With mountains in the east, south and west, the land generally slopes from the south towards the north in the shape of a horsehoof-like basin. Topographically, it may be divided into five parts. 1) The Dongting Lake Plain in the northeast, contiguous to the Jianghan Plain of Hubei and with numerous rivers and lakes, is known as a "land of fish and rice". 2) The Central Hunan Hilly and Basin Area has wide areas of low hills and mounds and basins and valleys, Hengyang is the largest of the basins. The scenic Hengshan Mountain, whose main peak is 1,290 meters above sea level, is one of China's five sacred mountains. 3) The Nanling Mountain Area, rising mostly more than 1,000 meters on the southern border, is the watershed of the Yangtze and Zhujiang river systems and the climatic divide between central and southern China. 4) The Eastern Hunan Mountain Area is the watershed of the Xiangjiang and Ganjiang basins. 5) The Western Hunan Mountain Area, mostly exceeding 1,000 meters in elevation, comprises mainly the Wuling and Xuefeng mountains: Extending for more than 300 kilometers, the Xuefeng range is the natural and economic divide between the western and eastern parts of the province.
There are more than 4,700 waterways in Hunan, the largest being the Xiangjiang, Zishui, Yuanjiang and Lishui rivers, all of which flow into Dongting Lake, forming an integrated water system. Dongting, the second largest freshwater lake in China, takes the floodwaters of the Yangtze River in addition to the waters of the four large rivers, and flows into the Yangtze River at Chenglingji.