Changde (Chinese: 常德; pinyin: Chángdé [ʈʂʰǎŋ.tɤ̌]) is a prefecture-level city in the northwest of Hunan province, People's Republic of China, with a population of 5,717,218 as of the 2010 census, of which 1,232,182 reside in the urban districts of Dingcheng and Wuling. In addition to the urban districts, Changde also administers the county-level city of Jinshi and six counties. Changde is adjacent to Dongting Lake to the east, the city of Yiyang to the south, Wuling and Xuefeng Mountains to the west, and Hubei province to the north.
The area has been inhabited by humans since around 8,000 years ago. In that time, the city has changed names several times, but it has been known as Changde since the 12th century. The city is well known for the Battle of Changde during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) and the atrocities committed then by the Imperial Japanese Army.
In the past decade, the city has seen a massive construction boom. New highrises have sprung up, roads were rebuilt and new schools, parks and museums have opened. Locals and tourists often visit the Changde Poetry Wall, covered in a variety of poems mostly from ancient China. The wall stretches for 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) along the Yuan River downtown and functions as a flood wall. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest wall with engraved arts in the world.
Changde is known for its many Paleolithic and Neolithic sites. About 500 of them have been discovered to date. In 1984 neolithic human settlements were discovered in Li County, part of Changde. In 1988, the Pengtoushan site was excavated leading to the identification of the "Pengtoushan Culture". The site contains the earliest evidence of a settled village yet discovered in China. Archeological research from 2011 suggests that a settlement called Shanlonggang, part of the Pengtoushan civilization, may have cultivated rice 8,000-9,000 years ago, making it the possible birthplace of rice cultivation.
Located on the Yuan River upstream from its junction with the Lake Dongting system, Changde is a natural center of the northwest Hunan plain. The city was historically situated on the north bank of the Yuan River, and has since expanded development south of the river. The Chinese phrase "三山三水" (literally "Three mountains and three rivers") is often used in reference to the general physical geography of the city. Around the city are three nearby mountains- Taiyang Mountain (太阳山) to the north, Mount De (德山) to the south, and Mount Hefu (河洑山) in the west. In addition to the Yuan River, the city has plentiful water resources with the Chuanzi and Xin Rivers both flowing through Wuling urban district. The other major geographic feature of the area is Liuye Lake (柳叶湖), to the northeast of the city center. There are also numerous lakes, ponds, and streams in the city although many have been diverted or buried.
The larger prefecture-level city of Changde is adjacent to Dongting Lake to the east, the city of Yiyang to the south, Wuling and Xuefeng Mountains to the west, and Hubei province to the north. Near the border with Hubei province in Shimen county is Huping Mountain (壶瓶山), the highest peaks in Hunan province with an altitude of 2,099 metres (6,886 ft).
The Xuefeng and Wuling mountains have historically been part of the native habitat of the South China tiger. This species is critically endangered and believed to be extinct in the wild. In recent years, the Chinese government has worked to identify potential sites for the establishment of a tiger reserve for the reintroduction of captive-born tigers into the wild. Hupingshan-Houhe National Natural Reserve Complex in Shimen county was selected as one of several potential sites.
It has a monsoon-influenced, four-season humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with cool, damp winters, and hot, humid summers. Winter begins relatively dry but not sunny and becomes progressively damper and cloudier; spring brings frequent rain and the highest humidity levels of the year. Summer is comparatively sunny, while autumn is somewhat dry. The monthly 24-hour average temperatures ranges from 4.7 °C (40.5 °F) in January to 28.6 °C (83.5 °F) in July, while the annual mean is 16.92 °C (62.5 °F). The annual precipitation is about 1,320 mm (52 in). With monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 22% in February and March to 53% in July, the city receives 1,602 hours of bright sunshine annually.