Earlier this month I spent a weekend in Changsha (长沙), the capital city of Hunan province (south-central China), to attend a friend’s wedding. Changsha is typical of every other second-tier city in China – sprawling, grey, and heavily polluted with nothing much going on other than the relentless development of high-rise buildings and endless roads. This is not somewhere you would visit for a holiday but I did manage to find one small gem in the rough…
A short distance outside the city centre can be found Hunan University (湖南大学), one of the oldest national universities in China, with a history dating back over 1000 years to the Song Dynasty. There are some nice older red brick buildings on its leafy campus and even a couple of Hobbit holes!
Within the grounds can also be found the restored remains of the original Yuelu Academy (岳麓书院), which was established in 976 for scholars to prepare for civil examinations, and eventually evolved into the university that exists now.
Today the academy is a museum and centre for language research that is open to the public. Since it’s not aimed at foreign tourists there is no English information available but it’s still nice to walk around and soak up the scholarly atmosphere.
Above the acceding rooftops of the Confucian temple within the compound lies Yuelu Mountain (岳麓山) on the west bank of the Xiang River.
There’s nothing like the sound of bamboo rustling in the breeze to calm the mind…
…or invigorate the soul!
By the looks of it, today’s young scholars have other things on their minds than arguing about the Doctrine of the Mean.
Sadly finding a moment away from the constant distractions of the everyday world is hard to find.
But here you might come close.
Apart from the odd rampaging tour group, Yuelu Academy was a welcome break from Changsha city centre and a nice place to relax after the sheer chaos of attending a Chinese wedding the day before (more on that another time)!
Changsha, like Szechuan, is known for spicy food, but without the additional numbing effects of certain spices and pepper. For my final meal in Changsha, I choose something a little more ordinary (mince beef noodles).
So there you have it – where to go if you find yourself stuck in Changsha for the weekend!