Changsha developed as an agricultural market on the fertile Hunan plains -- China's most porlific rice growing region. Food has played a particularly prominent role in the city's 3,000-year history. Nowadays, Changsha is the capital of southeast China's Hunan Province, with a population of 3 million people.
The Xiang River divides Changsha into east and west sides. The east side is a bustling commercial center, the west a more sedate university district. Changcha cultural attractions include the Han Tombs excavation, and the Hunan Provincial Museum, featuring 1,800 pieces of lacquerware, for which the city has long been famous.
Hunan food is spicy, indeed, and legend says it fired the blood of revolutionaries in the region. Many Hunanese are proud that their province produced China's most influential Communist leaders. Mao Zedong, for instance, was born in the village of Shaoshan, and studied for 5 years in Changsha.
For natural beauty in Hunan, check out Mt. Hengshan (310 km south of Changsha), and Zhangjiajie National Park in the western province. Zhangjianjie is considered to be China's Yellowstone Park, only with wild boar, monkeys, and leopards, instead of picnic basket snatching bears.