Dongting Lake, China's second-largest freshwater lake, is located in northeastern Hunan Province. It is a large, shallow body of water surrounded by mountain chains. It is also known as 'eight- hundred Li Dong Ting Lake' (The Li is a Chinese length unit equal to 500 meters or about 1,640 feet). An impressive characteristic of the lake is it is inter-nested. Depending on the season, concentric ridges of land appear in the lake in many areas. This is because the lake acts as a flood basin for the Yangtze River. The appearance of the lake changes throughout the different seasons, sometimes even during the same day. Many ancient Chinese poems and stories were written about the beauty of the lake.
The climate here is between middle and northern subtropical, so it is warm and humid, but there is also a 'draught window' from which cold air from the north sometimes enters. So in spring and summer, the temperature is variable, while in late summer and autumn, it's sunny and hot with a little rain. Occasionally in autumn, it's a little bit cold and windy. The area around the lake has tremendous agricultural production ability with a long history of development. Since the plain is graced with fertile soil, proper temperature and plentiful rain, Dongting Lake is also called 'a land flowing with milk and honey'.
Four streams including the Xiangjiang River, the Zishui River, the Yuanjiang River, and the Lishui River, all flow into Dongting Lake, and the lake is sometimes known as 'the holder of the four streams'. Because it acts as a tremendous natural reservoir or flood-basin, it plays an important role in adjusting the flow of the Yangtze River The Lake is sometimes known as 'the taker and sender of the Yangtze River'.
Dongting Lake is divided into 5 parts: East, South, West, North, and Datong Lake.
East Dongting Lake
East Dongting is the biggest part. The District has abundant animal and plant life, especially birds and waterfowl. It has become one of China's major natural habitats for birds. According to scientists, there are 1,086 kinds of plants, 114 kinds of fresh water fish, and 207 kinds of birds living in the district, and the total number of animals and birds reaches 10 million every year. The large water area, beach, and rich natural resources here provide protected living conditions for many animals that are in danger of extinction. East Dongting Lake is recognized as "a zoology pearl on the middle part of the Yangtze River", and "a hopeful place to save the animals in danger". Besides experiencing the cultural history of the region by visiting Yueyang Pavilion, watching dragon boat races, or tasting Junshan Island Tea, you can enjoy the region's natural abundance by watching the birds. The best time is from October to March. In addition, one can dine on delicious fish as well.
South Dongting Lake
Near Yuanjiang City, it is famous for the picturesque beauty of fishing villages: the mist and fog rising from the surface of the lake, making the sky and the water the same color; the light reflecting from the water captivates the viewer. Furthermore, South Dongting Lake is also an important international marsh, and it has been ranked as a provincial natural protective district for marsh waterfowl. Because this part of lake is next to Yuanjiang City, which is easy to reach by land or water, the lake is being developed as a scenic spot for tourism.
San Jiang Kou Entrance
Where West Dongting Lake and the Yangtze River meet, there is a place called San Jiang Kou Entrance, where one can see the Xiangjiang River surging to the north and the Yangtze River rolling to the east. Above, water birds soar freely, and on the water, hundreds of barges ply their trade. It's a grand and sublime scene. Many folk legends are rooted here, including 'the two concubines of the emperor Shun looking for their husband for hundreds of miles'.
The most famous scene in the lake is an island called Junshan, a lonely, mountainous island on Dongting Lake. Junshan Island contains 72 peaks. There are ferries to take the passengers back and forth. The ferry ride takes about an hour, but plan to spend the whole day exploring the island. The original name of the Junshan Island was Dongting Island, which means the cavity for the immortals to live in. It is said that 4,000 years ago, after the emperor Shun went south to go on a tour of inspection, two of his concubines tried to find him but failed, and they began to cry while grasping bamboo. Their tears dropped onto the bamboo, and the bamboo became mottled from then on. After their death, people built a tomb for them, which is called 'two concubines' tomb'. To commemorate them, people changed the name of the island from Dongting Island to Junshan Island. The bamboo on the island is well known for its many varieties such as mottled bamboo, arhat bamboo, square bamboo, sincere bamboo, and purple bamboo. In addition, the island holds a large-scale dragon-boat festival, a lotus festival, and various sporting events on the water every year.
Dongting Lake attracts people from all over the world with its vast historical heritage, places of interest, and its convenient location. If you want to sail, go bird-watching, fish, or pick lotus flowers, this lake is a perfect place to go.