You may have heard that Wuhan is actually three cities, Wǔchāng (武昌), Hànkǒu (汉口), and Hànyáng (汉阳), which were fused into one large city nearly 90 years ago. While this rumor is close to being true, it’s probably more accurate to say that these are actually three different townships of a city growing into one mega city. This growth is surprising considering the natural forces trying to keep them separated, particularly that of the Han River – the largest tributary of the Yangtze – which separates Hankou and Hanyang out west. If the mighty Yangtze wasn’t enough, Wuhan is freckled with a dozen lakes, including one that is the largest of any urban area in China.
For better or for worse, Wuhan lacks the compactness of cities like Chengdu, Nanjing or Chongqing. But what it lacks in brevity of distance it makes up for in distinctiveness of character. Wuchang, the largest of the three areas, is the home of the provincial head and Wuhan University, while Hankou is the commercial heart of Wuhan and home to municipal offices and all the luxuries of a modern metropolis. Over in the sleepy former factory district of Hanyang, derelict factories have been creatively converted into functional wonders of the modern cityscape. All of this makes Wuhan a fascinating mosaic of the industrial and the ancient, the commercial and the public, and the urban and the suburban.