Surrounded by mountains and rivers, the Ancient Town of Phoenix is located in the western part of Central China’s Hunan Province, south of the Tujia and Miao prefectures. It has a history of over 1300 years and some of the old gardens, residential buildings, bridges and pagodas date back as far as the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911).
This is a mysterious fairyland with strong features of water town and local tradition. Upon entering the town, you will be impressed by its air of mystery, elegance, and primitive simplicity, just like a phoenix.
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. The bridges over the water and unique houses built on stilts display a harmony that is so often portrayed in traditional Chinese paintings. This is particularly true when mist pervades the scene in the early morning or after rain. This is a world that is dominated by the color green. The mountain slopes are covered with green foliage, the fields are green, and even the Tuo Jiang River reflects the greenery.
Tuo Jiang River, the “mother river” of Phoenix, is a life force of the local people. Their daily routines evolve around the river.
According to its different features in one day, Phoenix takes on varying looks, just like the diverse roles of a woman. The morning is always the best time of the day. It is no exception in Phoenix. When the mountain tops are still submerged in the heavy morning mist, and there are hardly any pedestrians or vehicles on the roads, you can hear the rhythmic sounds of water rushing through the wooden dams and smell the scent of plants and soil in the fresh humid air.
Then, when the sun begins to peek from behind the mountains, people trickle out to the riverside. Women wash their clothes and clean rice and vegetables while the men fish with their nets. Wooden boats moor quietly on the riverside. Vendors are just beginning to unfold their wooden doors and display all sorts of souvenirs. Neither the locals nor the visitors are willing to break the silent morning spell, as if fearing to wake up the drowsy town.
The majority of the residents in the town are Miao ethnic minority people. The Miao women have a natural beauty that renders the use of cosmetics quite unnecessary. They love to dress in traditional blue garments set off with a white scarf. They also love their silver jewelry, especially during festivals. In the shops you will find examples of the Miao people’s special crafts: hand-made silver jewelry, tie-dyes, printed and batik cloths.
The local dishes are famous for their large numbers of pickled red peppers. So be prepared! This ancient town also has many local snacks. Ginger candy is by far the most popular.
Phoenix Ancient Town is a place to stroll the alleyways, to take a boat ride along the Tuojiang River, to sit and observe the local people and their daily life, and to imagine what China was like before the onset of modernization. For tourists, Phoenix Town is a Chinese dream, a wonderland of ancient mysteries.