Awash with wonders

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2011, 12:00am


Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, is a city of 10 million spread out across the Yangtze River right in the middle of China. The river broadens in the province after coursing through the Three Gorges and meeting up with the Han River, shattering into a thousand lakes as soon as it hits Wuhan. Several lakes are within the municipal boundaries, the largest of which is East Lake in Wuchang district.

East Lake is six times the size of West Lake in Hangzhou and is the largest urban lake in China. The lake covers 33 square kilometres and boasts the rare Wuchang carp, dozens of bays and small inlets for fishing, boat rides and swimming, and an aquarium with penguins. Year-round flowers and plants are spread across the parks' lakes and housed within a botanical garden.

One of East Lake's main attractions is the Chu City built around and atop Moshan on the south side of the lake. Chu was an ancient state during the Three Kingdoms period centred on modern-day Wuhan. To commemorate the achievements of Chu, the local government envisioned what a Chu village might have looked like and then built it on the shores of East Lake, between the botanical garden and the plum garden. The village has statues of famous Chu personalities, musical performances, souvenir shops and a small museum.

The Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, built during the Three Kingdoms period, is perhaps one of China's most iconic temples. The tower was made famous by a poem written in the eighth century by Cui Hao and even though the original building has long since been destroyed, poets and writers still come here to find inspiration. The tower today is a restored version of the Chu-era tower that burned down in 1884. The tower is set atop Snake Hill, one of the highest points in the city and a great place from which to view the Yangtze River.

Facing Snake Hill is Gui Shan, or Turtle Hill, a large round mound bordered on all sides by water. Gui Shan is covered in temples and pavilions and a short climb from the base leads to Wangjiang Pavilion, another great spot for watching the Yangtze flow on down to the sea. Gui Shan is also the site of China's first modern television tower, which provides unparalleled views of one of the mainland's most dynamic cities.

Be sure to visit Wuhan's most important Buddhist site, the Guiyuan Temple, to see the 500 arhats lining the southern courtyard.