Legend has it that a pair of mythical firebirds flew over this town and were so captivated by its beauty that they were reluctant to leave. The Phoenix or Fenghuang is reborn by fire and is a harbinger of good and appear only in places that are blessed with peace and prosperity and also symbolizes longevity.
Fenghuang Town is located in Hunan Province in China and it covers an area of 1.8km with about 20 ancient streets, a dozen lanes and passages and over 200 ancient civil residences remaining. Built over 450 years ago, the rich historical background and the preservation of the town warrants for it to be included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
This ancient town is drawing not only tourists but the literati, artists, historians and architects because it has been preserved well and is an outstanding site for studying construction, human settlement, technical design and also environmental protection.
There was apparently a protest staged by the disgruntled locals in mid April this year due to the change in the entrance policy from free to chargeable for Fenghuang Ancient Town by the city’s authorities. The entrance fee of RMB148 for a through ticket to various sightseeing spots would be most convenient though not a paltry sum. Many local businesses saw a drop in tourists visits as well as earnings after the change and it was an unhappy situation for tourists as well, as ticketing has not been administrated properly and some unsuspecting tourists have been scammed by touts.
If you have time to spare, a boat ride along the crystal-clear Tuojiang River is highly recommended. It offers you a birds’ eye view of Phoenix town and the many ‘Diaojiaolou’ wooden houses built along the river bank. This unique wooden buildings are usually built close to the mountain or above the water, be it creek or river. They are supported by pillars and stilts all completely made of wood without any iron used in construction.
This is one scene seared onto my memory. Some ladies were busy washing their clothes and beside them a lady was washing her vegetables carefully lined on the ground and a metre away another lady was thrashing her blacken mop on the quay-side steps in a bid to clean it. What do you make of that?
It is always interesting to visit the weekend markets or street vendors to see what they have to offer.
We were greeted by a blaring Chinese band with the piercing sou na (Chinese trumpet) leading the whole entourage which included opera singers in their full regalia. It is rather interesting to watch how the rank and file bearing different gifts and offerings to the deities make their way to the temple with such pomp and circumstance.
Fenghuang is famous for her Ginger candy and throughout the town vendors make and sell them for about RMB2-4 per bag. If you chance upon them grab some, they are lovely and works for me like after dinner mints. Shops here also sell many varieties of Chinese tea, a large array of silver jewellery and ornaments and handmade tie-dyes, printed and batik cloths that make wonderful souvenirs. If you have a sweet tooth like me, then you might want to try the peanut candy. If you are lucky you might catch them pounding the roasted and skinned peanuts together with malted sugar using a huge wooden mallet. Freshly made they are so tasty, crunchy and simply good!
Tuojiang River is the mother river that flows around the ancient city wall of Fenghuang. Many of the Tujia minority buildings are located along the river. The river is always teeming with life as the women do their laundry here, the men fish here and the river boats are always plying up and down ferrying tourists.
Not one to worry too much about food hygiene, I enjoyed this delectable afternoon snack of tiny crabs fried to a crisp.
Walking through the street here is a great way to experience what life might have been like during the Ming and Qing dynasties (15th to 20th centuries). Do have a closer look at the architecture and especially the fascinating roof features.
Majestic Fenghuang has managed to maintain her layout and original appearance suffering little or no ravage from natural disasters, rebellions, invasions and the Japanese occupation.
The beauty of Fenghuang lies in the balance and harmony between mankind and the mountains and water. The ancient city blends in ecologically with its undulating surrounding and it continues to attract and charm visitors!