Situated on the western boundary of Hunan Province, Fenghuang County is an old town built in the Qing Dynasty, praised as “the Most Beautiful Town in China”.
The town is surrounded by numerous mountains and girdled by the Tuojiang River and over half of the city’s population belong to the Miao or Tujia minorities.
It is small town renowned for its natural beauty, rich history, and culture, colorful ethnic customs, as well as many distinctive architectural remains of Ming (14th century) and Qing (17th century) styles. The town still keeps much of its original appearance even after 300 years, and it’s a wonderful example of what villages were like prior to the onset of modernization.
‘Fenghuang’ is Chinese for ‘Phoenix’, the mythical sacred firebird in Chinese mythology that reign over all other birds. According to legend, two of these mythical birds, representing good omen and longevity, flew over it and found the town.
The town has more than 20 ancient streets, dozens of ancient lanes and passages, and over 200 ancient civil residences here, including the Wengchen Pavilion, Huang Si Qiao Castle, Tian Wang Temple, Da Cheng Hall, Chao Yang Palace, and the tomb of Shen Congwen and the residence of Xiong Xiling.
Shen Congwen (1902-1988) was a versatile writer who wrote stories and essays about his hometown along the western border of Hunan Province and who contributed greatly to the development of modern Chinese literature. He is highly respected by the local people, and the one time home and the tomb of this famous writer have become tourist attractions.
The bridges over the water and unique houses built on stilts display a harmony that is so often portrayed in traditional Chinese paintings. The Miao people began to live there in the Qing Dynasty.
Most of the wooden buildings in the old part of the city were constructed during that time period. These wooden houses highlight the local Miao people’s knowledge of the surrounding environment and unique climate.
The riverside setting of the village, with its wooden stilt houses and narrow mysterious back alleys, makes it one of the most attractive places in the region.
Because of its unique geographical location, Fenghuang has not suffered from the destruction of wars or natural disasters in hundreds of years. On March 28, 2008, the town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in the Cultural category.