Until the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1661-1722) of the Qing dynasty, Hubei and Hunan once formed a single province – Huguang. Both past and present names originate from the location relating to Dongting Lake (洞庭湖 Dòngtíng Hú): north of the lake, south of the lake and around the lake.

Hubei 湖北

Hubei is a central China province often called ‘the heart of the country’. Before the unification of China achieved by the First Emperor Qin Shi Huang in 221 BC, the capital of the Chu Kingdom – one of the most important centres of the Chinese culture and civilization at that time, was located in Jiangling near Wuhan, which is the current capital of the province. Hubei’s fate has always been predefined by its location in a mountainous area and the basin of the Yangtze River – the longest river of China, symbolically dividing the country into ‘the North’ and ‘the South’. Traditionally, the province’s inhabitants were engaged in agriculture. In the northern Hubei, the crops were mostly wheat, used to prepare flour-based food, such as noodles, dumplings and steamed buns popular in that part of the country. The southern and southeastern parts, where irrigation is more popular making the land more fertile, most of the cultivated area is dominated by rice, commonly preferred in the regions located down to the South. Nowadays, the location has a profound impact on the economic position in rapidly changing China too. Currently, Hubei is the largest transportation hub in central China and one of the most important transportation hubs in the whole country. It’s good infrastructure, strong industrial base, powerful regional advantages like being situated at the junction of roads connecting the whole country and possessing abundant natural resources. Recently, the Yangtze River redefined the fate of the province again, as the Three Gorges Dam – one of the most magnificent constructions in the history of humankind, was opened in western Hubei, revolutionizing the Chinese and global energetics.

Hunan 湖南

Located in the southern part of China, Hunan is famous for being the birthplace of the People’s Republic of China’s founding father – Chairman Mao Zedong. Its dominated by highlands and mountains, among which the most notable are the ones at Wulingyuan Scenic Area, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Renowned for its incredible quartzite sandstone pillars and peaks together with its rich wildlife, attract global tourists. Furthermore, Hunan is a place of cultural diversity, as the mountainous area is inhabited by numerous ethnic minorities, traditionally farmers, just like the rest of people living in the province. Hunan’s economy depends mainly on rice production as most of the cultivated land is devoted to paddy fields. Therefore, it constantly ranks first nationally in rice output sending its large surplus to other parts of the country. As a result, the province is widely known in China as ‘the Land of Fish and Rice’ (鱼米之乡 yú mǐ zhī xiāng). Those, along with various meats, are what Hunan cuisine is all about. Being one of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine, it is popular for its colours, aromas and spicy flavours originating in its generous use of chilli, shallots and garlic.

Author: Paweł Bedla