Central China Travel Guide
Founded during The Han era, this provincial capital flourished under the Ming dynasty as a center of trade. However, it is best remembered as the scene of a significant uprising led by the Communist leader Zhou Enlai, who took control of the city for a few days in 1927. Although Nanchang was soon recaptured by the Nationalists, the incident started a chain of events that ultimately led to the formation of the People’s Republic of China. Despite being largely an industrial city, Nanchang has numerous sights including a good museum and several sites with revolutionary associations.
- 312 miles (500 km) SW of Hangzhou
- Xiangtan Airport
- Train Station
- Long Distance Bus Station, CAAC (buses to airport)
- Ferry Terminal
- 169 Fuzhou Rd, 0791 638 2245
Nanchang city center
- The Provincial Museum (6)
- Renmin Square (1)
- Revolutionary Museum (4)
- Shengjin Ta (7)
- Teng Wang Pavilion (5)
- Youmin Si (3)
- Zhu De’s Former Residence (2)
- Memorial Hall to the Martyrs of the Revolution
- 399 Bayi Dadao
- 0791 626 2566
- 2:30–5pm Sun–Fri
The huge, open space of Renmin (People’s) Square is surrounded by some impressive, if slightly chilling, examples of Soviet-inspired revolutionary architecture. At the southern end is the Monument to the Martyrs, a theatrical sculpture of revolutionary fervor topped by a rifle, while the vast Exhibition Hall is decorated with a glittering red star. Just north of the square is the Memorial Hall to the Martyrs of the Revolution, which exhibits archival photographs of events in China between the 1920s and 1940s.
Zhu De’s Former Residence
- Near Bayi Dao Dao
This attractive wooden house dates from 1927, when it housed the fledgling revolutionaries, Zhu De and Zhou Enlai, who led the uprising that briefly captured the city on August 1 of that year. Their army, consisting of about 30,000 rebels, held the city until the Kuomintang forces drove them out. Although the operation was a failure, it is considered a defining moment in 20th-century Chinese history, and celebrated as the day of the birth of the Red Army.
the Youmin Si
- 177 Minde Rd.
- 0791 622 2301
- 8am–5pm daily
- Bayi Park
- 5am–11:30pm daily
This Buddhist temple founded in the Liang era in the 6th century is one of Jiangxi’s principal shrines. It was damaged during the Cultural Revolution, and has now been restored. One of its three halls has a 33-ft (10-m) high Buddha standing on a lotus. The temple also houses a Ming-dynasty bronze bell and another cast during the Tang era in AD 967.
Just south of the temple is Bayi Park (August 1st Park), formerly the site of the imperial examination halls. It is a pleasant expanse of water and greenery, with an enclosed garden known as Old Man Su’s Vegetable Plot, after its Song-dynasty owner.
- 380 Zhongshan Rd.
Housed in a striking building that was once a hotel, the August 1 Uprising Museum was the headquarters of the Communist forces led by Zhou Enlai, that captured the city in 1927. Its three floors are filled with period furniture and weaponry.
Teng Wang Pavilion
The impressive Teng Wang Pavilion was first built in 653, during the early Tang-era and immortalized by the poet Tang Bo. There have been about 26 versions of the pavilion since then – the latest was erected in 1989 to replace the one destroyed by fire in 1926. The 197-ft (60-m) high structure is in the Southern Song style. Visitors can take a lift to the top for views of the city. Occasional performances of dance and music or local opera are also held in the tiny theater.
The Provincial Museum
- 1 Xinzhou Jiangxi Rd.
- 0791 659 5424
- 9am–4:30pm Tue–Sun
Located near the river in the west of the city, this museum’s exhibition space still needs to be filled. However, the existing exhibits are interesting, and include fossils found in Jiangxi, and a range of porcelain from the kilns at Jingdezhen, dating from the 4th century to the Qing era. There are also several funeral items from the Spring & Autumn period and the Ming era, including statuary, jade belts, and jewellery, some of which was discovered in the tomb of the son of Hongwu, founder of the Ming dynasty.
- Zhishi Jie
- entry is often closed
Formerly part of a temple, this 194-ft (59-m) high brick pagoda was first built in the late Tang dynasty, but was entirely rebuilt in the 18th century. Like many pagodas, its construction was said to avert disaster, while its destruction heralded the fall of the city. The pagoda is located in a quaint neighborhood with a handful of teahouses, barber shops, and grocery stores.
- Dingshan Qiao
The Blue Cloud Garden or Ba Da Shan Ren Museum was the retreat of one of China’s great painters, Zhu Da, who flourished at the end of the Ming era and the early Qing dynasty. He was a descendant of the Ming imperial family who went into hiding here after their fall, in what was originally designed as a Taoist retreat. His paintings, strikingly spare and direct, are reproduced here.
