Mainly inhabited by Miao and Tujia minorities, Fenghuang lies at the western border of Hunan province. It is a well-preserved ancient town that takes visitors back to the China of hundreds of years ago.
Fenghuang was little-known by the outside world before it was described in the books of celebrity Chinese writer and native son Sheng Congwen (1902-1988). Readers can find the town’s shadow in many of his novels. In 2001, Fenghuang became a national-level tourist attraction on its cultural and historical merits. It also earned international fame after New Zealand writer Louis Aerie praised it as one of the two most beautiful towns in China (the other being Changting in Fujian province).
Fenghuang is now divided into a new district and an old district. Tourists usually head for the latter, where the bulk of tourist attractions, hotels, shops, bars and restaurants are located. The Tuo River also runs across the old district. You can find a place to stay among the many diaojiaolou-style houses on either side of the river. Diaojiaolou is a type of residential structure traditionally inhabited by minorities scattered throughout Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan and Sichuan provinces.
The most authentic diaojiaolou are built on a slope at the bottom of a mountain and supported by several wooden columns stretching into a body of water. The design allowed the locals in ancient times to live by the river so that the women could wash clothes and the men could fish with nets. At the same time, the house was waterproof and shielded its inhabitants from wild animals living on the mountain. In the past, each family lived in a diaojiaolou that consisted of two or three floors.