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Feng Huang

'Feng Huang' means 'Phoenix' in Chinese, the mythical bird of good omen and longevity that is consumed by fire to be re-born again from the flames. Feng Huang Cheng or Phoenix Town is so called as legend goes that two of these fabulous birds flew over it and found the town so beautiful that they hovered there, reluctant to leave.

The town is situated on the western boundary of Hunan Province. Upon entering the town the visitor will be impressed by its air of mystery, elegance and primitive simplicity. This is a world that is dominated by the color green. The mountain slopes are covered with green foliage, the fields are green and even the Tuo Jiang River reflects the greenery. The bridges over the water and unique houses built on stilts display a harmony that is so often portrayed in traditional Chinese paintings. It soon becomes apparent that the claim to being one of the two most beautiful towns in the whole of China is more than justified; the other town is Chang Ting in Fujian Province.

Feng Huang Cheng is a wonderful example of what villages were like prior to the onset of modernization. Here dozens of alleys paved with flagstones run between the houses, each showing wear caused by the feet of generations of local people who have used them when going about their daily business. For the visitor, these alleys are the way to see the typical high gabled wooden houses built on stilts along the banks of the Tuo Jiang River at close quarters.

The Miao ethnic minority is predominantly settled here and a visit to a Miao village is a must when going to Feng Huang Cheng. The Miao women have a natural beauty that renders the use of cosmetics quite unnecessary. They love to dress in traditional blue garments set off with a white scarf. They love also their silver jewellery especially during festivals. The Miao are friendly and hospitable and like nothing more than to interact with visitors with a variety of traditional entertainments and activities. Food here also is different from that found elsewhere in China. Pickled red peppers are a particular local delicacy and their appetizing smell wafts from the many small family run restaurants.

Feng Huang Cheng does not rely entirely upon natural beauty to attract the visitor for this ancient town with a history spanning 1300 years has a number of remarkable old gardens as well as distinctive residential buildings, elegant bridges and mysterious towers and pagodas. These architectural delights date from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911). Those of special interest are 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. Here too there are the North Gate and South Great Wall both excellent examples of municipal fortification.