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Hunan Province - China

Hunan Province, China.Hunan (湖南; Húnán) Province, situated in south-central China, spans approximately 210,000 square kilometers (80,000 square miles) with a population of 65,683,722 million (2010). Hunan borders Hubei to the north, Guizhou to the west, Jiangxi to the east, Guangxi and Guangdong to the south, with Changsha as its capital city.

Since its beginnings, occupied by the ancestors of the modern Miao, Tujia, Dong and Yao peoples around 350 BC, Hunan province has been a magnet for the migration of Han Chinese from the north. Many of the small villages along the Xiang River still have the original name of the Han families that migrated and settled in the region. Folklore has it that the Dragon Boat Festival originated in Hunan out the search for Quyuan's, a patriotic poet, body in the Miluo River.

As Mao Zedong's home province, Hunan supported the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. However, it was slower than most provinces in adopting the reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping in the years that followed Mao's death in 1976.

In 1982, China established its first national forest park in Hunan Province called Zhangjaijie National Forest Park. Located in the scenic northwest, the park is known for its quartz-sandstone rock formations sculpted by time and nature set among green trees and clouds.

Hunan cuisine, characterized by spicy intense flavors with liberal use of chili peppers, shallots, and garlic, is known for being dry hot (干辣) or purely hot, as opposed to Sichuan cuisine which is known for its distinctive mala (hot and numbing) seasoning attributed to Sichuan peppercorns. Typical Hunan menu items include: Beer duck (啤酒鸭), Changsha-style stinky tofu (长沙臭豆腐), Mao's braised pork (毛氏红烧肉), Mala chicken (麻辣子鸡), General Tso's chicken (左宗棠鸡), Steamed fish head in chili sauce (剁椒蒸鱼头), and Dong'an chicken (东安子鸡).

Major Cities:
Changsha (长沙) — located on the lower reaches of Xiang River; capital of Hunan.
Yueyang (岳阳) — On the southern shores of Dongting Lake; famous for Yueyang Tower (岳阳楼).
Hengyang (衡阳) — Home of Mount Heng (Nanyue mountain); Second largest city in Hunan.
Huaihua (怀化) — Lies is in the mountainous west of Hunan; important railway center in western Hunan.
Shaoyang (邵阳) — One of the major forest areas in Hunan; four-season humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa).
Zhuzhou (株洲) — The Xiang River (Xiangjiang) flows through downtown; important railway hub.
Fenghuang (鳳凰) — The "August Rooster", Chinese phoenix.
Changde (常德) — known for its many Old Stone and New Stone Age sites; bordering the west side of Dongting lake.

Popular Destinations:
Zhangjiajie National Forest — UNESCO World heritage, National GeoPark, Sandstone Peak Forest.
Mount Heng — (also called Nan Yue) one of the five sacred Taoist mountains of China. Nan Yue Temple lies in the foothills of the mountain.
Meishan Dragon Palace — one of the most beautiful karst caves in China. There's an area of terrace named Ziquejie in the vicinity.
Dongting Lake — the second biggest freshwater lake in China.
Yueyang pavilion — a famous pavilion in China.
Dehang — a small village home to the Miao minority, with nice hiking opportunities.

Changsha Huanghua International Airport (IATA: CSX, ICAO: ZGHA) is located 25 kilometers (16 miles) east in the town of Huanghua. Trains run from most major cities. For more information on train schedules please refer to China’s National Railway Website: http://www.12306.cn.