Ancient Charm of China: Fenghuang old town

This episode of “Ancient Charm of China” takes you to an extraordinarily well-preserved ancient town in central China’s Hunan Province,  praised as “the most beautiful town in China” by New Zealand-born writer Rewi Alley. 

Meaning “phoenix” in Chinese, Fenghuang old town was established in 1704. It has kept its originality and primitive simplicity for over 300 years, offering visitors a glimpse of what villages were like prior to modernization.

The ancient town of Fenghuang not only boasts a splendid natural landscape but also features unique residential buildings, stylish bridges, and pagodas.

What impresses visitors the most upon arrival is a large array of multi-story residential buildings constructed along the river bank. These typical houses of Tujia ethnic group are called Diaojiaolou. Seen from a distance, the wooden houses look as if they are floating on the river.

The Tuojiang River plays a crucial role in local people’s lives for decades. Stretching 96.9 kilometers across Fenghuang County provides rich resources for daily washing, fishing as well as jobs for boatmen.

Predominantly resided by Miao and Tujia ethnic groups, Fenghuang old town is never short of diverse ethnic cultural charms. You will encounter Miao women wearing their ethnic costumes and silver jewelry, walking down the flagstone alleyways.

You are also able to visit the old residence of Shen Congwen (1902-1988), a versatile writer in modern Chinese literature. His novel Bian Cheng, also known as The Border Town, portrays the country folk in western Hunan.

A sightseeing tour is never complete without trying local delicacies. Stop by the night market and enjoy the sourness and spiciness that Xiang cuisine offers. Xueba Duck, made by stewing duck meat with duck blood and sticky rice, is one of the local specialties.

When the night falls, the whole town turns into an illuminated and mystery castle. The mere sight of it will definitely tempt you to stay longer.

Travel tips:

Best time to visit: July to September

Transportation: Take a flight to Tongren Fenghuang Airport and take a coach to the destination directly.

Opening hours: All day

Admission fee: Free

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