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Fenghuang, praised as "the Most Beautiful Town of China" by famous New Zealand writer Rewi Alley, is a small county renowned for its natural beauty, rich history and culture as well as colorful ethnic customs, located at south Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture of Hunan province, China. Fenghuang means Phoenix in Chinese. Phoenix is a mythical sacred firebird in Chinese mythology representing good omen and longevity. Fenghuang town is given the name after Fenghuang Mountain which resembles Phoenix situated 50 miles away from it.
Fenghuang is embraced by green mountains, with Tuo Jiang River running through its heart. Rowboat is one of the main means of transportation. Tourists also can take a rowboat to ramble the county and enjoy the natural beauty. Unique wooden houses constructed on stilts are built along the riverbank. This kind of house is called Diaojiaolou (Chinese for building with hanging legs). The design keeps the buildings safe from the spring floods. It is easy to discover the beauty of Fenghuang lies in its primitive simplicity. Fenghuang people still live a very simple life despite the other places of China are under the onset of modernization. It always reminds people of the scenes in Chinese painting and old Chinese films.
Fenghuang County is divided into two districts: New Town and Ancient Town. Fenghuang Ancient Town's history can be dated back to Spring and Autumn Periods (770 BC to 476 BC). The presenting Fenghuang Ancient Town was built in the 43 year of the Reign of Emperor Kangxi of Qing Dynasty (1704), where the ancient buildings in distinct Qing Dynasty style are well preserved. Fairly long history endows it with over 300 culture heritages, such as Huang Si Qiao Castle, the best preserved stone castle built in Tang Dynasty (year 687); the meandering Xiangxi Border Walls, which was built during Ming Dynasty, is praised highly as China's Southern Great Wall; and the flagstone paths paved during Ming and Qing Dynasties. Besides, there are famous ancient buildings including Longevity Palace, Chao Yang Palace and Heavenly King Temple.
Fenghuang County is the hometown of renowned Chinese writer Shen Congwen, whose masterpiece The Border Town written in 1934, describing a sentimental love story in Fenghuang County is known to every family and won Fenghuang a national-wide fame. He is highly respected by local people, and his former residence is one of the popular attraction spots of Fenghuang.
Fenghuang is also an ethnic minority group area, and Miao ethnic minority takes the predominance in number. Exploring Shanjiang Miao Village, where the Miao customs, living style and festivals are kept intact, can be an impressive and interesting experience.
Shopping in Fenghuang, "one of the two most beautiful towns in China", is another way to discover the flavor of Xiangxi. The food in Fenghuang is very spicy, and you'd better tell the waiter or waitress that you don't want too much chili in your dishes when ordering your food. The people in Fenghuang are good at handicrafts, and the most famous handicraft is batik painting. While walking down an old street, you can find many interesting things.
Ginger sugar is very popular here. It is a special sugar made from sugar and ginger, allowing you to taste both the sweet from the sugar and the hot from the ginger. Ginger sugar can also be used as protection from getting a cold. Many shops in Fenghuang sell ginger sugar, which is free to taste. If you like this special mix, take some home.
The batik painting is another interesting attraction that you shouldn't miss here. Batik paintings are a symbol of the Miao nationality's handicraft. If you are female, you can buy the local blue Miao skirt here, giving you a special experience when walking around the ancient town.
Fenghuang has a subtropical monsoon humid climate featured distinct four seasons, sufficient rainfall and abundant sunshine. The annual temperature is 12 °C (58.6 °F) to 16 °C (60.8 °F). July is the hottest month of Fenghuang with the monthly average temperature of 24 °C (75.2 °F) to 27 °C (80.6 °F), and January is the coldest month with the monthly average temperature of 1.7 °C (35 °F) to 4.3 °C (39.7 °F).
Best time to go: Spring and autumn. It is advisable for tourists to avoid May festival (May 1st to 7th) and National Holiday (October 1st to 7th), because there will be very crowd with visitors.
Each year there is dragon boat racing held in the town on the dates around Dragon Boat festival ( June 2, 2014, June 20, 2015). Read more on Dragon boat racing in Fenghuang Ancient Town
For traveling to Fenghuang, tourists should firstly get to Jishou (the capital city of Xiangxi Autonomous prefecture of Hunan province) or Huaihua (a big city of Hunan province), and then change buses to Fenghuang. There are direct buses bring tourists to Fenghuang from both two cities.
There are many attractions worth visiting; therefore the recommended visiting duration is over one day.
The public order of Fenghuang County is sound, If there is something emergent, you can call 110 for help.
ATM can be found in the banks of Fenghuang, and the POS is available at some big scenic areas, hotels and entertainment centers.
Fenghuang is a small county and getting there is not that convenient as getting to big cities. For traveling to Fenghuang, tourists should firstly get to Jishou (the capital city of Xiangxi Autonomous prefecture of Hunan province) or Huaihua (a big city of Hunan province), and then change buses to Fenghuang. There are direct buses bring tourists to Fenghuang from both two cities.
Direct buses from JIshou to Fenghuang are available at the square of Jishou Railway Station from 6:00am to 20:00pm, air-conditioner equipped. The bus journey is about one and a half hour and the ticket price ranges from RMB10 to RMB12. Tourists also can take buses at Jishou Long-distance Bus Station about 50 meters away from Jishou Railway Station.
Tourists can take the buses at Huaihua Long-distance Bus Station (10 minutes walking from Huaihua Railway Station). There are public buses connecting Huaihua Railway Station and HUaihua Long-distance Bus Station at the square of railway station. The buses traveling to Fenghuang are available from 7:00am to 18:00pm with an interval of 20 minutes. It takes about two and a half hour to get to Fenghuang. The price varies between RMB20 to RMB30.
There are mainly four ways: walking, taking a rowboat (RMB10 per person), renting a bicycle (RMB15) and renting a car (from RMB 50 to RMB150). It depends on you. Cycling about the county and a glide on Tuojiang River both are very interesting and impressive experiences. Renting a car to the attraction spots distances away from the county is convenient.