Hunan (UK: /hˈnæn/, US: /hˈnɑːn/;[5] 湖南) is a landlocked province of the People's Republic of China, part of the South Central China region. Located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze watershed, it borders the province-level divisions of Hubei to the north, Jiangxi to the east, Guangdong and Guangxi to the south, Guizhou to the west and Chongqing to the northwest. Its capital and largest city is Changsha, which also abuts the Xiang River. With a population of just over 67 million as of 2014 residing in an area of approximately 210,000 km2 (81,000 sq mi), it is China's 7th most populous province by population and the 10th most extensive province by area. Its 2018 nominal GDP was more than US$500 billion, which is among the top 30 largest sub-national economies in the world with its PPP GDP being over US$1 trillion.

Hunan Province

Name transcription(s)
  Chinese湖南省 (Húnán Shěng)
  AbbreviationHN / (pinyin: Xiāng)
(clockwise from top)
  • Wulingyuan
  • Fenghuang Old Town
  • Yueyang Tower
  • Tianmen Mountain
  • Yuelu Academy
Map showing the location of Hunan Province
Coordinates: 28°06′46″N 112°59′00″E
Named for,   lake
, nán  south
"South of the lake"
(and largest city)
Divisions14 prefectures, 122 counties, 1,933 townships (2018), 29,224 villages (2018)
  BodyHunan Provincial People's Congress
  CCP SecretaryXu Dazhe
  Congress chairmanXu Dazhe
  GovernorMao Weiming
  CPPCC chairmanLi Weiwei
  Total210,000 km2 (80,000 sq mi)
Area rank10th
Highest elevation
(Mount Lingfeng)
2,115.2 m (6,939.6 ft)
  Density320/km2 (820/sq mi)
  Density rank13th
  Ethnic compositionHan – 90%
Tujia – 4%
Miao – 3%
Dong – 1%
Yao – 1%
Other peoples – 1%
  Languages and dialectsChinese varieties:
Xiang, Gan, Southwestern Mandarin, Xiangnan Tuhua, Waxiang, Hakka
Non-Chinese languages:
Xong, Tujia, Mien, Gam
ISO 3166 codeCN-HN
GDP (2018 [3])CNY 3.64 trillion
USD 549.00 billion
$1.038 trillion (PPP)[3] (9nd)
 • per capita¥57,540
$ 8,341(16th)
$16,454 (PPP)
HDI (2018) 0.751[4]
high · 15th
"Hunan" in Chinese characters
Xiangɣu˩˧ nia˩˧ (fu-lã)
Literal meaning"South of the (Dongting) Lake"

The name Hunan literally means "south of the lake".[6] The lake that is referred to is Dongting Lake, a lake in the northeast of the province; Vehicle license plates from Hunan are marked Xiāng (Chinese: ), after the Xiang River, which runs from south to north through Hunan and forms part of the largest drainage system for the province.

The area of Hunan first came under Chinese rule around 350 BC, when the province became part of the State of Chu. Hunan was the birthplace of communist revolutionary Mao Zedong,[7] who became the founding father of the People's Republic of China. Hunan today is home to some ethnic minorities, including the Tujia and Miao, along with the Han Chinese, who make up a majority of the population. Varieties of Chinese spoken include Xiang, Gan and Southwestern Mandarin.

Hunan is located on the south bank of the Yangtze River. The site of Wulingyuan was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.[8] Changsha, the capital, is located in the eastern part of the province; it is now an important commercial, manufacturing and transportation centre.[9]


Fenghuang, a traditional town of Hunan

Hunan's primeval forests were first occupied by the ancestors of the modern Miao, Tujia, Dong and Yao peoples. The province entered written Chinese history around 350 BC, when under the kings of the Zhou dynasty, the province became part of the State of Chu. After Qin conquered the Chu heartland in 278 BC, the region came under the control of Qin, and then the Changsha Kingdom during the Han dynasty. At this time, and for hundreds of years thereafter, the province was a magnet for settlement of Han Chinese from the north, who displaced and assimilated the original indigenous inhabitants, cleared forests and began farming rice in the valleys and plains.[10] The agricultural colonization of the lowlands was carried out in part by the Han empire, which managed river dikes to protect farmland from floods.[11] To this day many of the small villages in Hunan are named after the Han families who settled there. Migration from the north was especially prevalent during the Eastern Jin dynasty and the Northern and Southern dynasties periods, when nomadic invaders pushed these peoples south.

