Third of a four-part series on China Trip
THERE is a Chinese proverb that says “travelling a thousand miles is better than reading a thousand scrolls of books.”
Indeed, before I set foot on Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province in China, I read up a bit on the city but in reality though, it isn’t the same as being there to experience it for myself.
As a medium-sized city, Wuhan boasts a diversity and vibrancy of its own. When we arrived there as part of our 18-day study tour, the warm weather reminded us of why Wuhan is known as one of the Three Furnaces of the Yangtze River Alley.
The ‘Autumn Tiger’ was how the locals described the hot clime following the onset of the Autumn season during our visit. But that did not dampen our spirits. The impressive greenery, surrounding the skyscrapers in the urban city, had lifted our mood.
With an over 12-million population, Wuhan is divided into three main districts — Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang — by the Yangtze and Hanjiang Rivers. Each district has its own role in contributing to the development of Wuhan.
Wuchang is the city’s core for political, economic and educational activities, Hanyang, the hub for industrial development while Hankou, the commercial centre.
The top 12 tourist spots, also listed as Wuhan’s best landmarks, are the Yellow Crane Tower, the East Lake, the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge, the Jianghan-Chaozong Hankou River Beach, the Hubei Provincial Museum, the Wuhan University, the Zhongshan Avenue-Jianghan Road, the ancient street of Hubu Alley, the Floating Theatre, the Chuhe HanJie Pedestrian Street, the Wuhan Revolutionary Museum and Mulan Ecological and the Cultural Tourism Area.
We were quite happy to be able to squeeze five of the 12 places into our short three-day visit. And the experience was incredible.
The attractions of Wuhan can be summed up in five colours — green (eco-tourism), blue (water tourism), red (revolution education tourism), brown (cultural tourism with a theme on profound history) and grey (night recreational tourism).
The colour green represents eco-tourism in Wuhan City and its most significant landmark is the East Lake, the largest freshwater body within an urban city in China.
Covering 88 sq km with crisscrossing ponds and winding banks, the 5A-rated tourist spot, attracting a million visitors every year, is dubbed ‘A Lake with 99 bays’.
The East Lake scenic region is dotted with many famous tourist sites along the riverbanks. The six major ones are Tingtao (Listening to the Surging Waves), Mo Hill (Millstone Hill), Luoyan (Diving Wild Goose), Baima (White Horse), Chuidi (Playing Flutes) and Luohong Hills.
Recognising the region’s charm and ability to attract visitors, the municipal government initiated a ‘Green Route’ project, connecting the East Lake with all the scenic areas around it.
Stretching 28.7km, the Route, completed in December 2017, connects all the scenic spots, and city revellers will find themselves taking six hours to complete a stroll along the Route.
Ferry Cruise (Blue water tourism)
Wuhan is a city blessed with an abundance of water, being criss-crossed by the Yangtze and the Han River which flow through a hundred lakes. With this natural asset, cruising along the rivers has become a travel option to sightsee the city from a different angle.
We were brought on a tour by ferry, touted as a more traditional way to enjoy the captivating scenery and learn about the local history, culture as well as the importance of the rivers to the people of Wuhan.
The ferry, plying the Yangtze, shuttles between Hankou, Hanyang and Wuchang. During the cruise, we watched, spellbound, as the enchanting scenery of Wuhan unfolded before us. We were told the ferry tour was often featured in films and TV dramas.
The weather waxed cooler with a drizzle at boarding time, so we went up to the upper deck. As the ferry moved out of the berthing area, the view of the towering buildings and which overlooked the first bridge on the Yangtze — called the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge — was amazing.
It is said the government used up almost all the metal in China to build the bridge.
Construction of the double-decked road and rail bridge across the Yangtze started in 1955 and was completed in 1957. The upper level of the bridge is a two-way, four-lane automobile highway while the lower level is a double-track railway on the Beijing-Guangzhou line.
Revolution Education Tourism (Red)
Despite the short visit, it wasn’t hard for us to feel a strong sense of the city’s history.
