To travel to Wuhan from Shanghai, you get on a high-speed train at Hongqiao Station in the latter city, relax in your seat, and watch the scenery of Jiangsu and Anhui provinces go by, as you cover 800 kilometers westward. That journey usually takes four hours and 40 minutes or so. This time, it will have taken an extra 77 days to return to Wuhan.
The two-and-a-half-month-long lockdown of the capital city of Hubei is being completely lifted on April 8. Wuhan people have been suffering great losses and difficulties; now, there is reason for revived optimism. The efforts of doctors, nurses, public health professionals, volunteers, citizens who donated supplies, and everyone contributing their efforts have paid off.
All is not over for Wuhan, nor for the nation. Stimulating the moribund economy is another necessity. One way to do so is through tourism, eating, drinking, and general consumption. Wuhan is a beautiful city and very deserving of our visits.
Wuhan has suffered some unwarranted hits to its reputation. The term "Wuhan virus," for example, is ignominiously used by some Western politicians to refer to coronavirus. As someone who has visited Wuhan before, I felt it was my duty to share my wonderful experience and impressions of the city on the Yangtze River.
The three things I think of most when considering Wuhan are its rich history, beautiful architecture, and delicious food. Wuhan has occupied a central and strategic location since ancient times. It has been the site of many great battles throughout China's history.
Most famously, the Battle of Red Cliffs took place about 100 km to the southwest of modern-day Wuhan, where Sun Quan and his state of Wu, allied with Liu Bei of Shuhan, defeated the massive army of Cao Cao.
The battles between warring kingdoms provided the impetus for some of Wuhan's great architectural feats. Construction on the city walls began around 200 CE, and Huang He Lou (Yellow Crane Tower) was built in 223 to keep a lookout for invaders. The tower, which is 51.4 meters (169 ft) tall and situated on top of a commanding hill, is considered one of the Three Great Pagodas south of the Yangtze River and one of the Four Great Pagodas in all of China.
It was glorified in a famous poem by Cui Hao in the Tang Dynasty, and it is the site of many legends, including that Lü Dongbin, one of the Eight Immortals of Daoism, ascended to heaven from the foot of the pagoda.
Wuhan developed as a major river-rail transit hub, and after the 19th Century Opium Wars, it became a treaty port, with concessions developed by the U.K., France, Russia, Japan, Germany, and Belgium at various times. Such colonialism did result in the construction of grand palatial buildings in one section along the north bank of the Yangtze River that still stand today.
If you go wandering around Chezhan Road and Jingshan Avenue in Jiang'an District, you can see such classic buildings as Dazhimen Railway Station and its four towers with green-domed turrets, which was used for nine decades of the 20th century, the Eastern Orthodox Church built in 1893, and the Minzhong Fairyland.
Wuhan University, one of the oldest and most acclaimed, is included on any list of the most beautiful campuses in China. Not only are its buildings, with traditional Chinese upturned eaves, jade-colored roofs, and ornate decoration, a delight to the eyes; the campus is also full of cherry blossoms. These are so beautiful that more than four million people tuned in when People's Daily and Xinhua combined to broadcast a live stream during March.
In 1911, the Chinese people rose up in Wuchang to lead a revolution against the Qing Dynasty, which had by then become weak and unable to serve the people. After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the three cities in the Wuhan area – Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang – were merged to form Wuhan.
After your eyes are satiated, it is time to fill your belly. Wuhan is well known for its vast and delicious array of local snacks. Among the most famous are season's dumplings (si ji mei jiao), fried bean sheets (san xi'an doupi), and fried pie (mian wo).
My two favorite Wuhan snacks are hot and dry noodles (re-gan mian) and sweet dumpling soup with rice wine (mijiu tangyuan). Hot and dry noodles have a thick and savory sauce of sesame paste on top of alkaline noodles, which are strong and stretchy, like ramen. They are an ultimate comfort food, and they are not easy to find outside of Wuhan.
Mijiu tangyuan is also a uniquely Wuhan specialty. Tangyuan are sweet rice balls, and they are in a rice soup, where the rice itself is fermented. It's nothing strong, but it's just enough to get your day started right at breakfast.
These delicious snacks are, of course, available all over Wuhan. But there is one place where you can find all kinds of snacks and a bustling atmosphere. That is the historic Banqiao Avenue snack street, or, as Chinese call it, "Hao Chi Jie" (Good-tasting Street), in Huangpi District. Folks first began serving food along these "nine streets and eighteen alleyways" in 1573. The smells and tastes and crowds are overwhelming.
Wuhan has withstood so much. It has a lot to offer tourists, and tourists, in coming months, can offer Wuhan some help in getting up and running again.
Mitchell Blatt is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:
Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.
If you would like to contribute, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.