A large waterfall runs down the mountains in Tianlong Canyon, Hunan Province. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com/ Duan Xuelian]
After hanging out in the ancient town of Phoenix for half a day and spending the better portion of the night in bars along the Tuo River, what can you do the next day? If you're not in a hurry to leave, you can venture out to a nearby village to explore Miao culture and see beautiful cascades. It's a trip you can do in a single day.
"Tianlong" means "sky dragon" in Chinese. Situated in western Fenghuang County in Hunan Province, a canyon named "Tianlong" lies like a real dragon with beautiful scenery and adventurous paths that attract visitors from across China.
The narrowest part of the canyon is only two meters wide where visitors can see only a "line of sky." The cliffs along a river running through the canyon are 300 meters high. The cascades are the most popular hot spots for people to take photos. But to see all of them, you must first conquer the tough paths ahead.
During a day-trip to Tianlong canyon, you can fully experience "walking in the air" on planks built along the cliffs with the river just below you. A one-way trip takes more than an hour, if you stop halfway to take pictures.
But many visitors give up before they get to the end because they are exhausted. If you persist and reach the end of the canyon, you will be rewarded with a present from nature – a bottle of drinkable spring water. The spring water drips from a round stone that extends from the ceiling of a cave. The stone is called the "Thousand Threads" because of the continuously dripping water.
It is said that the canyon was named "Tianlong" because an ancient Chinese warrior nicknamed "Tianlong" hid here after he failed to murder an emperor who imposed heavy burdens on his people.
Gouliang Miao Village
Gouliang Miao Village is located southwest of the ancient town of Phoenix. It is a good place to learn about the culture of the Miao ethnic minority group, which has remained untouched by the culture of the Han, China's majority ethnic group.
After Fenghuang County became a popular destination for tourists, the Gouliang Miao Village opened to the public. You can watch folk performances such dances and attend marriage ceremonies and festivals.
Currently, 300 families consisting of about 1,000 people reside in the village. Many of them do not speak Mandarin.
Miao people welcome visitors by singing. They stand at the entrance of the village to sing, adding "yo wei" at the end to indicate that a song has ended.
According to Miao custom, only those visitors who sing a song in return are allowed into the village. Otherwise, each visitor must drink three big bowls of wine instead.
If you plant to visit a Miao village, there are three taboos. First, do not whistle in the village. In the religion of the Miao people, whistles are calls for the devil.
Second, do not walk on the threshold of a Miao home. In Miao culture, thresholds symbolize the shoulders of those who live in the house. Trampling on the threshold means you are stepping on the shoulders of the family members. Third, do not walk into a home with an opened umbrella unless you intend to marry a son or a daughter of the family.
Near the Gouliang Miao Village, you will find a group of cascades in a small valley.
The valley is named "Ancient Ghost" because of a local tale. It is said that once a couple of lovers eloped here and promised to commit suicide in a deep pool because their families wanted to break them up. The couple promised to jump together after counting to three. The young woman jumped, but her fiancé did not. People say that the young woman's ghost haunts the valley and continues to search for her fiancé who betrayed her.
Nowadays, people come to the valley to take pictures and enjoy its beautiful scenery.
8:30 a.m.— Start out from the ancient town of Fenghuang
10 a.m.— Arrive at the "Ancient Ghost" valley
11 a.m.— Leave the "Ancient Ghost" valley for Gouliang Miao Village
11:15 a.m.— Arrive at Gouliang Miao Village
11:30 a.m.-12: 40 p.m.— See a performance in the village
12:40 p.m.-1:30 p.m.— Eat lunch
2 p.m.— Arrive at Tianlong Valley
4:15 p.m.— Leave Tianlong Valley for Fenghuang town
5:30 p.m.— Arrive at Fenghuang town
(CRI September 8, 2009)