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“China’s Wuhan shuts down transport as global alarm mounts over virus spread” 

Reuters, Jan. 21, 2020

 

Wuhan (武漢), capital of Hubei Province, used to have a much different reputation than it does currently.  A little-known city on the Yangtze, Wuhan is now solidly branded globally as the “epicenter of the coronavirus.”  On Jan. 22, the Chinese government put a real damper on the upcoming Lunar New Year festivities: it suspended all transport out of Wuhan, population 11 million, as a measure to contain the spread of the virus.  Hotels and tourist attractions have been told by the government to suspend large-scale new year activities.  Wuhan residents have been asked “not to leave the city.”

In another time, back in the days at the height of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, Yangtze River tours inevitably originated from or ended in Wuhan.  Situated on the confluence of the Han River and the Yangtze, this metropolis was consolidated from three districts in 1927: Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang.  Its name actually is a combination of “Wu” from Wuchang and “Han” from the other two districts.

The city is known for its national historical and cultural sites.  It has more than 339 scenic spots and historical sites, 103 revolutionary commemoration places, 13 national key cultural relics protection units, 156 provincial and municipal key cultural relics protection units.  Famous landmark architecture includes the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge, Yuefei Pavilion and the Yellow Crane Tower.

But to history buffs, Wuhan is famous for something much bigger!  The metropolis has a 3,500-year-long history.  During the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864), the Wuhan area had been under the control of rebel forces for many years.  When the Qing Dynasty lost the second Opium War (1856-1860), they had to sign the Treaties of Tianjin and the Convention of Peking, which stipulated 11 cities or regions as trading ports.  Hankou was one of them.  (Hankou had been a fairly busy trading port even during the Han Dynasty.)  

By 1900, Hankou had flourished.  Secret societies against the Qing Dynasty were active in Wuhan.  Eleven years later, October 1911, Sun Yat-sen’s followers launched the Wuchang Uprising that eventually led to the demise of the Qing Dynasty and the founding of the Chinese Republic.  

Wuhan became the capital of the left wing of the Kuomintang, in opposition to the faction led by Chiang Kai-shek.  When Nanking fell during the second Sino-Japanese War in December 1937, Wuhan became the provisional capital of the Kuomintang.  It came under Japanese occupation by 1938 and the major Japanese logistics center for Japanese operations in southern China.  As a result, it came under heavy attack in December 1944 – bombs dropped from 77 U.S. bombers set off a firestorm and destroyed much of the city.

Not only has Wuhan overcome all the conflicts and battles, it has grown into an important trade, finance, transportation and information technology center.  It has foreign investments from 80 countries and includes engineering, materials and environmental protection industries.  Former U.K Prime Minister Teresa May visited the city and some of its well-known tourist attractions in 2018.

 

Two of the tourist attractions May visited were:

Yellow Crane Tower  黄鹤楼

This tower is recognized as one of the three most notable towers in the south of the Yangtze River (the other two are Yueyang Pavilion in Hunan Province and Tengwang Pavilion in Jiangxi Province).  It is said that even a 4-year-old Chinese kid may know of this tower because of the famous poem "Huang He Lou," which translates to "Yellow Crane Tower."  

The tower was said to have been an inspiration destination for many, including poet Li Bai, as it provides a good vantage point to see the entire city of Wuhan as well as the Yangtze River.

It was originally built in A.D. 223 during the Three Kingdom period as a military watch tower.  It had been destroyed and reconstructed seven times.  The last tower was built in 1868, but burnt down in 1884.  In 1981, Wuhan City Government decided to rebuild the tower at its present location.  It was completed in 1985.  An elevator was added to the new structure.

Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge  武漢長江大橋

Yangtze River is the longest river in China and the third longest in the world.  The bridge was “the Chinese People's first try to overcome the Yangtze River,” connecting the north and south banks and the Beijing-Wuhan Railroad and Wuhan-Guangdong Railway.  It is also the first double-decker bridge over the Yangtze (upper level for cars, lower deck for railway).

Construction of the bridge began in 1955 and finished in 1957 and contributed to national economic development.

