In a nutshell
Hengyang is the second largest city behind Changsha in Hunan province in south central China and is known as the ‘Bright Pearl in Southern China’ or the ‘Wild Goose City.’
Why You Should Visit Hengyang
The city was badly damaged during the Second World War and was the site of the single longest battle during the Sino-Japanese War so very few old buildings remain. Those that are still standing or have been reconstructed are among the main tourist attractions to the city today.
Huiyan Peak to the south of the city is the first of 72 peaks that make up Mount Hengshan. In ancient times local people thought the geese migrating further south for the winter remained here for the winter. Huiyan means ‘Peak of Turning Geese,’ the poet Du Fu famously wrote one of his poems about the wild geese of Hengyang. On the peak is the Banshan Pavilion and Yanfeng Temple, both date from the Southern and Northern Dynasties that ruled from 420 until 589AD. The temple is known as one of the four pillar temples of Zen Buddhism. You can take bus K1 from the city, it is open from 8am until 6pm daily and the entry fee is CNY10.
The Shigu Academy or the ‘Stone Drum Academy’ is located on the Shigu Mountain in the north of Hengyang city. Li Kuanzhong, a scholar during the Tang dynasty built a studio which later became an academy during the Song dynasty; it was one of the academies with the best reputation in China at this time. It was destroyed by the Japanese in 1944 and the buildings of the rebuilt Shigu Academy and the Shigu Park sit where the original buildings once stood. It is open daily to visitors from 8am until 6pm and costs CNY20. You can take bus L1 to get there, or it is not too far to walk from the city centre.
Dongzhou Island is a peaceful retreat in the Xiangjiang River; the island is undeveloped although there is a temple at the northern tip of the island which offers its visitors some wonderful vegetarian food. It is a nice place to go for a stroll and you can reach it by a ferry during the summer costing CNY1-2 each way although some locals prefer to swim across.
Yueping Park is to the south of the city and is home to several small attractions. In the west of the park you will find the City Museum which displays thousands of cultural relics. There is also a small zoo here which has a Monkey Mountain, Birds and Beasts Lake and a Fishpond. You will also find a skating rink, and a man-made boating lake. You can walk among the pavilions, across elegant bridges and along paths made of pebbles. At the top of the hill is a monument to the Martyrs; nearby is a Ferris wheel with views across the city. The park is free, but you have to pay for some of the attractions, several local buses operate to the park.
The West Lake Park is home to one of the 36 West Lakes to be found in China, the one in Hengyang is a place to relax or take a gentle boat ride on the lake. It is a popular venue during the summer for both the young and old. The Lotus Tower has in the past been featured in poems, the Tai Chi Square is where locals come to practice the art form of tai chi during their morning exercise and to come dancing in the evening.
When is the Best Time to Visit Hengyang?
The climate in Hengyang is a humid subtropical one with four distinct seasons. During spring you should expect periods of heavy rainfall while the summers are long, hot and humid. There is less rainfall in the summer months while autumn is probably the best time to come as it is mostly dry and temperatures are comfortable. Winters here are very brief with occasional cold spells below freezing and frequent rain. The January average temperature is 6C while in July it averages almost 30C.
Where to Stay in Hengyang?
There are not too many western style hotels to be found in the city and certainly no international hostels. You can try looking around the railway station area as there are some budget hotels there and you may be able to find a room for as little as CNY50 per night. Close to the railway station there is a 5 Days Inn it has rooms available from CNY150 per night.
You can find some mid-range hotels in the area of Jiefang Road, the Huatian Hotel has 282 rooms starting from CNY250. They also have a few suites but the piece for these is beyond the mid-range classification. The Shenlong Hotel on North Zhengyang Road has a revolving restaurant on the top floor with some fantastic views across the city, rooms cost from CNY300.
The Yancheng Hotel on Jiefang Road is the only 4 star hotel in the city. It proudly boasts as being the best and only international hotel in Hengyang and room prices begin at CNY400 per night.
Where and What to Eat in Hengyang
Hunan cuisine is the principal local flavour of Hengyang, but there is one local dish Yu Lin Xiang Yao or Seven Level Tower. It is made of seven different entrees, one for each layer and includes ingtredients such as fish balls and pigs kidney. Other local dishes include rice wrapped in lotus leaves with in addition to sticky rice it contains egg, pork and shrimp. Local snacks include several cakes including Yunpian Cake, Snow-flake Cake and Dengxin Cake.
How to Get Around Hengyang
Hengyang city has more than 40 bus lines in operation that cover most areas of the city. Most buses operate from 6.30am until 7.30pm. Routes 9, 25 and 28 are in service until 9pm and K1 runs 24 hours, although with less frequent services in the early hours. The fare on K1 is CNY2 while on the other routes it is just CNY1.
Taxis in the city are also very convenient and fairly cheap. They begin at CNY6 in the daytime and CNY7 from 10pm until 6am. Have your destination written in Chinese and show this to the taxi driver as he will not speak any English.
How to Get To and From Hengyang
Hengyang Nanyue Airport is a small regional airport and has around 20 daily flights from cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming and Chongqing among others.
There are two railway stations in Hengyang; the older station in the city centre is one of China’s ten largest stations on an intersection of the Beijing to Guangzhou and Hunan to Guangxi routes. Beijing to Hengyang takes around 16 hours and costs CNY367. Hengyang East Railway Station is a much newer station on the high speed line from Wuhan to Guangzhou. From here you can reach Beijing in 7 hours 30 minutes and a second class seat costs CNY705.50. Guangzhou is just under two hours on a high speed train and costs CNY244 for a second class seat.
Hengyang has two long distance bus stations, the Central Bus Station on Jiefang Road operates to and from other cities within Hunan province as well as the neighbouring provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong. The Huaxin Long Distance Bus Station is in the Development Zone and is the most modern bus station in southern Hunan. It mostly operates buses to other cities in southern Hunan province.
Is it Safe in Hengyang?
Hengyang is an extremely safe place for foreigners; the main danger is from crossing the road with drivers not obeying red lights. So even when you have the right of way you still need to be vigilante when crossing the road.
Should you require medical attention you should be treated in the city but communication might be a problem as there is most likely to be very little English spoken by the medical staff.