During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, Hunan was home to its own independent regime, Ma Chu.

Hunan and Hubei became a part of the province of Huguang until the Qing dynasty. Hunan province was created in 1664 from Huguang, renamed to its current name in 1723.

Hunan became an important communications center due to its position on the Yangzi River. It was an important centre of scholarly activity and Confucian thought, particularly in the Yuelu Academy in Changsha. It was also on the Imperial Highway constructed between northern and southern China. The land produced grain so abundantly that it fed many parts of China with its surpluses. The population continued to climb until, by the nineteenth century, Hunan became overcrowded and prone to peasant uprisings. Some of the uprisings, such as the ten-year Miao Rebellion of 1795–1806, were caused by ethnic tensions. The Taiping Rebellion began in the south in Guangxi Province in 1850. The rebellion spread into Hunan and then further eastward along the Yangzi River valley. Ultimately, it was a Hunanese army under Zeng Guofan who marched into Nanjing to put down the uprising in 1864.

Japanese invading soldiers firing across the Miluo River during the Battle of Changsha of the WWII in Asia

In 1920, a famine raged throughout Hunan and killed an estimated 2 million Hunanese civilians.[12] This sparked the Autumn Harvest Uprising of 1927. It was led by Hunanese native Mao Zedong, and established a short-lived Hunan Soviet in 1927. The Communists maintained a guerrilla army in the mountains along the Hunan-Jiangxi border until 1934. Under pressure from the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) forces, they began the Long March to bases in Shaanxi Province. After the departure of the Communists, the KMT army fought against the Japanese in the second Sino-Japanese war. They defended Changsha until it fell in 1944. Japan launched Operation Ichigo, a plan to control the railroad from Wuchang to Guangzhou (Yuehan Railway). Hunan was relatively unscathed by the civil war that followed the defeat of the Japanese in 1945. In 1949, the Communists returned once more as the Nationalists retreated southward.

As Mao Zedong's home province, Hunan supported the Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976 . However, it was slower than most provinces in adopting the reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping in the years that followed Mao's death in 1976.

In addition to Mao Zedong, a number of other first-generation communist leaders were also from Hunan: President Liu Shaoqi; Secretary-generals Ren Bishi and Hu Yaobang; Marshals Peng Dehuai, He Long, and Luo Ronghuan; Wang Zhen, one of the Eight Elders; Xiang Jingyu, the first female member of the party's central committee; Senior General Huang Kecheng; and veteran diplomat Lin Boqu. An example of a more recent leader from Hunan is former Premier Zhu Rongji.


Hunan is located on the south bank of the Yangtze River, about half way along its length, situated between 108° 47'–114° 16' east longitude and 24° 37'–30° 08' north latitude. Hunan covers an area of 211,800 square kilometres (81,800 square miles), making it the 10th largest provincial-level division. The east, south and west sides of the province are surrounded by mountains and hills, such as the Wuling Mountains to the northwest, the Xuefeng Mountains to the west, the Nanling Mountains to the south, and the Luoxiao Mountains to the east. Mountains and hills occupy more than 80% of the province, and plains less than 20%. At 2115.2 meters above sea level, the highest point in Hunan province is Lingfeng (酃峰).[13][14][15]

The Xiang, the Zi, the Yuan and the Lishui Rivers converge on the Yangtze River at Lake Dongting in the north of Hunan. The center and northern parts are somewhat low and a U-shaped basin, open in the north and with Lake Dongting as its center. Most of Hunan lies in the basins of four major tributaries of the Yangtze River.

Lake Dongting is the largest lake in the province and the second largest freshwater lake of China.

The Xiaoxiang area and Lake Dongting figure prominently in Chinese poetry and paintings, particularly during the Song dynasty when they were associated with officials who had been unjustly dismissed.[16]

Changsha (which means "long sands") was an active ceramics district during the Tang dynasty, its tea bowls, ewers and other products mass-produced and shipped to China's coastal cities for export abroad. An Arab dhow dated to the 830s and today known as the Belitung Shipwreck was discovered off the small island of Belitung, Indonesia with more than 60,000 pieces in its cargo. The salvaged cargo is today housed in nearby Singapore.