Zhou Enlai (1898–1976)
Zhou Enlai, one of the early members of the Chinese Communist Party, became the nation’s prime minister in 1949. His pragmatism and diplomacy helped him survive the constant upheavals of Mao Zedong’s chairmanship. To the West, he represented the reasonable and affable side of the Chinese people, while to his countrymen, he was the only member of the government to understand their problems. He is credited with curbing some of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. When he died, the outpouring of grief in China was spontaneous and heartfelt.
of a Tang-era tavern
The gateway to Lu Shan, the ancient port of Jiujiang, was used for shipping rice and tea and, during the Ming dynasty, porcelain from Jingdezhen. Badly damaged during the Taiping insurrection, it was later opened to foreign trade in 1861 and became noted for its tea bricks.
The older and livelier part of town lies close to the river, separated from the industrial section by two lakes. Yanshui Ting, the Misty Water Pavilion, is located on a small island on Gantang Hu. It was most recently rebuilt in the Qing dynasty and contains a museum showing old photos of Jiujiang. Nengren Si was founded in AD 502. Closed during the Cultural Revolution, it now houses a flourishing community of monks.
The Xunyang Lou is a modern reincarnation of a Tang-dynasty wooden tavern, which was the setting for a raucous scene in the Chinese classic, The Water Margin (see Epic Novels).
- 168 Yuliang Nan Rd.
- Binjiang Rd.
- 8am–7pm daily
During the 19th century, this beautiful area of highland scenery was developed by Edward Little, a Methodist minister and property speculator, as a resort area for Europeans. Later it became a favorite retreat among Chinese politicians; Chiang Kai-shek had a summer residence here and from 1949 Lu Shan was popular with Mao and his ministers. Today, despite the summer crowds, Lu Shan remains a refreshing place for walks among lakes, hills, and waterfalls.
- entry to scenic area and for each site
- Dragon’s Head Cliff
- Floral Path
- Meilu Villa
Named after his wife Soong Meiling, this is the former villa of Chiang Kai-shek and one of the few places in China that commemorates his period of rule.
The site of the 1959 Central Committee Congress during which Peng Dehui criticized Mao’s Great Leap Forward is now a museum.
Dragon’s Head Cliff
Magnificent views combine with the sound of the wind in the pine forest and the roaring of waterfalls in the Stone Gate Ravine.
This walk skirts the edge of the western cliffs, giving marvelous views over the Jinxui Valley. The path leads to the Immortal’s Cave, once inhabited by a Daoist monk.
For centuries the ceramic capital of China, Jingdezhen is still one of the country’s major porcelain producers. Although pottery kilns were operating here as far back as the Han dynasty, it was the discovery of real porcelain, during the Five Dynasties era (907–79 AD), which depended on locally found clay rich in feldspar, that brought Jingdezhen its pre-eminence. During the Ming dynasty, its location near the imperial capital of Nanjing increased its importance and it became famous for fine porcelain with a blue underglaze. Although the quality of the porcelain is lower than in the past, the main reason for visiting Jingdezhen is still ceramic production. Visiting a factory or one of the ancient kiln sites will need to be arranged though CITS but there are also several places of interest that can be visited independently.
The Museum of Ceramic History (Taoci Lishi Bowuguan) is located in a rural setting on the western edge of town. Displays of items taken from ancient kiln sites around Jingdezhen and of potters at work effectively make this museum interactive. It is housed in an elegant Ming house, a rare survivor among the many that would once have graced the town. The adjacent Ancient Pottery Factory (Guyao Cichang) gives demonstrations of the ancient techniques used in the making of porcelain.
The Porcelain Museum (Taoci Guan) houses a collection of beautiful porcelain from the Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties, as well as some of the finer creations produced since the establishment of the PRC in 1949. The main porcelain market is on Jiefang Road. Porcelain in all shapes and sizes is sold here, from classical-period reproductions to garden ornaments and sentimental reproductions of dogs and cats. For a view across the roofs of town, visitors can climb the wooden four-story Longzhu Ge (Dragon Pearl Pavilion).
with views across Jingdezhen
Museum of Ceramic History
There are two reasons for visiting Jinggang Shan: its scenery, which has been featured on Chinese bank notes, and its revolutionary associations. The mountain range, of which the main peak is Jinggang Shan, sometimes known as Wuzhi Feng (Five Fingers Peak), reaches to 5,200 ft (1,586 m). There are magnificent views, especially at sunrise, as well as a great variety of plants, birds, butterflies and other insects.
The village of Ciping was completely destroyed during the civil war of the 1930s but was rebuilt after 1949 as a sort of shrine to the communist struggle and to the Long March in particular. There are a number of buildings commemorating the way of life of the early revolutionaries, forced here in the late 1920s by Chiang Kai-shek’s obsessive persecution, which culminated in a massacre of striking workers in Shanghai in 1927. It is possible here to gain some idea of what life was like for the revolutionaries, as they developed their strategy before the epic walk to Shaanxi. A short distance away is the watching post at Huangyang Jie, where the Red Army repulsed Kuomintang troops in 1928.
at Wulong Tan
Located at about 3,300 ft (1,000 m), Ciping was the centre of the Jinggang Shan revolutionary base during the 1920s and 1930s and is now the site of local government. Its location at the center of the mountain range and growing collection of hotels make it a good base for exploring the area. The beauty of the area is a startling contrast with its image as a gritty, revolutionary stronghold. There are the beautiful 33-ft (100-m) Shuikou waterfalls, located in a luxuriant valley surrounded by rocks amid bamboo, azaleas and pine forest. Wulong Tan, a few miles north of Ciping, is composed of several limpid pools into which stream a number of rapids and waterfalls. A cable car can take you to the top and give you magnificent views over the whole area, whilst for those with the inclination and energy, much of the area can be enjoyed on foot.
the emperor when the piece was made.
