Hubei Overview

Hubei is, in many ways, China's heartland. Not only is it located in the geographical center of the Han Chinese world, but "the Gateway to the Nine Provinces" looms large in history and legend as well as China's present.

A fertile land bisected by the mighty Yangzi (Yangtze) River, with lake-studded plains in the east and rugged mountains rising in the west, Hubei has played a key role in the history of a nation that for millennia was founded on agriculture and trade.

The region's strategic importance figures into the 14th-century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, considered to be one of China's four greatest classical novels and largely set in Hubei—and it's still easy to imagine epic battles playing out within view of dramatic vistas of Yangzi cliffs and gorges.

Of course, any mention of Yangzi "gorges" and you're instantly ushered from a misty past of sages, soldiers, poets and peasants into China's head-over-heels rush into mass-scale industrialization and modernity. The Three Gorges Dam is not only the largest dam in the world, but a powerful symbol of China's transformation into an economic powerhouse—and the difficulties and challenges that come with it.

As the rising river drowns the last abandoned towns and creeps up the faces of the gorges to meet its high-water mark, its story remains unfinished. Will it succeed as hoped, helping drive China into an era of sustained development fueled by cheaper, cleaner power? Or will the worst fears of environmentalists come to pass as the reservoir silts up, pollution increases and unanticipated costs render the dam a gigantic white elephant? 

Regardless, the Yangzi, the Three Gorges and the dam itself remain astonishing sights, and Yangzi cruises are a must, whether viewing the dam upstream from Yichang or entering Hubei from Chongqing via the Three Gorges and their dramatic mountain slopes, cliff-side waterfalls and limestone caves.

The sprawling metropolis of Wuhan is where you'll find Hubei's best food and shopping. The Hankou district is best for shopping, while great food—much of it spicy Sichuanese fare—can be found almost everywhere. Lotus root is popular, and appears in everything from soups to fried dishes, and the ubiquitous reganmian (hot and dry noodles) can be found on virtually every corner. Food aside, notable Wuhan attractions; include East Lake and Yellow Crane Tower.

Moving west from the lakes and plains of eastern Hubei, the terrain grows increasingly rugged as fields give way to mountains and forests. Fans of gongfu (kung fu) shouldn't miss the holy, Taoist temple-crowded peaks of Wudang Shan. Steeped in martial arts lore, the region is the home of wushu as well as spectacular scenery.

And if Wudang Shan isn't rugged enough, try the remote Shennongjia Forest Reserve, reputed stomping grounds of the Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. As a Tang Dynasty verse has, it, Enshi is the land of "endless green mountains to wander, endless clear flowing water" and the Miao and Tujia cultures make for a fascinating change of pace from the rest of largely Han Hubei.

Hubei history

Hubei climate

Hubei attractions

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