"Fenghuang" Tuojiang by mke1963

Tuojiang Travel Guide: 7 reviews and 12 photos

Between Huaihua and Jishou in western Hunan is one of China's most beautiful riverside towns, and little known to foreigners. Chinese people know it well, for several elebrities of Chinese history lived here, including Xiong Xiling, the first prime minister of the Republic of China.
In times gone by, this was a truly remote spot, on the edge of China's civilization, and disputed territory for a number of the old kingdoms. To the north and west of the town lie remains of China's southern - or Hunan - Great Wall. Short stretches of the western part have been poorly restored for the quick satisfaction of the Digicams of coach-borne tourists; to the north, the wall criss-crosses the Jishou road numerous times without even a murmur nor a signboard from the authorities.

Fenghuang itself is reinventing itself as a tourist town, and its relative isolation from foreign tourists will disappear within a few years: new expressways are plunging into and through this part of the world, and the days of 15 hour journeys from Changsha are definitely numbered. So far, Fenghuang clings on to its heritage with its fingertips, but there are signs that it will soon become difficult to spot the genuine older houses from the pastiche concrete blocks copying the style - but sadly never the grace - of these old houses. The beauty of Fenghuang, like that of thousands of small Chinese villages, is in its ramshackle nature, mixing styles and effects, while remaining a living breathing town. Fenghuang s on its way to becoming another Lijiang or Yangshuo with pancakes offered at several snackshops and restaurants.
The prime focus of attention is the covered bridge, now mainly inhabited by tourist shops and antique dealers, with a few teahouses on the upper floor. Beneath this bridge, the Tuojiang river makes a serene scene, sluggishly flowing past, twisting around the bend just past the bridge. On either side, houses cram into every last space, all tiles, verandahs and perilously tilting walls, all somehow held together by big wooden shafts and flying buttresses. Close to the bridge, stone steps lead down to the water where Miao and Tujia women crouch over washing, beating their laundry with wooden battens and smooth stones.

It is possible to walk alongside the river on a stone-flagged walkway right out of town into the next village, where the beautiful old houses are lovingly maintained by proud owners. It is possible to walk back the 1.5km on the roadway, passing close behind the upper part of the Wanning pagoda back in Fenghuang.
The main part of Fenghuang lies to the north of the old town, yet even here many of the architectural prode remains, with many houses restored or in their original state.

South of Fenghuang is Huaihua. North is Jishou.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Truly beautiful old town on the Tuojiang river
  • Cons:Getting the tourist makeover
  • In a nutshell:See it as soon as you can
  • Last visit to Tuojiang: Mar 2005
  • Intro Updated Apr 3, 2005
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Reviews (8)

Comments (2)

  • ellyse's Profile Photo
    Sep 6, 2007 at 3:43 PM

    Sounds like it's going the way of Yangshuo! Think there's an even closer train station at Mayang. Cheapest could be bus to Qianzhou (1 RMB) then another bus to FH for 3-4 RMB. Love your cover photo. Refreshing after seeing tons of the same classic shots!

  • Confucius's Profile Photo
    Apr 3, 2005 at 9:33 PM

    "Oh,... you see that everywhere in Guizhou!" I was wondering where your Fenghuang page could possibly be...darn that confounded VT database!

mke1963

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