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Jiangxi
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Hemmed in by mountains, Jiangxi's rugged topography has made it a backwater for centuries. Even today, it remains unknown to most travelers and relatively free of the rapid development transforming enormous swaths of southeastern China into something approximating the world's biggest industrial park.

That means that a week or so of leisurely exploration of Jiangxi's rivers, lakes, scenic peaks and misty valleys can make for a very different experience of the Middle Kingdom than the typical tours of popular (and crowded) hotspots. And if you only have a day or two, sights and attractions within easy reach of the capital, Nanchang, are a great way to introduce yourself to Jiangxi's charms.

From the craggy outlooks of Lu Shan in the north to the rugged ridges of the southwest's extensive Jinggang Shan range, travelers seeking idyllic scenes reminiscent of classical Chinese landscape paintings will find plenty to satisfy.

The mountains are complemented by Jiangxi's extensive waterways. The Gan River runs the length of the province, emptying into Poyang Hu (Lake Poyang), a birdwatcher's paradise frequented by wintering Siberian cranes, among some half million other migratory birds, while a stretch of the mighty Yangzi (Yangzte) River forms Jiangxi's northern border.

None of this is to say that Jiangxi is pure nature-lover paradise. Nanchang is home to a number of heavy industries and much of the city will feel familiar to anyone who has spent time in any number of eastern Chinese urban centers, though it retains a great deal of old-world charm in a number of pleasant narrow streets. And ancient Jingdezhen has a long tradition of making China's finest china, the region's unique clay having played an important role in the development of porcelain manufacture, which to this day is at the heart of Jingdezhen's economy.