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Dongting Lake

Lake Dongting (洞庭湖; Pinyin: dng tng h; Wade-Giles: Tung-t'ing Hu) is a large, shallow lake in northeastern Hunan Province of China. It is a flood-basin of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze); hence the lake's size depends on the season. The provinces of Hubei and Hunan are named after their location relatively to the lake: Hubei means "North of the Lake" and Hunan means "South of the Lake" in Chinese. Dongting literally means "Expansive Courtyard", which refers to "the world heaven heaven".

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 History
3 Culture and mythology
4 Major cities along the Lake
5 External link


In the July-September period, flood water from the Chang Jiang flows into the lake, enlarging it greatly. The lake's area, which normally is 2,820 sq km, may increase to 20,000 sq km in flood season, when vast amounts of water and sediment from the Chang Jiang flow into the lake. At present it is the second-largest lake in China. The lake is also fed by four rivers: the Xiang, Zi, Yuan (沅) and Li rivers. In addition, the Xiao (瀟) River flows into the Xiang near Changsha, before the Xiang flows into the lake. Ocean-going vessels can travel through the Xiang to reach Changsha.


During the Han Dynasty, Yunmeng Marsh (雲夢大澤; yun2 meng4 da4 ze2), which lies to the north of Lake Dongting in Hubei Province, served as the main flood-basin of the Chang Jiang. The rich sediment of the marsh attracted farmers. Embankments were built, keeping the river out, and the Lake Dongting area south of the Chang Jiang gradually became the river's main flood-basin.

At that time, Lake Dongting was China's largest lake. Because of its size, it gained the name Eight-hundred-li-Dongting (八百里洞庭). Nowadays, it is the second-largest, after Lake Panyang (鄱陽湖), as much of the lake has been turned into farmland.

Culture and mythology

The area is well-known in Chinese history and literature. Dragon boat racing is said to have begun on the eastern shores of Lake Dongting as a search for the body of Qu Yuan (屈原), the Chu poet (340-278 BC), and a dragon-king is said to live at the bottom of the lake.

Junshan (君山), which was formerly a Daoist retreat, is a famous one-kilometer island with 72 peaks in the middle of the lake. The basin of Lake Dongting and its surrounding area is famous for its scenic beauty, which has been encapsulated in the phrase 瀟湘湖南 (xiao1 xiang1 hu2 nan2; "Hunan of the Xiao and Xiang rivers").

The scenery of the Jiuyi Mountains (九嶷山) and of the Xiao and Xiang rivers below is often mentioned in Chinese poetry. During the Song Dynasty, it became the fashion to paint this region's scenery in a set of eight scenes, usually entitled as Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang. The fashion spread to Japan, where eventually other famous places were substituted for the Xiao and Xiang rivers.

Major cities along the Lake

See also:

External link