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Hubei

The province of Hubei is the agricultural and geographic center of Han China. Scenic sites are scattered in three regions: Wuhan, the provincial capital, three gorges and the Three Kingdoms relics. The central regions upriver from Wuhan, feature prominently in the lore of the Three Kingdoms, with the ports of Shashi, Jiangling and Chibi retaining their period associations. In the west, the ranges which border Sichuan contain the holy peak of Wudang Shan, alive with Taoist temples and martial arts lore, and the remote and astonishingly beautiful Shennongjia forest park.

Hubei lies in central China with the Yangtze River running through from west to east. The province has a long and splendid history. It was the site of the state of Chu during the Spring and Autumn Period and the battlefield of many battles, as described in the book "The Three kingdoms". It covers an area of 180 thousand square kilos and has a population of 58 million. Its provincial capital is Wuhan.

As the "Gateway to Nine Provinces", skirted by mountains and midway along the Yangzi between Shanghai and Chongqing, Hubei has always been of great strategic importance, and somewhere that seditious ideas could easily spread to the rest of the country. In recent years, Hubei has witnessed big stride in economic development. A number of state invested projects are now in progress, such as the Three Gorges Dam Project. By the early 21 century, the largest hydroelectric power station will have been completed in Hubei.

Hubei is also a province full of tourist attractions. Among them are the Yellow Crane Tower, Wudang Mountain and Shennongjia scenic area.

Recommended Scenic Spots

Mt. Wudangshan

The Wudangshan mountains stretch for 400 km, across northwestern Hubei Province. Situated south-east of Shiyan, the highest summit is the 1612m Tianzhu Peak, whose name translates as 'Pillar Propping Up the Sky', or 'Heavenly Pillar Peak'.  

The Mt. Wudangshan is a sacred range to the Taoists, and a number of Taoist temples were built here during the construction sprees of the Ming emperors Cheng Zu and Zhen Wu. Noted temples include the Golden Hall on Tianzhu Peak, which was built entirely of gilded copper in 1416; the hall contains a bronze statue of Zhen Wu, who became a Taoist deity.

The Purple Cloud Temple stands on Zhanqifeng Peak, and the Nanyan Temple perches on the South Cliff. Wudangshan is also famous for the Wudangshan style of martial arts developed here, and there are numerous schools in and around the town.  

The railway station is called Wudangshan, but the town used to go by the name of Laoying. The entrance gate to the mountain is about l km east of the town.

Shennongjia Scenic Spot

The Shennongjia district in remote northwestern Hubei has the wildest scenery in the province. With heavily forested mountains of fir, pine and hemlock -including something rare in China, old-growth stands -the area is known as a treasure trove of more than 1300 species of medicinal plants. Indeed, the name for the area roughly translates as 'Shennong's Ladder' to commemorate a legendary emperor, Shennong, believed to be the founder of herbal medicine and agriculture. According to the legend, he heard about some special plants growing up high on a precipice, so he cut down a great tree and used it to climb to the site and reach the plants, which he added to his medical collection.  

As part of a more modern legend, Shennongjia is also famous for the sightings of wild, ape-like creatures - a Chinese equivalent of the Himalayan Yeti or the North. American Bigfoot. The stories are interesting, but the creatures seem to be able to distinguish between peasants and scientists -molesting the former and evading the latter. Nevertheless, there is a small base station set up in the reserve with displays of 'evidence' of sightings. More real, but just as elusive perhaps, are species of leopard, bear, wild boar and monkey (including the endangered Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey) that reportedly inhabit the area.  

Foreigners are only allowed into the area of the Shennongjia district near the town of Muyuping, 200km northwest of Yichang. There are two high peaks in the area, Shennongjiashan at 3105m and Laojunshan at 2936m. It's a 10-hour bus ride to Muyuping from Yichang, or you can take a boat to Xiangxi (five hours) on the Three Gorges and from there it's a 90km ride to Muyuping. From Muyuping you will have to hire a car to get into the reserve.

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