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City Guide -- Fenghuang

Travel Guide of Fenghuang Ancient Town


Phoenix Ancient TownFenghuang (Phoenix Ancient Town), under the jurisdiction of the Tujia Autonomous Prefecture, is a small county in the southwest of Hunan Province. In Chinese, Fenghuang means Phoenix, is a mythical sacred firebird in Chinese mythology representing good omen and longevity. Surrounded by mountains and girdled by the Tuojiang River, this small town is famous for its beautiful landscape, rich history and culture as well as colorful ethnic customs. Fenghuang, praised as "the Most Beautiful Town of China" by famous New Zealand writer Rewi Alley.


Fenghuang's history dates back 1,316 years. It was originally named Weiyang, and its location was in today's Huangsiqiao Town, about 24 kilometers from present-day Fenghuang. Archaeologists believe it was a main military camp. The city moved to its present site during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), but the majority of its inhabitants were still soldiers, sent to quell Miao ethnic minority riots. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the Miao people, who had originally lived in caves, moved to the city and began building wooden dwellings. Most of the wooden buildings in the old part of the city were constructed at that time.


Fenghuang is embraced by green mountains, with Tuo Jiang River running through its heart. Rowboat is one of the main means of transportation. Tourists also can take a rowboat to ramble and enjoy the natural beauty. Unique wooden houses constructed on stilts are built along the riverbank. This kind of house is called Diaojiaolou (Chinese for building with hanging legs). They are two-story wooden structures whose lower stories are supported by several heavy logs standing tilted on the ground, and whose large, wide upper stories lean over the river. The upper story is beautifully crafted and decorated, with up-turned eaves and carved windows, doors and railings. The lower story has no living rooms, but the tilted sections are ornately carved. The design keeps the buildings safe from the spring floods. There are now only one dozen Qing Dynasty and early Republican period tilted houses extant. It is easy to discover the beauty of Fenghuang lies in its primitive simplicity. Fenghuang people still live a very simple life despite the other places of China are under the onset of modernization. It always reminds people of the scenes in Chinese painting and old Chinese films.


Fenghuang County is divided into two districts: New Town and Ancient Town. Fenghuang Ancient Town’s history can be dated back to Spring and Autumn Periods (770 BC to 476 BC). The presenting Fenghuang Ancient Town was built in the 43 year of the Reign of Emperor Kangxi of Qing Dynasty (1704), where the ancient buildings in distinct Qing Dynasty style are well preserved. Fairly long history endows it with over 300 culture heritages, such as Huang Si Qiao Castle, the best preserved stone castle built in Tang Dynasty (year 687); the meandering Xiangxi Border Walls, which was built during Ming Dynasty, is praised highly as China’s Southern Great Wall; and the flagstone paths paved during Ming and Qing Dynasties. Besides, there are famous ancient buildings including Longevity Palace, Chao Yang Palace and Heavenly King Temple.      


Fenghuang County is the hometown of renowned Chinese writer Shen Congwen, whose masterpiece The Border Town written in 1934, describing a sentimental love story in Fenghuang County is known to every family and won Fenghuang a national-wide fame. He is highly respected by local people, and his former residence is one of the popular attraction spots of Fenghuang.


Chinese painter Huang Yongyu, pioneer of the reform school of traditional Chinese painting is born in Fenghuang. Huang combined traditional Chinese painting with Western oil painting techniques to create a completely new effect. In recent years, five folk artists from the city have been designated "Folk Arts and Crafts Master" by UNESCO.


Fenghuang is also an ethnic minority group area, and Miao ethnic minority takes the predominance in number. Exploring Shanjiang Miao Village, where the Miao customs, living style and festivals are kept intact, can be an impressive and interesting experience.

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西安国旅官网, Xian CITS, China Tour Operation, China Travel Service.


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