Its reputation carved in granite by the fame of Jǐngdézhèn’s imperial kilns, and its status immortalised as the starting point of the mythologised Long March, Jiāngxī province is a place where rows of glistening porcelain creations share the spotlight with revolutionary relics.
Which is perhaps to overlook Jiāngxī’s stunning swathes of natural beauty. Suspended from the middle and lower reaches of the Yangzi River, Jiāngxī lies in one of China’s most crucial watersheds. Home of China’s largest freshwater lake – Poyang Lake (Póyáng Hú) – Jiāngxī is the source of much of southeast China and Hong Kong’s drinking water. More than 2400 rivers and ecologically crucial lakes spiderweb throughout the province, 60% of which is cloaked in forest. Add to this an undulating landscape of mountains and hills, and Jiāngxī promises some of rural China’s most staggeringly beautiful images.
Lúshān and Jǐnggāngshān are celebrated for their scenic mountain views, although prepare to jostle for them with fellow vacationers. It is instead the jaw-dropping scenery around Wùyuán in northeast Jiāngxī, a geographic and cultural extension of gorgeous southern Ānhuī, that truly rewards days and weeks of boggle-eyed exploration. The ancient villages of this region – many cut by sparkling streams and vaulted by charming stone and wood bridges – are some of China’s most delightful and picturesque.
Even Nánchāng, the fast-paced provincial capital, has traditional, historic villages within its orbit – including Luótiáncūn – where you can get the ozone out of your hair and pitch yourself into the pastoral panoramas of old China without too much fuss.
The Grand Canal (linking major waterways) was built from the 7th century onwards. It opened up the southeastern regions and made Jiāngxī an important point on the trade route from Guǎngdōng. Industries such as silver mining and tea growing later allowed the formation of a wealthy Jiāngxī merchant class. By the 19th century, however, the province’s role as a transport route from Guǎngzhōu was reduced by the opening of coastal ports to foreign ships. Among Jiāngxī’s most illustrious native sons is author Mervyn Peake (architect of the gothic fantasy Gormenghast), born in Gǔlǐng (Lúshān) to British missionary parents in 1911.