However, the ease with which they
can be faked renders accurate
dating the task of experts.
Despite Chinese pottery’s long history, it was not until the Bronze Age (between about 1500 and 400 BC) that special clays and hotter kilns resulted in a harder, sometimes glazed stoneware. True porcelain, however, did not appear until the Sui dynasty. A far finer type of ceramic, true porcelain is smooth and polished, and produces an almost crystalline ring when struck; at its most delicate, it is even translucent. Porcelain became popular in Europe during the 16th century, and the Portuguese, and later the Dutch and English, set up a lucrative trade between China and the rest of the world.
Reign marks show the reign name of the emperor when the piece was made. However, the ease with which they can be faked renders accurate dating the task of experts.
a single task in the porcelain-making process.
The clay is centered on a wheel and thrown
into a rough shape, sculpted into a finer piece
with scrapers, and brushed with water to
create a smooth surface.
before coating with a clear glaze of limestone
ash, the finest petuntse, and water. The glaze
absorbs the blue dye and fuses into the
original clay to form a hard glassy porcelain.
A cobalt blue underglaze may be added before coating with a clear glaze of limestone ash, the finest petuntse, and water. The glaze absorbs the blue dye and fuses into the original clay to form a hard glassy porcelain.
As on a production line, each artisan performs a single task in the porcelain-making process. The clay is centered on a wheel and thrown into a rough shape, sculpted into a finer piece with scrapers, and brushed with water to create a smooth surface.
A key development during this period was the art of glazing. Simple pots began changing from everyday items to works of art.
Technical advances during the Tang dynasty saw the production of new types of porcelain, most famously the sancai (tri-colored) pieces illustrating figures from the Silk Road.
Beautiful Song porcelain is characterized by simple shapes glazed in a single, rich color. New shapes were developed, as well as the cracked glazing technique.
Porcelain from the Mongol dynasty absorbed foreign influences. Cobalt blue underglaze was introduced, and later perfected during the Ming period.
The Ming dynasty was the era of imperial patronage of Jingdezhen and large-scale exportation to the West. The kilns flourished and the artisans returned to a richer palette of colors and pictorial design.
The latter part of this dynasty was often characterized by overly elaborate design and poor quality, but the early part of the Qing saw the production of delicate famille rose porcelain.
The Long March
During the 1920s the outlawed Communist leaders sought refuge from the Kuomintang (KMT) at re-mote rural bases, or “soviets,’’ in Sichuan, Hunan, and, in Jiangxi province, at Jinggang Shan, the headquarters run by Mao Zedong and Zhu De. In October 1934, with the KMT closing in, the Jiangxi Soviet was forced to break out and join thousands of revolutionaries on a tactical retreat. Covering, largely at night, an average of 20 miles (32 km) a day, the Communists marched 5,900 miles (9,500 km) in a year. The march, however, was not a strategic success and many did not survive it.
- (1) Jinggang Shan was the base of the Jiangxi Soviet whose position was steadily being eroded by advancing KMT troops. Led by Mao Zedong, the Long March started from here on 16 October 1934
- (2) The Crossing of the Xiang river was the marchers' first major battle. Accounted a disaster, huge amounts of equipment were lost in the waters.
- (3) Zunyi was taken despite heavy losses in January 1935. Map emerged from the ensuing conference as leader of the Communist party and commander of the Red Army; the Soviet-supported general was expelled.
- (4) At Lu Shan Pass, the Red Army reached the pass just ahead of the KMT, deceived their pursuers, and gained an unexpected victory.
- (5) The Luding Chain Bridge was the only means of crossing the Dadu River. Blocked by KMT troops who had removed most of the bridge’s planks, 22 Red Army soldiers took the bridge by crawling along the remaining chains, with the loss of 7 men.
- (6) Daxue Shan, the Great Snowy Mountains, are some of the highest in the country. Crossing the passes was the most challenging episode of the Long March, and led to the death, through altitude sickness, exhaustion, and exposure, of many Red Army soldiers.
- (7) Crossing the remote, boggy and freezing Aba Grasslands brought enormous losses. A subsequent meeting with rival, Zhang Guotao, firmly established Mao's primacy.
- (8) Yan'an was the end point of the march on 19 October 1935. Mao arrived with 5000 marchers and established the Yan’an Soviet as an independent communist state.