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History of Changsha

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There has been a settlement in the area now known as Changsha since the Neolithic era. It was a fortified city by the second century BC and grew further during the Han Dynasty when it became the capital of the Changsha Kingdom.

During the Han Dynasty, the famous Mawangdui Tombs were constructed to house the remains of the Marquis of Dai, his wife and a second male who archeologists believe was their son. A number of finds in the tomb have helped piece together Changsha's historical importance: rare volumes written on silk were found in the tombs along with a large collection wooden figurines which have provided valuable links between costume and status in Western Han society.

Yuelu Academy was founded during the Song Dynasty in Changsha and evolved over the next 1000 years into a modern higher education institution. Zhu Xi and Zhang Shi the renowned Confucian Scholars both lectured at the academy.

As a part of the Treaty of Shanghai in 1903, Changsha was opened up to foreign trade, as a consequence of which the city experienced a boom when factories, churches and schools were built with the resultant influx of money and people. Yale University alumni opened a college in the city, which later became the Xiangya Medical Centre and the Yali Secondary School.

A large part of the history of Changsha and the area around it is based on its connection with Chairman Mao. He was brought up in the small village of Shaoshan situated about 100 kilometers outside of Changsha, later attending Hunan Number 1 Teachers' Training School in the city. Two of his former residences and his former office are now open to visitors.

Four large battles took place in Changsha during the Second Sino-Japanese War, when invading Japanese forces tried to capture it from the Chinese Nationalists who had secured the area. The 4th Battle of Changsha ended when the city finally fell to Japanese forces who held it for a year before being defeated in a counter-attack. The city became part of the territory of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

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