There are still some classic cultural sights to see in Changsha, although it is not a city that is all-encompassing when it comes to heritage and wonder. Some tourists choose Changsha as their transfer point when traveling on to Zhangjiajie, Yueyang, Hengyang or the famous Phoenix Town in the western part of Hunan, so here are some things to do and see whilst there.
Mt. Yuelu - The famous Yuelu Academy, located at the foot of the scenic Mt. Yuelu on the west bank of Xiangjiang River, is a 'must-see' attraction in Changsha. Originally built in 976, it has a history of more than one thousand years. Either for its glorious past as a reputed feudal academic school in ancient times, or for being the site of Hunan University today, Yuelu Academy is a place in the city that both tourists and students like to visit while appreciate the charming natural vista of the surrounding mountains.
A walk across the No. 1 Bridge over the Xiangjiang River, just opposite the Yuelu scenic area is the Long Island (Juzi Zhou). In midstream of the Xiangjiang River, it runs almost the entire length of the city and gets the name for its long and narrow sandbank. It was said that Chairman Mao Zedong studied in the No. 1 Normal School here when he was young, and often went swimming in the river or took a walk with friends around the island. Today, a scenic park has been built with a marble monument in the middle with Mao's inscriptions and it is a good place for people to escape the summer heat.
Orange Isle, about 1.2 miles (2 km) from the East Gate of Mt. Yuelu, is located in the center of Xiangjiang River. It is abundant with sweet and delicious oranges, so it is called Orange Isle, or Juzi Island in Chinese. It the biggest inland island in China and is honoured as the “First Island in China”. Going there, visitors can wander at the beach park, watch the fountain, statue and fireworks show, and enjoy the beautiful sceneries to relax themselves.
Mt. Shaoshan, over 100 kilometers south-west of Changsha is a significant place for Chinese Communists for it was home to Chairman Mao Zedong. It is a good place to learn more about this great Chinese man. The old houses where he lived, a museum, a monument and other memorial spots are well preserved in the scenic area and create a kind of solemn atmosphere. Chinese come to pay their respects here during the memorial days.
Huaminglou, Liu Shaoqi's Hometown: Liu Shaoqi is the former chairman and one of the founding fathers of the People's Republic of China. At Huaminglou you can not only see his bronze statue, memorial hall, and former residence, but also learn Chinese culture and history.
Mawangdui Han Tombs
Hunan Provincial Museum
The most fantastic historical relic of Changsha should be the well-preserved mummified remains of a Western Han Dynasty woman excavated from Mawangdui Han Tombs. The remains have lasted over more than 2000 years and the skins are still stretchy. Thousands of unearthed relics include silk products, paintings, lacquer works, potteries, bamboo slips used for writing, weapons, herbs, and so on. These are all exhibited in Hunan Provincial Museum.
Another history gift is the ancient porcelain kiln site of Tongguan from the late Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). Many pottery and porcelain works decorated with painting and inscription decorations are excavated. It is recorded that these porcelains and pottery products were exported to neighboring Korean, Japan, Indonesia, Iran and even Egypt.
At the very north end of the city near the No. 2 Xiangjiang Bridge is a Buddhist temple called Kaifu Temple. It was originally built in 927 and is featured in the typical Chinese Buddhist temple architectural style.
There are several parks in the city including Wangyue Park at Jiaxiang Lu, Southern Suburb Park, Xiaoyuan Park to the east of the city center near the railway station and a zoo near the provincial museum.