Changsha, the capital of Hunan province , has a population approaching one million living in a municipality of about 100 square miles. Located on the lower reaches of the Xiang Jiang River, a major tributrary of the Yangzi, the city has a history of over 3,000 years and has been a leading trade center for more than 2,000. It is also an important port, and you will see a graceful procession of long, narrow flat-sailed boats as well as modern barges plying the river with grains, timber, coal, and a variety of industrial materials. The riverfront has changed little during the last quarter of a century, and the old warehoused, boatyards, and processing plants are still being used.
The town was opened to foreign traders in 1904. Europeans and Americans quickly moved into the area to establish businesses and warehouse. Colleges and religious missions were set up soon after. These merchant activities were boosted in 1918 When the town was linked by rail to Hankow and then Beijing, the development spurring an increase in production from the light-industrial sector, particularly in food products, textiles, paper, lacquer ware jewelry and furniture. Changsha then became an important port for the export of agriculture products grown in the province, such as rice, tea, cotton, tobacco, hemp, and timber. The development of industry was greatly assisted by the later rail link to Guangzhou.
The city was partially destroyed during the Sino-Japanese war( 1937-1945), but the rebuilding program was not established until the end of the Civil War (1949) and the assumption of power by the Communist movement. Fr om then on the economy of the province, and that of Changsha itself, began to expand, even though based almost entirely on agriculture. This is not surprising, for the alluvial lowlands surrounding Changsha are among the most productive in China. Hunan supplies about 15 percent of the country’s rice crop, but tea, soy bean. Wheat, corn, cotton, peanuts, tobacco, sugar cane, and sweet potatoes are also grown in abundance in the province.