Additional sites to visit in Wuhan:

Heptachord Terrace  武漢七頭陽臺

Located in the north of Hanyang District on the banks of Moon Lake, it is a reminder of the legend of Yu Boya, a famous official who was an expert heptachord player.  The terrace was built in honor of the friendship between Yu and a woodcutter who appreciated Yu’s music.  When the woodcutter died before a planned meeting between the two friends, Yu was grief-stricken.  He set up an altar by his friend’s grave and played the two pieces his friend so enjoyed and that was the last time he played the heptachord!

Water surrounds the stone terrace on three sides.  There is a courtyard, teahouse and an arboretum.  There also is a wax exhibit depicting how the two men became good friends and a white marble statue of Yu playing the haptachord.

East Lake  武漢東湖風景區

Located in central Wuhan, there are four areas within the East Lake scenic area: Tingtao (Listening to Surging Waves), Mo Hill (Millstone Hill), Chuidi (Playing Flutes) and Luoyan (Diving Wild Goose), each with its own unique features  

The lake is surrounded by mountains and rivers.  In early March through April, East Lake is famous for its plum blossoms, followed by cherry blossoms.  The cherry trees were planted during the Japanese occupation of Wuhan. 

Jianghan Pedestrian Street  江漢路步行街

Located in the center of Hankou District, Jianghan Street stretches nearly a mile from Yanjiang Avenue in the south to Jiefang Avenue in the north.  It is claimed to be the longest pedestrian street in all of China.

Boasting various kinds of architecture -- Roman, Byzantine, European or classic styles -- the 100-year-old street is known as "Wuhan's architectural museum of the 20th century."  Its night market, lined with booths selling local snacks, clothes and pets, is also extremely popular with locals and visitors.

Guiyuan Temple  歸元寺

Guiyuan Temple was built in 1658, during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), by a monk named Bai Guang.  Covering an area of 11.5 acres, the temple is famous for its magnificent architecture, elegant sculptures and abundance of Buddhist texts, statues, stone sculptures, calligraphy works and ancient codes and records in foreign languages.

The main building in the northern courtyard was originally built from 1920 to 1922.  The two-storey pavilion-style building is about 75 feet tall.  It is the only ancient building with brick-wood construction in Wuhan.

Hubu Alley  戶部巷

The centuries-old Hubu Alley is situated at Simenkou, Wuchang District.  Known as "the First Alley for Chinese Snacks" because of numerous delicious snacks, it is about 50-ft. long and 9-ft. wide, one of the must-visit places in Wuhan.

 Hubu Alley has been serving Chinese traditional breakfasts, such as hot and dry noodles, beef noodles, Chinese doughnuts and soup dumplings.  The alley’s name is based on its location in the Ming Dynasty, which was the “hubu,” Ministry of Revenue in feudal China.  Since 2002, the narrow alley has been expanded to four parts: the old alley of Hubu Alley, middle section of Ziyou Road, west end of Minzhu Road and south section of Dufudi, forming a great block to taste authentic local food and experience the local culture.  Also, it is only about a 20-minute walk to the Yellow Crane Tower.

Hubei Provincial Museum  湖北省博物馆

Located in Wuchang District, it is the only comprehensive museum in the entire province.  Covering almost half a million square feet, it houses more than 200,000 historical and cultural relics, including pottery, porcelains, jade, bronze and ancient musical instruments, of which nearly 1,000 are listed as first-class relics of China.  The Chime Bells Exhibition Hall contains two parts: The Exhibition Hall and the Music Hall - the largest ancient instrument exhibition hall in China.

Wuhan art scene  

Wuhan Art Gallery’s stunning Chinese watercolour paintings are just a snippet of what’s going on in Central China’s art scene.  The city is now attracting more and more international exhibitions given Wuhan’s rich cultural heritage, romantic landscapes and arty areas such as Tan Hua Lin walking street.  These areas are packed with bohemian stores and showcase some of the best of Wuhan’s handicrafts and their creators in action.

Now may not be the time to visit Wuhan, but when the virus blows over, Wuhan has much to offer: vast and picturesque lakes, variety of architecture, street vendor foods, and at a much more affordable level than Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.  So, get a head start on your trip planning now.

 

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