Hunan's climate is subtropical, and, under the Köppen climate classification, is classified as being humid subtropical (Köppen Cfa), with short, cool, damp winters, very hot and humid summers, and plenty of rainfall. January temperatures average 3 to 8 °C (37 to 46 °F) while July temperatures average around 27 to 30 °C (81 to 86 °F). Average annual precipitation is 1,200 to 1,700 millimetres (47 to 67 in). The Furongian Epoch in the Cambrian Period of geological time is named for Hunan; Furong (芙蓉) means "lotus" in Mandarin and refers to Hunan which is known as the "lotus state".[17]

Administrative divisions

Hunan is divided into fourteen prefecture-level divisions: thirteen prefecture-level cities and an autonomous prefecture:

Administrative divisions of Hunan
Division code[18] Division Area in km2[19] Population 2010[20] Seat Divisions[21]
Districts Counties Aut. counties CL cities
430000Hunan Province 210000.0065,683,722Changsha city3661718
430100Changsha city 11,819.467,044,118Yuelu District612
430200Zhuzhou city 11,262.203,855,609Tianyuan District531
430300Xiangtan city 5,006.462,748,552Yuetang District212
430400Hengyang city 15,302.787,141,462Zhengxiang District552
430500Shaoyang city 20,829.637,071,826Daxiang District3612
430600Yueyang city 14,897.885,477,911Yueyanglou District342
430700Changde city 18,177.185,747,218Wuling District261
430800Zhangjiajie city 9,516.031,476,521Yongding District22
430900Yiyang city 12,325.164,313,084Heshan District231
431000Chenzhou city 19,317.334,581,778Beihu District281
431100Yongzhou city 22,255.315,180,235Lengshuitan District281
431200Huaihua city 27,562.724,741,948Hecheng District1551
431300Loudi city 8,107.613,785,627Louxing District122
433100Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture 15,462.302,547,833Jishou city71

The fourteen prefecture-level divisions of Hunan are subdivided into 122 county-level divisions (35 districts, 17 county-level cities, 63 counties, 7 autonomous counties). Those are in turn divided into 2587 township-level divisions (1098 towns, 1158 townships, 98 ethnic townships, 225 subdistricts, and eight district public offices). At the year end of 2017, the total population is 68.6 million.

Urban areas

Population by urban areas of prefecture & county cities
#CityUrban area[22]District area[22]City proper[22]Census date
1Changsha[lower-alpha 1]2,963,2183,092,2137,040,9522010-11-01
(1)Changsha (new district)[lower-alpha 1]230,136523,660see Changsha2010-11-01
3Zhuzhou[lower-alpha 2]999,4041,055,1503,857,1002010-11-01
(3)Zhuzhou (new district)[lower-alpha 2]94,326383,598see Zhuzhou2010-11-01
8Liuyang588,0811,279,469see Changsha2010-11-01
(12)Ningxiang[lower-alpha 3]498,055116,6138see Changsha2010-11-01
13Leiyang476,1731,151,554see Hengyang2010-11-01
15Liling449,067947,387see Zhuzhou2010-11-01
17Changning332,927810,447see Hengyang2010-11-01
18Miluo321,074692,080see Yueyang2010-11-01
19Yuanjiang281,097666,270see Yiyang2010-11-01
21Lianyuan245,360995,515see Loudi2010-11-01
22Lengshuijiang238,275327,146see Loudi2010-11-01
23Linxiang225,054498,319see Yueyang2010-11-01
24Zixing215,707337,294see Chenzhou2010-11-01
25Jishou212,328302,065part of Xiangxi Prefecture2010-11-01
26Xiangxiang210,799788,216see Xiangtan2010-11-01
27Hongjiang197,753477,996see Huaihua2010-11-01
28Wugang187,436734,870see Shaoyang2010-11-01
29Jinshi156,230250,898see Changde2010-11-01
30Shaoshan27,61386,036see Xiangtan2010-11-01
  1. New district established after census: Wangcheng (Wangcheng County). The new district not included in the urban area & district area count of the pre-expanded city.
  2. New district established after census: Lukou (Zhuzhou County). The new district not included in the urban area & district area count of the pre-expanded city.
  3. Ningxiang County is currently known as Ningxiang CLC after census.


Young Mao Zedong statue in Changsha

The politics of Hunan is structured in a dual party-government system like all other governing institutions in mainland China.

The Governor of Hunan is the highest-ranking official in the People's Government of Hunan. However, in the province's dual party-government governing system, the Governor has less power than the Hunan Communist Party of China Provincial Committee Secretary, colloquially termed the "Hunan CPC Party Chief".


