A siege city opens its doors

Nanchang did not enter the pages of Chinese history until August 1, 1927 when the communists, led by Zhou Enlai and Zhu De with an army of 30,000 men, captured the city and were briefly able to hold out against the kuomintang.

It marked the founding of the Chinese Red Army, later renamed the People's Liberation Army, and led to Nanchang's nickname, Hero City.

But in these more peaceful times, Nanchang, which is Jiangxi's provincial capital, is steadily opening to the outside world as a tourism centre, and a new airport is planned to cater for the increasing number of visitors from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Today Nanchang is a a drab industrial city of 3.3 million, but it still has much to offer the tourist, and is a gateway to many other attractions.

Its Poyang Lake is the largest fresh-water lake in China, and migratory birds spend the winter here.

In the middle of August First Avenue, there is a large square similar to Beijing's Tiananmen Square, with a monument to the uprising.

A favourite place of the tourist guides is the Tengwang Pavilion which was first built on this site 1,300 years ago. It is one of three famous towers south of the Yangtze River.

The others are the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan and the Yueyang Tower in Yueyang.

Wang Bo , a poet acclaimed as one of the four literary geniuses in the Tang Dynasty, climbed up the Tengwang Pavilion and was so impressed with the sight of the wild ducks, blue water and setting sun that he wrote his most famous essay - Notes on Tengwang Pavilion.

Tengwang Pavilion has been destroyed and rebuilt 29 times. The pavilion today is six storeys high and recaptures the Song dynasty architectural style. It has carved screens and heavy gold-plated eaves.

The Badashanren Memorial Hall used to be the retreat of gifted painter Zhu Da .

The Chinese character 'Da' means big ears and Zhu was named because of his big ears.

He was born in 1626 at the turn of the Ming and Qing dynasty and started writing poems at the age of eight.

He despised the Qing dynasty and drew animals with one leg looking haughtily up to the sky to mock it.

In his essays, Zhu longed for the revival of the Ming dynasty and showed his disgust with the Qings saying he could not laugh and could not cry.

Later he was arrested by the Qing authorities and he pretended to be crazy. The memorial hall houses most of Zhu's paintings.

Jiangxi's Jingdezhen, a six-hour drive from Nanchang, is the porcelain capital of China, not to be missed.

As visitors enter the town, they can see huge porcelain vases displayed on both sides of the hot, dusty road.

Jingdezhen has a long pottery-making history originating from the Han dynasty. As early as the Song dynasty (960-1279), the emperor commissioned porcelain to be made here for his court.

But the full flowering of the art of porcelain was achieved during the Yuan and Ming dynasties, when the factories concentrated on producing the priceless blue and white porcelain.

The fine clay from which the porcelain is made has been dug up near the village of Gaoling for hundreds of years.

On Jingdezhen's famous First Street of Ceramics, visitors can bargain with hawkers and get high quality porcelain vases, bowls, cups, dishes, chopsticks and small porcelain mementoes at a low price.

The leading tourist attraction in Jiangxi Province is Mount Lushan, which towers over Poyang Lake.

It is one of China's most attractive scenic spots.

Surrounded by rivers and lakes and with its unusual geological features, Lushan is a unique mountain with strange peaks and beautiful ridges, lingering clouds, rolling waterfalls and dense forests.

Lushan is a mixture of Eastern and Western cultures. The residents live in crimson villas in the architectural styles of 25 Western European countries.

On the other hand, Lushan is a centre of Buddhism and Taoism, and has more than 300 temples.

In the Jin dynasty, buddhist Hui Yuan built the Donglin Temple on the northwestern slope of Lushan where he preached Buddhism.

Since then, Donglin has attracted pilgrims.

From the Eastern Jin Dynasty to the Qing dynasty, about 500 noted scholars have left their marks in Lushan. Li Bai , the great Tang poet, wrote about the beautiful landscape of Lushan and built himself a cottage to study in seclusion.

One sight, called the five old men's peaks, seems to delineate Mao's profile from his chin to his forehead.

Another spot, Meilu - also called the villa of Chiang Kai-shek - used to belong to a dentist from England called Mrs Harley.

Her best friend was Soong Mei-ling, Chiang's wife. She gave Soong the villa as a gift. Meilu is now open to the public.