A total of 219 agricultural soil and 48 vegetable samples were collected from the midstream and downstream of the Xiangjiang River (the Hengyang–Changsha section) in Hunan Province. The accumulation characteristics, spatial distribution and potential risk of heavy metals in the agricultural soils and vegetables were depicted. There are higher accu-mulations of heavy metals such as As, Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn in agricultural soils, and the contents of Cd (2.44 mg kg-1), Pb (65.00 mg kg-1) and Zn (144.13 mg kg-1) are 7.97, 3.69 and 1.63 times the corresponding background contents in soils of Hunan Province, respectively. 13.2% of As, 68.5% of Cd, 2.7% of Cu, 2.7% of Ni, 8.7% of Pb and 15.1% of Zn in soil sam-ples from the investigated sites exceeded the maximum allowable heavy metal contents in the China Environmental Quality Standard for Soils (GB15618-1995, Grade II). The pollution characteristics of multi-metals in soils are mainly due to Cd. The contents of As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in vegetable soils are significantly higher than the contents in paddy soils. 95.8%, 68.8%, 10.4% and 95.8% of vegetable samples exceeded the Maximum Levels of Contami-nants in Foods (GB2762-2005) for As, Cd, Ni and Pb concentrations, respectively. There are significantly positive correlations between the concentrations of Cd, Pb and Zn in vegetables and the concentrations in the corresponding vegetable soils (p<0.01). It is very necessary to focus on the potential risk of heavy metals for food safety and human health in agricultural soils and vegetables in the midstream and downstream of the Xiangjiang River, Hunan Province of China.