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Changsha (literally Long Sand), surrounded by fertile lands and bisected by the slow flowing waters the the Xiang River, is Hunan province's capital. Populated by some six million souls, Changsha is a lively town well known for its food culture, military tradition and being one of Mao Zedong's haunts prior to launching his political career.

The city is likely to attract two kinds of people, those interested in tracing the origins and journeys of Chairman Mao, and those interested in joining in the "renao" (literally hot and noise—two things the Chinese associate with having a good time) that sweeps over the city during the night time hours. 

Hunan cuisine is infamous for being some of the spiciest in the land and is perhaps second only to Sichuan on China's spice-o-meter. Something to bear in mind if you're sampling street-side barbecue or noodles.


Changsha has an exceptionally long and no less brutal history. By 200 BC, Changsha was a fairly densly populated, fortified city. Its value as a strategic location has long been recognised by the powers that be. It was instrumental in Qin Shihuang's unification of China. At one point in the distant past before Emperor Qin's intervention, Changsha was a country unto itself. 

Resident of nearby Shaoshan, Mao Zedong, spent several years in town attending school and later became principal of the very school he had attended—a position he would hold for 2 years while launching his political career. Between 1939 and 1942 Chinese Nationalists repelled 3 separate invasions by the Japanese, before finally being overcome in 1944. On this final successful attempt, it would take in excess of 350,000 Japanese troops with air support to conquer the city.


Changsha belongs to a climate that is almost subtropical, with long, hot and humid summers—most days will see the hygrometer pushed well above the 80% mark. June through August is the rainy season. Annual average temperature is 17.5º C (63.5º F), with an annual average rainfall of 1,387 mm (54.6 in.), and an annual average frost free period of 280 days.

Autumn is probably the best time to visit Changsha, when temperatures hit between 15 to 20º C (68º F). In spring the weather in Changsha tends to change very rapidly, so it is worth bringing more clothing with you. In the coldest days of winter, Changsha averages around 5º C (41º F).