A panorama of Hunan University campus from the top of College of Architecture building.
Chuixiang Pavilion is part of the famous Yuelu Academy, which is the predecessor of Hunan University.
Hunan University is the member of both Project 985 and Project 211, and sponsored by the Ministry of Education of China aiming to become a well-known world-class university.
Hunan University traces its history back to the Yuelu ShuyuanAcademy founded in the Song Dynasty, originally in 976, over 1000 years ago. Shuyuan were once two main forms of higher learning school in China, and another form was government-sponsored schools including imperial central school Taixue or Guozijian and regional schools. Yuelu Academy had no degree-granting mechanism, and no some other features of a Western university. The Yuelu Academy was a venue for Chinese scholars and their students to meet and study deep issues in broad areas of Confucian Studies. In 1903 it was changed to be a modern school with the incorporation of the school which was founded in 1897, initially called Shiwu Xuetang and once in 1902 called Hunan Daxuetang. The school name Hunan University was proposed in 1912, and in 1926 Hunan University was formed with the merger of three specialized public schools of Hunan. The Hunan University was later changed for several times. The name Hunan University was again adopted in 1959.
The Chinese calligraph of "Yuelu Academy" was written by Emperor Zhenzong of Song in 1015, and the Chinese calligraph of "Hunan University" was written by Mao Zedong in 1950 as soon as the People's Republic of China was founded.
For more than one thousand years, academic and educational activities have continued uninterrupted here. In the course of its development from Yuelu Academy to Hunan University, this time-honored institution has committed itself to fostering people of great talent for society and has produced large numbers of figures of outstanding scholarship. Among its prominent students are Wang Fuzhi, a celebrated philosopher in Chinese history; Wei Yuan, a reformist who first advocated the idea of learning from the West; Zeng Guofan, the first Chinese to initiate the Modernization Movement (at the time called Yangwu Yundong, movement of emulate of oversea scitech and industry) and to make arrangements for a modern factory in China; Zuo Zongtang, a national hero who arranged to build China’s first navy and took great pains to defend and develop Xinjiang; Guo Songtao, China’s first ambassador to a foreign country; Cai E, a major leader in defending the Republic of China; the first Chinese to set foot on the continent of Antarctica; and Ci Yungui, the chief designer of China's first super computer.
Hunan University is one of the most prestigious public research university in People's Republic of China. Its Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Industrial Design and International Trade programs are some of its strongest.
In December 29, 2011, Hunan University's north campus stadium was used as a venue for the public announcement of death sentences for 15 prisoners, including Liu Ao Xian, accused of attacking local administration of taxation in Changsha.