Fenghuang (Phoenix) Ancient City is a very well preserved town with its unique ethnic customs and Ming and Qing architectural styles in the western boundary of Hunan Province. For the Chinese, the phoenix symbolizes immortality and good omen. Legend has it that two phoenixes flew over the town and found it so beautiful they were reluctant to leave.
The Ancient City stood frozen in time with narrow stone-paved alleys, old bridges, and houses built on stilts all still in use today. It is a wonderful example of what villages in China looked like in the bygone eras. Over half the population here belongs to the Miao or Tujia ethnic minorities and many women of the older generations still dress in their traditional garments.
Fenghuang Ancient City
We visited Fenghuang in conjunction with our trip to Zhangjiajie. It was a good four and a half hours drive from Zhangjiajie. The closest airport is Tongren Fenghuang Airport about 45 mins away but very few flights operate from there. We spent two days wandering around the ancient city, although very commercial, still was beautiful especially when all lit up at night. There is an entrance fee which grants you a boat ride and entrance into ten cultural spots inside the ancient city. It would be hard to not pay the entrance fee as there are checkpoints in the main parts of the city.
Several different bridges, some more elaborate than others, link the two banks.
The Jumping Rocks was built in Qing Dynasty for people to cross the Tuojiang River and is now one of the iconic landmarks of the ancient city. The locals still use is to cross the river and tourists love to pose on these blocks.
Hunan cuisine is spicy and uses a lot of red chillies.
The lights come on at dusk.
Narrow alleys with the ones by the river the most commercial.
This little girl in her traditional Tujia costume is selling little boats with candles you can float onto the Tuojiang River.
There are many hostels inside the walled Ancient City but we opted to stay about 15 mins walk away at a more modern hotel. It was helpful to hire a local guide to show you around the main cultural spots because there are no clear street signs so it is quite easy to get lost. The first thing the guide recommended that we do was the boat ride along the Tuojiang River. After the boat ride, we went to the upstairs salon of the Rainbow covered bridge for some tea and this is a great photo spot of the Tuojiang River.
The boat ride along the Tuojiang River passes under the Rainbow covered bridge – Fenghuang’s own Ponte Vecchio.
Houses on stilts.
Tourists can rent local Tujia costumes for photos.
Rainbow Covered Bridge
In the upstairs salon of the Rainbow Covered Bridge.
Some of the other cultural spots we visited were the old city wall, a few museums and some old houses, but my favorite was just wandering around the city and watching the locals going about their business.
This tempura shrimp cake is very yummy. Every time we pass by this stall (yes you do get lost and go around in circles), we would eat one.
The locals still use these baskets to carry their groceries or even babies.
Why is that one never sees women sitting around playing checkers any where in the world?
Traditional Miao ethnic minority manning her handicraft stall.
The Chinese national passtime – Mahjong.
Playing mahjong on the street!
Pigsy on his break.
Wonder if Pigsy worked at this shop selling cured and dried meats…?
The old city wall.
Traditional architecture with the winged roofs.
View from the city wall.
Window into the past.
Both sides of the river are lined with cafes and bars – perfect for watching the world go by.
Last evening in Fenghuang.