Feng Huang is Chinese for 'phoenix', the mythical bird which is a good omen and symbolizes longevity. When consumed by fire, Feng Huang will be reborn from the flames. Feng Huang Cheng gets its name from a legend that two of these fantastic birds flew over the town and found the town so beautiful that they hovered it, reluctant to leave.
Located on the western edge of Hunan Province next to Guizhou, Feng Huang Cheng's beauty lives up to this story. Claimed to be one of the two most beautiful towns in China, Feng Huang Cheng sets an example of what villages were like before the start of modernization. In the town dozens of lanes are paved with stones that run between the wooden houses built on stilts. Generations of local people have stepped on the lanes and worn them down bit by bit. Mist envelopes the town in the early morning or after a rain, creating a charming picturesque scene of Southwest China.
But Feng Huang Cheng's charm goes beyond the natural beauty. This ancient town has a history of 1,300 years and it has a number of old gardens as well as distinctive residential buildings, elegant bridges and mysterious towers and pagodas. In Feng Huang Cheng, tourists can also have a glimpse of the Great Wall. This section of the Great Wall was built in the Ming Dynasty (1573-1620) to defend against the local Miao minority ethnic group, which defied the central government at that time.
But today the Miao people live with local Han people. Visitors will find a large array of handmade items in the local shops, including silver accessories, homemade textiles, and batik fabric. Food here also has local flavor and pickled red peppers are a local delicacy.
How to get to Feng Huang Cheng: Take a train to Jishou and then switch to a bus for Feng Huang Cheng. There are two shuttles buses that go to Feng Huang Cheng everyday, at 11 am and 3 pm respectively.
Related reading: Rambling in Fenghuang
(China.org.cn January 29, 2008)