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Ancient Fenghuang Town

       Fenghuang is an ancient town of Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, situated on the western boundary of Hunan Province. It covers an area about 1700 sq km, with a population of 440 thousand. 1.5 hours bus from Jishou to Fenghuang, it is an outstanding town for its natural beauty where mountains, water and blue skies prevail. This elegant town is dominated by the colour of green. The mountain slopes are covered with green plants, 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 is particularly true that mist pervades the scene in the early morning or after a rain. A famous painter Rewi Alley from Australia appraised this town as one of the two most beautiful ancient towns in the whole China. The other town is the Chang Ting in Fujian Province.

       In this ancient town, dozens of alleys paved with flagstones run between the houses. Along these alleys lie some famous former residences and buildings. Nowadays, you can find local people, students, buyers and sellers rubbing shoulders with each other. In the early morning, they will be busy. Parents send their kids to school, farmers go to fields and breakfast shops are selling rice noddles. You can find how harmonious it is. For the visitor, these alleys are the way to see the quart-yards and typical wooden houses built along the Tuo Jiang River with suspended pillars.

      Running from northwest to southeast of the town, Tuo River is a mother river for the local people. In ancient times, ‘Tuo” means “snake” because the Miao people thought the river seemed like a snake with winding turns. Why Miao people called it “Tuo River” but “Snake River”? That is because snake(In Chinese, it means “She”) is a taboo, especially people will avoid saying “snake” or “dragon” in the morning. Here along the river women wash their clothes and men fish with their nets, which has been the local people’s typical life for centuries. The river also provides an opportunity for boatmen to support their families by ferrying tourists up and down.

      Most of people are Miao ethnic minorities. To visit the Miao village is a must after arriving at the ancient Fenghuang town. The Miao women love to dress in traditional blue garments set off with a white scarf. They show highly respect to their silver ornaments, especially during important festivals. A large number of hand made silver ornaments are for sale in the local shops. Home made batik cloths are the local specialties. The Miao people are friendly and hospitable.


      Fenghuang town was home to the versatile writer Shen Congwen (1902-1988) who contributed greatly to the development of modern Chinese literature. One of his famous works is the Border Town which was translated into English, French and so on. He also did a lot of researches on the ancient Chinese costumes and composed a book. Now this book is really a treasure for China.

    There are two other notable people from the town. Xiong Xiling was the first Premier of the Republic of China from July 1913 to February 1914. When Xiong was young, his father Xiongzhaoxiang was so strict to him that he was very good at examinations and got a high reputation through out of China .

    The other famous people is Huang Yongyu, an outstanding contemporary painter. He loves lotus and is very good at traditional Chinese painting. His residence has become a major tourist attraction.

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