A performer of the Hunan Puppet and Shadow Art Protection & Inheritance Center plays puppet show for the diplomats, December 6, 2016. [Photo by Meghan Horihan/Chinaculture.org]
When talking about Hunan province, the most common things mentioned are typically Mao Zedong's birthplace in the village of Shaoshan and the Wulingyuan Scenic Area in Zhangjiajie, the mountains made famous by the movie, Avatar, that used its likeness as inspiration for the computer generated images of "the floating mountains".
Many travelers in China are initially reeled in by major attractions, but once they arrive they are able to see the finer details if they get the chance. And I must admit that was the case for me during the 4th Cultural Discovery Tour for Diplomats in China, which was organized by the Chinese Ministry of Culture.
I've heard of Zhangjiajie, which has been on my must-see short list for quite some time, but after digging a little deeper, I quickly realized that the scenic mountains shouldn't overshadow this rapidly growing province.
Our group consisted of diplomats from 11 countries, and we welcomed the chance to get out of Beijing as the temperatures dropped below zero in the north. Some have been in China for a handful of years while others had only been here a few months, but everyone was ready to see what Hunan has to offer.