Located on the western edge of Hunan Province next to Guizhou, Feng Huang Cheng's beauty lives up to this story. It is well-renowned in China for its unique mystical beauty, which sets an example of what villages were like before the start of modernization.
Feng Huang is Chinese for 'phoenix', the mythical bird which is a good omen and symbolizes longevity. When consumed by fire, Feng Huang will be reborn from the flames. Feng Huang Cheng gets its name from a legend that two of these fantastic birds flew over the town and found the town so beautiful that they hovered it, reluctant to leave.
Feng Huang Cheng's charm goes beyond the natural beauty. This ancient town has a history of 1,300 years and it has a number of old gardens as well as distinctive residential buildings, elegant bridges and mysterious towers and pagodas. In Feng Huang Cheng, tourists can also have a glimpse of the Great Wall. This section of the Great Wall was built in the Ming Dynasty (1573-1620) to defend against the local Miao minority ethnic group, which defied the central government at that time.
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. 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.
Claimed to be one of the two most beautiful towns in China, it has attracted many visitors from home and abroad. In many ways, life has not changed here for centuries and this is typified by the tough, hard working yet simple-hearted people. I am sure that the opportunity to travel in such a picturesque region will be remembered as an experience of a lifetime.