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Daily Destination: Changsha, China

Compass

American children have been heading back to school in waves, to the delight of many parents. As for the students, they might take heart in knowing that their counterparts around the world will be spending their days in classrooms, too.

Schools have existed for more than 1,000 years in some form or other. In Asia, the oldest existing institution of higher learning is in Changsha, China, the capital of Hunan Province.

Founded as the Yuelu Academy in 976, the school was always one of China’s most important academic institutions and has remained so since evolving into Hunan University early in the 20th century. The university is a center of Chinese language education and the place where some major ancient Confucian scholars studied. Changsha is also home to prestigious newer universities that help boost its academic reputation.

Nestled into Mount Yuelu, the port city on the banks of the Xiang River in east-central China has long been an industrial and trading powerhouse. These days, it’s a center for the technology, medical and entertainment industries as well as a regional travel hub.

Traditional buildings and public art projects mix with skyscrapers (the Sky City building, now under construction, may be the world’s tallest when it’s finished in April 2014) and the bustle of busy streets. With a warm, humid climate, small gardens thrive amid concrete and steel surroundings.

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