The central Chinese city at the center of an outbreak of a new virus that has sickened nearly 600 people and killed at least 17 is one of the country's largest industrial hubs and a major crossroads. Wuhan is a manufacturing center of 11 million with a long history, formed by the union of three adjacent cities, Hankou, Wuchang and Hanyang.
An inland port on the north bank of the Yangtze River, which stretches from far western China to Shanghai, Wuhan is said to be about 3,500 years old. It came under British control in the 1800s as a treaty port and like much of China was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. It was the site of the Wuchang uprising in 1911 that eventually brought on the downfall of the Qing dynasty and the founding of the modern Republic of China. That government was vanquished by communist forces in 1949, leading to the current People's Republic of China.
Wuhan is the birthplace of China's steel industry, drawing on iron ore and coal from nearby mines. It's also a major manufacturing center for textiles, machinery, trucks and consumer products. Given its central location, it's the main distribution point in central China for river, railway, road and other transport. The local government says 300 of the world's top corporations have invested in the city. That includes companies like Walmart and automakers such as Honda, Nissan and PSA Citroen Pugeot.
The city has high levees protecting it from flooding along the Yangtze and one of its most famous landmarks is the scenic but heavily polluted East Lake. The ancient, five-story Yellow Crane Tower, rebuilt several times, is featured in famous Tang dynasty poems. Wuhan is called one of the "furnaces" of the Yangtze, thanks to its extremely hot and humid summers.
Wuhan is one of the host cities for the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup. It is accelerating the construction of five national-level industrial bases, and is striving to build up its high-tech industries as the "Optic Valley" of China. The city is also the site of an annual swim across the Yangtze to commemorate revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's famous 1966 swim at age 72.
Like the SARS virus in 2003, the new coronavirus is thought initially to have been transmitted from animals to people via consumption of exotic wildlife. Apart from such creatures, Wuhan is famed for peppery frog legs, braised crayfish and spicy duck necks, a favorite drinking snack.