A rapidly modernising city with an important role in the creation of modern China offers a gateway to the countryside.
For most Chinese people, however, Nanchang is best known for its pivotal role in the path to the creation of the People’s Republic of China.
A glance at the busy phalanx of skyscrapers flanking the Gan River reveals the new revolution that Nanchang is experiencing. For most Chinese people, however, Nanchang is best known for its pivotal role in the path to the creation of the People’s Republic of China.
Today, the city is undergoing rapid modernisation with a new five-line subway system part of that process. Shangri-La Hotel, Nanchang is one of the gleaming new towers on the banks of the Gan River and will soon have a subway station at its doorstep. Many of the hotel rooms have commanding views over the Ganjiang River in Nanchang. Just a short walk away is Qiushui Square, where a light, water and sound extravaganza takes place every night at 8 and 9 p.m. The light show starts with the fountains at the square and gradually moves onto the tall buildings lining the banks, all to a musical accompaniment.
Most of Nanchang’s sights are now associated with the Nanchang Uprising, and the Former Headquarters of the Nanchang Uprising is the city’s top tourist attraction. The building, previously a luxurious hotel, is preserved as it was used in war times and charts the rebellion and the road to the communist revolution. Until now, 1 August still remains an important date in China’s revolutionary history and marks the beginning of what became the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The symbol in the star emblem of the army is an amalgamation of the Chinese characters for eight and one. Also around Nanchang are the Memorial Hall to the Martyrs of the Revolution and the former residence of Zhu De, one of the military leaders of the uprising. Unfortunately, most of these sites have little to no English labelling, so hiring a guide to take you through the history is highly recommended.
Another landmark of Nanchang takes us much further back in history. The Pavilion of Prince Teng was first built in 653AD, but having been destroyed and rebuilt many times, the current structure dates back to the 1980s. It was originally built during the Tang dynasty as Prince Teng’s townhouse when he was given the governorship of Nanchang. Be sure to check out the inside of the base platform, which houses some interesting exhibits of Ming and Qing dynasty costumes and old weapons.
Standing in the distance is Shengjin Pagoda, which also has its origin in the Tang dynasty. Like the Pavilion of Prince Teng, the original structure did not escape destruction in times of war, and the tallest structure of Nanchang we see today was actually rebuilt in 1985. The area around Shengjin Pagoda is renowned for snacks and makes for a good area to have lunch – Longlaowu Tangdian is a well-known restaurant specialising in Waguan Soup and Nanchang Fried Rice Noodles.
One of the city’s newer symbols is its giant Ferris wheel, the Star of Nanchang. This is the wheel which knocked the London Eye from its pedestal as the world’s largest in 2006 – an accolade it retained until 2008. It still ranks third largest in the world and gives a bird’s eye view over the river and city.
Villages of Old
Luotiancun, which locals more commonly know as Anyi Ancient Villages, is a very worthwhile day trip taking you to the bucolic countryside. The area is devoid of incessant souvenir shops and hawkers, and the buildings here are genuinely old and often still inhabited. There are three villages – Luotian, Shuinan and Jingtai – among which the latter is reputedly the oldest, dating back 1,400 years. It is famed for its ancient stage and Muozhuang private school. Unlike the villagers of Luotian and Shuinan, the residents of Luotiancun are not from the Huang clan. The original inhabitants from the Liu family are descendants of the scholar Liu Xiang, later joined by the Li clan who were granted a manor here during the early Ming dynasty.
The largest of the three villages, Luotian seems to have the highest concentration of old buildings and is the most atmospheric. Narrow cobbled streets unfold a rich tapestry of intricate wooden carved screens on buildings made from stone, wood and cob. Some, like Huang Xiuwen’s Master Mansion, have been beautifully preserved, while others lie forlorn in a dilapidated state. Huang Xiuwen’s house is the largest in the villages and today covers 3,300 square metres. Shuinan is the youngest of the villages and was set up by an offspring of the Huang clan. Nearby, the folk custom museum preserves old household and farming implements dating back to the Ming era and is definitely a must-see for history buffs.