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Natural & Historical Charm of Fenghuang County

 2014-01-29    Ada    Tours    Xiangxi    1504  

Located in Xiangxi Prefecture, Hunan Province, People's Republic of China, Fenghuang county has an exceptionally well-preserved ancient town that harbors unique ethnic languages, customs, arts as well as many distinctive architectural remains of Ming and Qing styles.

'Fenghuang' is Chinese for 'Phoenix', the mythical bird of good omen and longevity that is consumed by fire to be re-born again from the flames. Phoenix Ancient Town is so called as legend has it that two of these fabulous birds flew over it and found the town so beautiful that they hovered there, reluctant to leave. Being regarded as the most beautiful town in China by New Zealand writer Rewi Alley, it was built in Kangxi forty-three years (1704), and has 300 years of history. The ancient city is a gathering place for Miao and Tujia ethnic minority. The ancient town of Fenghuang was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on March 28, 2008 in the Cultural category.

Phoenix Ancient Town is a wonderful example of what villages were like prior to the onset of modernization. Here dozens of alleys paved with flagstones run between the houses, each showing wear caused by the feet of generations of local people who have used them when going about their daily business. The architectural delights date from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911).

Those of special interest are the Wengchen Pavilion, Huang Si Qiao Castle, Tian Wang Temple, Da Cheng Hall, Chao Yang Palace, and the tomb of Shen Congwen and the residence of Xiong Xiling. For the visitor, these alleys are the way to see the typical high gabled wooden houses built on stilts along the banks of the Tuo Jiang River at close quarters. Stretching diagonally from the northwest to southeast of the town, Tuo Jiang River is a life force of the local people. Here in its waters women wash their clothes and the men fish with their nets, while on the bank food is prepared in much the same way as it has for centuries. The river also provides a means for boatmen to support their families by ferrying visitors up and down stream for sightseeing.

Phoenix Ancient Town does not rely entirely upon natural beauty to attract the visitor for this ancient town with a history spanning 1300 years has a number of remarkable old gardens as well as distinctive residential buildings, elegant bridges and mysterious towers and pagodas. The Miao ethnic minority is predominantly settled here and a visit to a Miao village is a must when going to the town. The Miao women have a natural beauty that renders the use of cosmetics quite unnecessary.

They love to dress in traditional blue garments set off with a white scarf. They love also their silver jewellery especially during festivals. The Miao are friendly and hospitable and like nothing more than to interact with visitors with a variety of traditional entertainments and activities. Food here also is different from that found elsewhere in China. Pickled red peppers are a particular local delicacy and their appetizing smell wafts from the many small family run restaurants.

Apart from beautiful sceneries, visitors will find a large array of handmade items of silver ornaments for sale in the local shops.

Homemade tie-dyes, printed and batik cloths are other local specialities that make wonderful souvenirs.

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