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The allure of Hunan

For thousands of years the south central Chinese province of Hunan has beguiled with its beauty, and its isolated mountains, karst peaks and fertile river basins are home to a unique culture and cuisine

Unfolding a map of China, you will fnd a province situated in the south that takes its name from its position below the mighty Dongting Lake – Hunan (literally south of the lake). Hunan’s rivers defne the province, with the Xiang cutting it in two from north to south, and the Yuan and Li the fowing arteries that make the landscapes so striking and fertile.

Te mountain ranges to the south, east and west of Hunan cradle the province, enclosing the rivers, hills and valleys in mist. Amid this hypnotic scenery live the people of Hunan, whose customs and traditions are little changed in centuries.

Natural wonders

Dongting Lake

Travel south on the train from Beijing to Guangzhou, and you’ll see the glassy expanse of Dongting Lake beside the railway. Since ancient times, this lake has taken in and drained out the water of the Yangzi River, providing a form of natural food relief.

Dongting means ‘grotto court’, and was named after the huge cavern that is believed to exist beneath the lake, and which is said to be home to a powerful dragon-king.

Te Song dynasty poet Mi Fu travelled here more than nine centuries ago and encapsulated its majesty and brilliance in the verses of his poem,Moonlight on Dongting Lake.

Beautiful autumn leaves and misty peaks in Zhangjiajie
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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - January 2016
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