Fenghuang is the home town of Shen Congwen (1902-1988), a great
Chinese writer who "brought the China of his past and present alive
without the overburdening and unreal pressure of trying to save it.
Nostalgia breathes through his pastoral countryside scenes, and his
urban landscapes reveal a fractured, paradoxical consciousness--both
unsure and hopeful. " (Review from Amazon.com).
1933, he chartered a little boat with a bamboo canopy from Taoyuan
to sail upstream the River Yuan and reached his hometown Fenghuang
25 days later. During his journey, he wrote the picturesque
landscapes along the Yuan River, the joys and sorrows of boatmen.
his accounts, I paid a visit to his home town Fenghuang after my
journey to Gongtan
in May 2004.
Unfortunately I found Fenghuang had already been heavily
developed. This beautiful town was packed with modern bars,
restaurants and shops catering to mass Chinese tourists, too
commercial and expensive. Hardly could I sight anything traditional
described in Shen Congwen's essays, except the scene of locals using
the river to wash their clothes.
major attraction was to take a craft drifting on the Tuo River,
winding around 1 km through the old town of Fenghuang. How could it
not be romantic to sit on a traditional bamboo raft with a
canopy placed in such a picturesque scene (see photos above and
was not. Too many tourists squeezed on some dozen rafts floating on
the narrow water channel. Animated by their charming guide girls
dressed up in Miao style who sang them local songs, tourists on the
boat either sang together loudly or shouted out to each other.
the day, such noises got on my nerves constantly while I rambled on
the street along the river. Neither could I enjoy a moment of
tranquility in my room facing the elegant Rainbow Bridge in a
traditional stilt wooden house built on the river bank (see photo
the night, songs and noises were replaced by modern music dispatched
from bars. I fled away from Fenghuang the next morning and regretted
not being able to visit this town in its original state before the
massive development taking place several years ago.
are many Miao villages and relics in the outskirts. I visited one
village and was asked to pay a ridiculous Y30-entrance-fee. It was
reported by some travelers that locals were not friendly in some
villages. Besides, the surrounding mountains are less impressive
than those around Gongtan.
Accommodations: The old town has a lot of cheap and clean
family-run hostels. Dormitory rooms with shared bathroom starting
from Y20 per bed. Midrange hotels gathered in the new town. A clean
standard double room with air-condition and bathroom can be
negotiated to Y80 per night.
find its location, see the
map in Central China.
airport is in Zhangjiajie.
The nearest railway station is
Jishou. Trains from Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and Zhangjiajie,
Changsha all stop at Jishou. Buses run between
Fenghuang and Jishou every half an hour.
you can catch a bus heading for Tongren in Guizhou if you want to
visit Fanjingshan Nature Reserve, or a bus to Youyang if you want
to go to Gongtan.
Rating: . Fenghuang is a destination catering to ChineseTourists
which doomed to be noisy, crowded and expensive. Go to Gongtan
if you want to walk away from modern life, search for the
traditional culture and a wild nature.
Links: Rambling in Fenghuang at www.china.org.cn.
Brief Introduction to Fenghuang at
«Fenghuang», written by Shen Congwen. (Only in