Why is Phoenix Ancient Town special?
Phoenix Ancient Town is situated on the western boundary of Hunan Province in an area of outstanding natural beauty where mountains, water and blue skies prevail. It has ever been acclaimed as the most attractive town in China by Rewi Alley, a famous Zelanian writer. Upon entering the town, you will be impressed by its air of mystery, elegance and primitive simplicity. This is a world that is dominated by the color of green. The mountain slopes are covered with green foliage, the fields are green and even the Tuojiang River reflects the greenery. The bridges over the water and unique houses built on stilts display a harmony that is often portrayed in traditional Chinese paintings. This is particularly true when mist pervades the scene in the early morning or after the rain. It soon becomes apparent that the claim to being one of the two most beautiful towns in the whole of China is more than justified.
According to the legend, phoenix is a 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.
In many ways, life has not changed here for centuries and this is typified by the tough, hard working yet simple-hearted people. Phoenix Ancient Town offers the visitor from both home and abroad a view of a quite different China from anything experienced in the modern cities and large conurbations that are more widely known.
Phoenix Ancient Town Highlights
Tuojiang River is a life force of the natives. It stretches diagonally from the northwest to southeast of the town. Here in its waters women wash their clothes and the men fish with their nets. The river also provides a means for boatmen to support their families by ferrying tourists up and down stream so that they may admire the many splendors of the town.
Miao ethnic minority
The Miao ethnic minority is predominantly settled here. Thus a visit to a Miao village is a must when going to Phoenix Ancient Town. The Miao women have a natural beauty. They love to dress in traditional blue garments set off with a white scarf. They love their silver jewellery as well. You 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 specialties.
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. The popular local cuisine include: Fenghuang Ginger Sugar, Bean-curd Boiled with Sour Soup, Sour Fish of Miao-Nationality Family, Vegetable Bean-curd of Farmer Family, Xiangxi Ciba, Xiangxi Preserved Ham and Fenghuang Sour Carrot and so on. The welcomed local products are Xuebaya, Sweet Orange, Brocade of Tujia Nationality, chestnut, Gefeng or Arrowroot Flour, Gingko, Pangolin, Giant Salamander, Chinese goose beery and wax-dyeing and so on. The local brocade-making, wax-dyeing and silver accessory-making techniques are special with a high value of art appreciation.
Phoenix Ancient Town enjoys a history of 1300 years has a number of remarkable old gardens as well as distinctive residential buildings, elegant bridges and mysterious towers and pagodas. These architectural delights date from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911). Those of special interest are the Wengchen Pavilion, Huang Si Qiao Castle, Tianwang Temple, Dacheng Hall, Chaoyang Palace, and the tomb of Shen Congwen and the residence of Xiong Xiling. Here too there are the North Gate and South Great Wall both excellent examples of municipal fortification.
Besides from the stunning natural landscapes, Phoenix Ancient Town is a wonderful example of what villages were like prior to the onset of modernization. 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. For the visitor, these alleys are the way to see the typical high gabled wooden houses built on stilts along the banks of the Tuojiang River at close quarters.