Set on the Yangzi 150km north of Nanchang, JIUJIANG (九江, jiŭjiāng) had its heyday in the nineteenth century as a treaty port, and now serves as a jumping-off point for tourists exchanging the torrid lowland summers for Lu Shan’s cooler climes. A small but important staging post for river traffic, Jiujiang grew wealthy during the Ming dynasty through trade in Jingdezhen porcelain. Largely destroyed during the Taiping Uprising, the town was rebuilt as a treaty port in the 1860s, and today enjoys a low-scale renaissance, its docks busy once again from dawn till dusk.
Lu Shan’s (庐山, lúshān) range of forested peaks rises abruptly from the level shores of Poyang Hu to a dizzying 1474m, its cool heights bringing welcome relief from the summer cauldron of the Yangzi basin. Developed in the mid-nineteenth century by Methodist minister-turned-property-speculator Edward Little as a hill-station-style resort for European expats, it saw the Chinese elite move in soon after foreigners lost their grip on the region. Chiang Kai-shek built a summer residence and training school for officials here in the 1930s, and, twenty years later, Lu Shan hosted one of the key meetings of the Maoist era. Today, proletarian holidaymakers pack out its restaurants and tramp its paths, and the mansions have been converted into hotels to accommodate them. Crowds reach plague proportions between spring and autumn, so winter – though very cold – can be the best season to visit, and a weekend’s walking is enough for a good sample of the scenery.