As of the mid 19th century, Hunan exported rhubarb, musk, honey, tobacco, hemp, and birds.[23] The Lake Dongting area is an important center of ramie production, and Hunan is also an important center of tea cultivation. Aside from agricultural products, in recent years Hunan has grown to become an important center for steel, machinery and electronics production, especially as China's manufacturing sector moves away from coastal provinces such as Guangdong and Zhejiang.[24]

The Lengshuijiang area is noted for its stibnite mines, and is one of the major centers of antimony extraction in China.

Hunan is also well known for a few global makers of construction equipment such as concrete pumps, cranes, etc. These companies include Sany Group, Zoomlion and Sunward. Sany is one of the world's major players. The city of Liuyang is the world's top center for manufacturing fireworks.[25]

As of 2016, its nominal GDP was US$475 billion (CNY 3.16 trillion), the per capita GDP was US$6,983 (CNY 46,382).[26]

Historical GDP of Hunan Province for 1952 –present (SNA2008)[27]
(purchasing power parity of Chinese Yuan, as Int'l. dollar based on IMF WEO October 2017[28])
year GDP GDP per capita (GDPpc)
based on mid-year population
Reference index
GDP in millions real
GDPpc exchange rate
1 foreign currency
to CNY
USD 1 Int'l$. 1

Economic and technological development zones

  • Changsha National Economic and Technical Development Zone

The Changsha National Economic and Technology Development Zone was founded in 1992. It is located east of Changsha. The total planned area is 38.6 km2 (14.9 sq mi) and the current area is 14 km2 (5.4 sq mi). Near the zone is National Highways G319 and G107 as well as Jingzhu Highway. Besides that, it is very close to the downtown and the railway station. The distance between the zone and the airport is 8 km (5.0 mi). The major industries in the zone include high-tech industry, biology project technology and new material industry.[29]

  • Changsha National New & Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone
  • Chenzhou Export Processing Zone

Approved by the State Council, Chenzhou Export processing Zone (CEPZ) was established in 2005 and is the only export processing zone in Hunan province. The scheduled production area of CEPZ covers 3km2. The industrial positioning of CEPZ is to concentrate on developing export-oriented hi-tech industries, including electronic information, precision machinery, and new-type materials. The zone has good infrastructure, and the enterprises inside could enjoy the preferential policies of tax-exemption, tax-guarantee and tax-refunding. By the end of the "Eleventh Five-Year Plan", the CEPZ achieved a total export and import volume of over US$1 billion and provided more than 50,000 jobs. It aimed to be one of the first-class export processing zones in China.[30]

  • Zhuzhou National New & Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone

Zhuzhou Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone was founded in 1992. Its total planned area is 35 km2 (14 sq mi). It is very close to National Highway G320. The major industries in the zone include biotechnology, food processing and heavy industry. In 2007, the park signed a cooperation contract with Beijing Automobile Industry, one of the largest auto makers in China, which will set up a manufacturing base in Zhuzhou HTP.[31]


Ethnic minority-inhabited areas in Hunan
Historical population
1912[32] 27,617,000    
1928[33] 31,501,000+14.1%
1936-37[34] 28,294,000−10.2%
1947[35] 25,558,000−9.7%
1954[36] 33,226,954+30.0%
1964[37] 37,182,286+11.9%
1982[38] 54,008,851+45.3%
1990[39] 60,659,754+12.3%
2000[40] 63,274,173+4.3%
2010[41] 65,683,722+3.8%

As of the 2000 census, the population of Hunan is 64,400,700 consisting of forty-one ethnic groups. Its population grew 6.17% (3,742,700) from its 1990 levels. According to the census, 89.79% (57,540,000) identified themselves as Han Chinese and 10.21% (6,575,300) as minority groups. The minority groups are Tujia, Miao, Dong, Yao, Bai, Hui, Zhuang, Uyghurs and so on.

In Hunan, ethnic minority languages are spoken in the following prefectures.

  • Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture: Qo Xiong language, Tujia language
  • Huaihua: Qo Xiong language, Dong language, Hm Nai language, Hmu language
  • Shaoyang: Maojia language, Hm Nai language, Pa-Hng language
  • Yongzhou: Mien language, Biao Min language
  • Chenzhou: Dzao Min language

Religion in Hunan[42][note 1]

  Chinese BuddhismTaoist traditions and Chinese folk religions (20.19%)
  Christianity (0.77%)
  Other religions or not religious people[note 2] (79.04%)

Hunanese Uyghurs

Around 5,000 Uyghurs live around Taoyuan County and other parts of Changde.[43][44][45][46] Hui and Uyghurs have intermarried in this area.[47][48][49] In addition to eating pork, the Uygurs of Changde practice other Han Chinese customs, like ancestor worship at graves. Some Uyghurs from Xinjiang visit the Hunan Uyghurs out of curiosity or interest.[50] The Uyghurs of Hunan do not speak the Uyghur language, instead, Chinese is spoken as their native language.[51]


The predominant religions in Hunan are Chinese Buddhism, Taoist traditions and Chinese folk religions. According to surveys conducted in 2007 and 2009, 20.19% of the population believes and is involved in ancestor veneration, while 0.77% of the population identifies as Christian.[42] The reports didn't give figures for other types of religion; 79.04% of the population may be either irreligious or involved in worship of nature deities, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, folk religious sects.

Notable people:

  • Zeng Guofan (1811–1872)
  • Yuet-ching Lee (1918–1997), Hong Kong actress
  • Ted Hui (born 1982), Hong Kong politician


Hunan's culture industry generated 87 billion yuan (US$11.76 billion) in economic value in 2007,[52] and is major contributor to the province's economic growth. The industry accounts for 7.5 percent of the region's GDP.


Xiang Chinese (湘语) is the eponymous variety of Chinese spoken in Hunan. In addition to Xiang Chinese, there are also other dialects and languages present, such as Southwestern Mandarin, Hakka, Waxiang, and Xiangnan Tuhua. Nü shu, a writing system for Xiangnan Tuhua, is used exclusively among women in Jiangyong County and neighboring areas in southern Hunan.

Yongfeng chili sauce


Hunanese cuisine is noted for its near-ubiquitous use of chili peppers, garlic, and shallots. These ingredients give rise to a distinctive dry-and-spicy (干辣; gānlà) taste,[53] with dishes such as smoked cured ham, and stir-fried spicy beef being prime examples of the flavor.[53]


Huaguxi is a local form of Chinese opera that is very popular in Hunan province.


Located in the south central part of the Chinese mainland, Hunan has long been known for its natural environment. It is surrounded by mountains on the east, west, and south, and by the Yangtze River on the north. For thousands of years, the region has been a major center of agriculture, growing rice, tea, and oranges. China's first all glass suspension bridge was also opened in Hunan, in Shiniuzhai National Geological Park.[54]

  • Wulingyuan is a World Heritage Site and a 5A Scenic Area. Located in south-central Hunan, Wulingyuan is noted for its thousands of quartzite sandstone pillars, caves, and waterfalls. The area also contains Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.
  • Shaoshan County, known for being the birthplace of Mao Zedong
  • Yueyang Tower, on the shores of Lake Dongting, was built in the Han and Jin dynasties, and has existed in its current state since the Qing Dynasty. Alongside the Pavilion of Prince Teng and Yellow Crane Tower, it is one of the Three Great Towers of Jiangnan.
  • Mount Heng, in Hengyang, is one of the Five Great Mountains of China, and is home to the largest temple in southern China.
  • Fenghuang County, in Xiangxi Prefecture, has been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List for its ancient town. Fenghuang is known for its incorporation of mountain features and water flow into city design, and the ancient syncretism between the local Han and Miao cultures.[55]

Panoramic view of Mount Heng


Yiyang Olympic Stadium

Professional sports teams in Hunan include:

  • Chinese Football Association League One
    • Hunan Billows F.C.

See also

  • Major national historical and cultural sites in Hunan
  • Xiaoxiang, the "lakes and rivers" region of south-central China
  • State of Chu, ancient Chinese state partly in modern-day Hunan


  1. The data was collected by the Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS) of 2009 and by the Chinese Spiritual Life Survey (CSLS) of 2007, reported and assembled by Xiuhua Wang (2015)[42] in order to confront the proportion of people identifying with two similar social structures: ① Christian churches, and ② the traditional Chinese religion of the lineage (i. e. people believing and worshipping ancestral deities often organised into lineage "churches" and ancestral shrines). Data for other religions with a significant presence in China (deity cults, Buddhism, Taoism, folk religious sects, Islam, et. al.) was not reported by Wang.
  2. This may include:
    • Buddhists;
    • Confucians;
    • Deity worshippers;
    • Taoists;
    • Members of folk religious sects;
    • Small minorities of Muslims;
    • And people not bounded to, nor practicing any, institutional or diffuse religion.


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