Ancient Fenghuang is an exceptionally well-preserved town and sits on the western border of Hunan Province. It is in an area with exceptional natural beauty where mountains, water, and blue skies prevail. Upon arrival, you will be captivated by its air of mystery, elegance, and primitive simplicity.
Located on the banks of the Tuojiang River (Tuojiang, 沱江) this old town has kept its original appearance from the Qing Dynasty 300 years ago. The bridges that sit over the water, along with the unique houses built on stilts, display a harmony that is often portrayed in traditional Chinese paintings.
The town is legendary for its unique ethnic languages (more than half the population belong to the Miao and Tujia ethnic minorities), customs, and arts, and also because of its distinctive Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty architecture. When the early morning mist arrives, it’s not hard to see why the claim of being the most beautiful town in the whole of China is more than justified.
Ancient Fenghuang can be divided into two parts. One is the old town, while the other one is new town. The old one leans against hills and faces the crystal-clear Tuojiang River flowing through the city, and it is the main tourist area in the county. The new town is the normal residential area for local people.
“Fenghuang” is Chinese for “Phoenix,” the mythical bird of good fortune and longevity. It is said that the Phoenix set itself on fire when it was 500 years old. However, it was reborn from the ashes and is now immortal.
As for how the ancient town got its name, legend has it that two of these magnificent birds flew over it and found the town so beautiful they hovered there, reluctant to leave.
How to get to ancient Fenghuang
Ancient Fenghuang is located in the southwest of Hunan Province, bordering the cities of Huaihua to the southeast and Tongren (Guizhou) to the west. It is 37 km away from the nearest city, which is Jishou.
To travel to Ancient Fenghuang, you can take a train from the Shanghai South Railway station to Jishou, and then take a bus to the ancient town, or travel by plane from Guiyang (Guizhou Province) to the Tongren Fenghuang Airport.
- Never open your umbrella while in local peoples’ houses
- Don’t step on the door sills of a house owned by a local family
- Male and female cannot sleep in the same room when staying overnight as guests
- Don’t whistle in the residential area of Miao Nationally and Tujia Nationality, as locals believe it’s the sound for calling ghosts together
- Before you enter the ancient town, make sure you have plenty of paper money, because in the ancient town of Fenghuang, coins are unpopular
- Never touch or get too close to married women in the residential area
Be aware of traps
- Take care for the butter-tonsiled drivers and service suppliers
- Never trust someone selling cheap tickets or “perfect extra itineraries”
- Don’t accept free services or gifts (like the joss sticks and candles burning at a temple), as you will end up paying more for it
From April to late October is the best time to visit; November to March is quite cold. There are a lot of choices for accommodation in Ancient Fenghuang, from well-equipped hotels to economic hostels.
If you are looking for well-equipped hotels, you can find them around the ancient town’s scenic area, within walking distance to the ancient town. If you want to save money and stay inside the ancient town scenic area, you can book a hostel inside the ancient town, which are operated by local residents.