Chinese, tai ji quan, or "Supreme Ultimate Fist," is a slow-moving, graceful form of kung fu. Developed over a thousand years ago by Daoist recluses and monks, tai ji quan is based on the movements of birds and animals and the Daoist concept of yin and yang or equal opposites. All of the movements, each with their own names and prescribed patterns, have elements of yin and yang; movements contract and expand, sink and rise, move inwards and outwards. The movements follow one another fluidly and sets can involve anywhere from 12 to 108 moves, and take up to an hour to complete. Tai ji quan does have martial aspects, but is utilized chiefly to improve the flow of qi , or vital energy, through the body. The exercises leave the practitioner feeling revitalized and relaxed.

    Movements of the Tai ji quan set
    Tai ji quan’s numerous schools have different sets and movements. "Whip to one side" is a common move often repeated in a set.

    Tai Ji Quan (Tai Chi)

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