Dongting Lake, called 'Yunmengze' in ancient times, was later renamed after the hill in the lake, Dongting Hill (now called Junshan Hill). It is the second largest freshwater lake in China. Since ancient times, the phantasmagoric and charming sights of the lake have been espoused by the literati.
The waters of the lake arise from the Xiangjiang, Zishui, Yuanshui and Lishui rivers in the south, and the Yangtze River in the north. The lake joins into the Yangtze at Chenglingji Port in Yueyang. The lake used to be known as '8-hundred-li (249 miles) Dongting'. However due to the accumulation of mud and sand and reclamation by humans, the lake has now been transformed into many smaller lakes. Three of them, in Hunan Province, have been now been turned into provincial nature reserves: namely, East Dongting Lake (Yueyang City), South Dongting Lake (Yuanjiang City) and West Dongting Lake (Muping Lake, Changde City).
Of these reserves, East Dongting Lake is the largest and most spectacular. There are many legends and stories related to the lake. The area is a paradise for animals in winter. There are also many other places of interest nearby, including Yueyang Pavilion, Junshan Hill and Cishi Tower. Lotus Lake amid the lake is another wonderful sight during the lotus flowering season. The 'Xianglian' (Hunan Lotus) produced here, is considered a treasured lotus. Sanjiangkou (Chenglingji Port) - where the waters of the Xiangjiang River, Jingjiang River, Yangtze River and Dongting Lake merge - is also a splendid sight worth seeing. Every year there is a lotus festival, a dragon boat race and other aquatic activities on the lake.
With regard to the lake scenery, Dongting Lake is known for the 'Ten Shadows' as formed by the sun, moon, clouds, snow, hill, pavilion, sail, fisherman, gulls and wild geese respectively. The 'autumnal moon', 'return sailing fisherman', 'landing wild goose on sand', 'afterglow in fishing village' and 'evening snow scene' , some of the famous 'Eight Scenes of Hunan', have also been described at Dongting Lake.
Entrance Fee: Free
Best Time to Visit: There are Bird-watching Tourism Festival every Feburary and March, so birds-lovers are strongly recommended to come to Dongting Lake at that time, besides, May and June are also best time to visit the lake.
Transporation: Visitors can take Bus No.9, 10, 15, 19, 22, 24, 25, 29, 33 or 34 and get off at Yueyanglou stop, and take the ship at Chenglingji Port to tour around the lake.