Charming back street at Fenghuang Old Town

Legend has it that a pair of mythical firebirds flew over this town and were so captivated by its beauty that they were reluctant to leave. The Phoenix or Fenghuang is reborn by fire and is a harbinger of good and appear only in places that are blessed with peace and prosperity and also symbolizes longevity.

Preserved Pig Innards & Chinese Ham hung out to dry

Fenghuang Town is located in Hunan Province in China and it covers an area of 1.8km with about 20 ancient streets, a dozen lanes and passages and over 200 ancient civil residences remaining. Built over 450 years ago, the rich historical background and the preservation of the town warrants for it to be included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Delicious Piping Hot Doufu Sprinkled with Chili Flakes

This ancient town is drawing not only tourists but the literati, artists, historians and architects because it has been preserved well and is an outstanding site for studying construction, human settlement, technical design and also environmental protection.

This is a 3rd Generation Honey Ginger Candy shop that the Ma family has been running

There was apparently a protest staged by the disgruntled locals in mid April this year due to the change in the entrance policy from free to chargeable for Fenghuang Ancient Town by the city’s authorities. The entrance fee of RMB148 for a through ticket to various sightseeing spots would be most convenient though not a paltry sum. Many local businesses saw a drop in tourists visits as well as earnings after the change and it was an unhappy situation for tourists as well, as ticketing has not been administrated properly and some unsuspecting tourists have been scammed by touts.

Picturesque Fenghuang with the Tuojiang River flowing through

If you have time to spare, a boat ride along the crystal-clear Tuojiang River is highly recommended. It offers you a birds’ eye view of Phoenix town and the many ‘Diaojiaolou’ wooden houses built along the river bank. This unique wooden buildings are usually built close to the mountain or above the water, be it creek or river. They are supported by pillars and stilts all completely made of wood without any iron used in construction.

This is a ‘River of life’ for the mainly Miao, Tujia minorities & Han people inhabiting Fenghuang with Hongqiao (Rainbow Bridge) spanning it

This is one scene seared onto my memory. Some ladies were busy washing their clothes and beside them a lady was washing her vegetables carefully lined on the ground and a metre away another lady was thrashing her blacken mop on the quay-side steps in a bid to clean it. What do you make of that?

Sulphur blocks for sale
Dried & Preserved Pork belly akin to Yunnan ham perhaps?
Tuija ladies peddling their ethnic handicrafts & other knick knacks along the redbrick old ramparts at Dongmen (East Gate)

It is always interesting to visit the weekend markets or street vendors to see what they have to offer.

Curious onlookers atop the ancient Dongmen tower watching the procession of worshippers heading towards TienHouGong (Queen of Heaven Temple)
Entrance of the opera troupe

We were greeted by a blaring Chinese band with the piercing sou na (Chinese trumpet) leading the whole entourage which included opera singers in their full regalia. It is rather interesting to watch how the rank and file bearing different gifts and offerings to the deities make their way to the temple with such pomp and circumstance.

Nanbien Shopping Street running alongside the ancient city walls

Fenghuang is famous for her Ginger candy and throughout the town vendors make and sell them for about RMB2-4 per bag. If you chance upon them grab some, they are lovely and works for me like after dinner mints. Shops here also sell many varieties of Chinese tea, a large array of silver jewellery and ornaments and handmade tie-dyes, printed and batik cloths that make wonderful souvenirs. If you have a sweet tooth like me, then you might want to try the peanut candy. If you are lucky you might catch them pounding the roasted and skinned peanuts together with malted sugar using a huge wooden mallet. Freshly made they are so tasty, crunchy and simply good!

An interesting 2 way bridge across Tuojiang River for pedestrians
Another bridge paved for those pushing trolleys or carts to get across Tuojiang River and the Nanhua Bridge behind for cars, trucks and everything else

Tuojiang River is the mother river that flows around the ancient city wall of Fenghuang. Many of the Tujia minority buildings are located along the river. The river is always teeming with life as the women do their laundry here, the men fish here and the river boats are always plying up and down ferrying tourists.

Fenghuang’s version of a yummy Crab-stick

Not one to worry too much about food hygiene, I enjoyed this delectable afternoon snack of tiny crabs fried to a crisp.

Dongzheng Shopping street

Walking through the street here is a great way to experience what life might have been like during the Ming and Qing dynasties (15th to 20th centuries). Do have a closer look at the architecture and especially the fascinating roof features.

Diaojiaolou hugging the sides of Nanhua Mountain

Majestic Fenghuang has managed to maintain her layout and original appearance suffering little or no ravage from natural disasters, rebellions, invasions and the Japanese occupation.

A beautiful view of Nanhua Mountain, emerald green Tuojiang River and Tujia houses and the Wanming Pagoda dating from the Qing & Ming dynasties ~ priceless

The beauty of Fenghuang lies in the balance and harmony between mankind and the mountains and water. The ancient city blends in ecologically with its undulating surrounding and it continues to attract and charm visitors!

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