Shaoshan is a small city (pop. 100,000) in China's Hunan province, famous for being the birthplace of dictator and Chinese icon Mao Zedong.
Shaoshan, previously known by many names including Qidu, Xi township and Qingtian, was a small farming town in records dating back to the early Qing Dynasty. Mao Zedong, later to be known as Chairman Mao was born in a farming house there on December 26, 1893 to a wealthy farming family. He left the city in his early years but came back as leader for a week in 1966 to hold a conference in the purpose-built facility at Water Dripping Cave. Since Mao's death, Shaoshan has become a destination of pilgrimage to visit the roots of the defining figure of 20th Century Chinese history, and in turn those of the Communist Party.
Shaoshan lies about an hour's drive out from the provincial capital of Changsha.
With the opening of Shaoshan South Railway Station, there are now hourly trains from Changsha to Shaoshan, starting at 7AM until 6PM. The journey takes about 25 minutes. The train station is a short drive from the Visitor's Center, making a day trip to Shaoshan from Changsha very convenient
. The highway of Shaoshan extends to all directions. Go eastward, you will get to Xiangtan City; go northward, you will reach Changsha and Zhangjiajie Cities. There are buses to Xiangtan at an interval of 15 minutes from 5AM There are also buses to Changsha every 30 minutes from 7AM to 5:30PM In addition, you can take the buses equipped with air-conditioners to Shaoshan in Changsha Southern Station. They set out every 50 minutes from 7AM to 5PM
The new high-speed train from Changsha South has now made getting to Shaoshan a whole lot easier. Trains are regular and fast (reaching up to 300 km per hour on the short trip). Buses at Shaoshan South railway station provide inexpensive transfer to Shaoshan and to Getting around the main tourist sites in Shaoshan is extremely easy, even if you have limited Chinese. In the train station parking lot there are always buses waiting, including big tourist buses and local buses. The local bus to the visitor's center is free, but if you don't speak Chinese the best option is the tourist bus. Just listen for someone shouting "Mao Zi Dung." The tourist bus is for day trippers who haven't arranged a group tour, and if you want to join the tour (all Chinese) you can. However, for just 3-5 RMB you can take this bus to the visitor's center. At the visitor's center, turn left to the ticket area. There is almost definitely someone there who speaks English, and they can give you a map and sell you the tickets (20RMB for the Mao Memorial Park, 80RMB for the Mao's village.
Getting around the main tourist sites in Shaoshan is extremely easy, even if you have limited Chinese. In the train station parking lot there are always buses waiting, including big tourist buses and local buses. The local bus to the visitor's center is free, but if you don't speak Chinese the best option is the tourist bus. Just listen for someone shouting "Mao Zi Dung." The tourist bus is for day trippers who haven't arranged a group tour, and if you want to join the tour (all Chinese) you can. However, for just 3-5 RMB you can take this bus to the visitor's center. At the visitor's center, turn left to the ticket area. There is almost definitely someone there who speaks English, and they can give you a map and sell you the tickets (20RMB for the Mao Memorial Park, 80RMB for Mao's Residence). There are free buses between the visitor's center, the Mao Memorial Park, and the Mao Square. When you want to leave, just point at your ticket--it has a photo of the visitor's center on it. Buses from the visitor's center to the train station run regularly, and taxis wait at the visitor's center for people going to the train station. The crowds of Chinese tourists can be a bit intimidating. At the museums, you need to find a tic ket booth--the tickets are free, but they need to see your passport. \ It is entirely doable alone, and if you have basic Chinese skills it is positively easy. This is a very well-trod tourist destination.
- Chairman Mao's birthplace and childhood home- Complete with English information and period furniture, and manageable crowds if you come at the right time. 60RMB
- Chairman Mao Museum, a meticulous documentation of the Mao's early years and the early years of the Chinese People's Revolution, and a vague documentation of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Free.
- Mao Memorial Park--interesting if you read Chinese, a nice park if you don't.
- Water Dripping Cave- A purpose-built conference center used by Mao for a week in 1966, now an amusing museum exhibiting memorabilia such as the ping-pong table he used during his stay there
- 25 foot Bronze Statue of Mao Zedong in Mao Zedong Square
Browse the many small souvenir shops for Chairman Mao and other Communist Party-themed goods.
Shops directed at tourists, Chinese and foreign alike, are almost exclusively filled with bright red and gold Mao and CCP-themed items, including large brass busts of Mao, Mao-suit-themed clothing and hats, and original copies of the famous "Little Red Book" of the Quotations of Chairman Mao.
There are several restaurants in the area boasting some of Chairman Mao's favourite foods- spicy pork and smelly tofu. However, it is important to note that these, as with the tourist area as a whole, is catered largely for domestic tourists, so you will be lucky to find a restaurant with a picture menu, let alone one in English. Chinese restaurants also cater to groups, who order several dishes and then eat communally. The best option for one or two people is to try to find a noodle shop, which may mean walking a little ways from the main area. Hunan cuisine is famously hot, so if you don't want a dish red in colour from all the chili, its best to make it clear beforehand.
The Hualong Manor Hotel is an affordable and comfortable hotel, although don't expect much English understanding from the staff. In general, in these less traveled areas of China, the best move would be to book a local or independent guide who can arrange booking and check-in for you.
Shaoshan can easily be covered in a day--in fact, the Visitor's Center reccomends 2.5 hours-so it would be a good idea to incorporate it within a greater tour of Hunan. The provincial capital, Changsha, is nearby, which holds the Hunan Provincial Museum, which is a must for those interested at all in Chinese History. Also in Hunan is the Zhangjiajie-Wulingyuan area, which boasts some of the best scenic spots in all China.