The Fenghuang Gucheng (凤凰古城) in Hunan literally means Phoenix Ancient Town. Some says that it is “the most beautiful city of China“.
The town was built around 1700 during the 43-year reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, and it is located in the western border of Hunan and by the riverside of beautiful Tuojiang River.
A legend said that two phoenixes flew over Fenghuang old town and we’re reluctant to leave because it is so beautiful.
Having been to many “old towns” in China like the Qibao old town in Shanghai and river side towns in Suzhou, this town is not very different from the rest: crowded, restored and commercialized. Yes, lots of souvenir shops.
But there are many differences and saving grace about this town!
Unfortunately, I went with a guide tour so my time was limited there. We didn’t had the chance to visit the museums and old residences there. I did ‘sneak out’ alone to see the town in the night.
The guide says that I just need to show a picture of her ticket and I could enter. I was stopped at the door, saying that the ticket must be a physical ticket. (This was the start of a lot of scammy incidents during this trip.) Luckily, I decided to give it another go when the guard changed and I managed to get in.
5 reasons why Fenghuang Ancient Town (凤凰古城）is still worth a visit for your family.
📜 Go in the night as well as day because Fenghuang ancient town gives very different vibe at different times. The night time seems more commercialized at night with all the lights lit up. Personally, I like to admire the original structure of old buildings.
📜 Fortunately, a lot of Qing and Ming Dynasty style buildings are still well preserved. The wooden stilt houses called “Diaojiaolou” (吊脚楼 meaning suspended houses) which were built half suspended over the river to keep them safe from the spring floods. This is similar the Hongya Cave in Chongqing.
📜 If your children likes river cruise, you can take one in a old boat along Tuojiang River. Go under hundred years old bridges and see breathtaking view of the stilt houses up close.
📜 Rest and relax at the (commercialize) cafes and restaurants. Though expensive for Chinese’s standards, it is still an enjoyable al fresco experience relaxing by the river banks.
📜 The ancient town is home to the Miao and Tujia ethnic minorities, with their unique ethnic languages and customs.
You can walk across the river! There are well-built steps to cross the river further down stream. It would be nice to cross the river on nature rocks but I think the authorities rather not risk that with the crowd. Still, it is an interesting experience for city kids to try, especially mine who never had a chance to go into wilderness.