Our tour guide, Nancy, explained that Wuhan had witnessed the uprising that changed the political scene in China.
To get a clearer picture, we visited the 1911 Revolution Museum. Known previously as the Memorial Hall of Wuchang Uprising and sited on 28 acres of land, the building is also called the Red Chamber because of its red colour, and classified as a state-level key historical relic.
It was once the home of the Hubei Advisory Bureau set up in 1910 by the Qing government.
In 1911, members of the Hubei Revolutionary Party, adhering to Sun Yat Sen’s revolutionary theory of democracy, rose up and occupied Wuchang City. The following day, the Office of the Military Government of the Republic of China was established in Hubei, and the Republic of China was born.
This marked a very important period where the 260-year reign of the Qing Emperor was brought to an end after 2,000 years of feudal monarchy.
The Wuchang Revolution had aroused revolutionary sentiments throughout the country, hence its name — Shouyi — or the first to rise in revolt.
In 2002, the Red Chamber was renamed 1911 Revolution Museum, and it has become a National Adolescent Education Base which is one of the 100 Chinese patriotism education demonstration bases, and also rated as a 5A tourism site.
The Museum exhibits were recovered from the previous location of the Hubei Army Government Office and the historical sites of the Wuchang Uprising of the 1911 Revolution.
Cultural tourism (Brown)
The Yellow Crane Tower (Huanghe Lou) is hailed as a structure of cultural significance in Wuhan, being located on the Snake Hill in the centre of Wuchang.
Built during the Three Kingdoms Period by Sun Quan (King of Wu), it was used by the army as watchtower. Hundreds of years later during the Tang Dynasty, it became popular among ancient poets and some of the poems were composed in praise of the tower.
In 1985, the tower was renovated after the structure was damaged due to various causes — fire among them.
Apart from the Yellow Crane Tower, the scenic area is home to a dazzling array of featured landscapes such as Brush-Withdrawing Pavilion, White Cloud Pavilion and Goose Inscription Pavilion.
The history of Wuhan University, one of the most elite in China, can be traced back to Ziqiang Institute, founded in 1893 by Zhang Zhidong, governor of Hubei Province and Hunan Province during the later part of the Qing Dynasty.
In the process of development and evolution, the Institute changed its name several times before finally sticking to the ‘Wuhan National University’ in 1928. It’s one of the earliest comprehensive national universities of modern China.
The elegant palatial architecture, blending eastern and western designs, has earned the University the reputation as the Most Beautiful University in China.
During a meeting with the Wuhan Foreign Affairs and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, we were briefed on the introductory development plans of Wuhan, its towns and tourism potential.
The Deputy Director, Yu Feng, credited Internet, especially social media, for contributing towards setting the tone and the rapid rise of Wuhan’s tourism industry.
As of 2017, Wuhan has received more than 250 million domestic visitors and about 2.5 million international visitors for a turnover of USD1.6-billion, 11 per cent higher than 2016.
“Of course, more efforts are needed to promote Wuhan to the world. So special promotions such as the just-concluded International Tourism Festival in Hubei, will help to take the industry in the right direction,” Yu said.
In August last year, Wuhan was recognised as China’s Tourism and Leisure Demonstration City by China National Tourism Administration and in early September, the city hosted an International Tourism Festival which saw travel agencies from various countries taking part.
“Ten years ago, people only knew Beijing and Shanghai as their travel destinations. In recent years, a lot of initiatives have been taken to attract more visitors and investors to Wuhan.
“It is also by engaging with the foreign media that we can effectively promote Wuhan to international tourists and investors,” Yu added.
To give us better insight of Wuhan, a Foreign Affair Office representative arranged to take us to the Wuhan Citizens Home, a local government’s service centre.
The Home, opened in September 2012, is a centre that keeps information of past, present, and future city planning initiatives for Wuhan.
There is, indeed, a good blend of history and modernity which makes Wuhan an interesting place to visit and explore.