In December Danny and I had a three day weekend so we made the trek to Fenghuang, a mountain town that is a popular tourist site for Chinese. Fenghuang has a small, slow moving river that divides its Old Town District. The Old Town is fairly well preserved and doesn’t have any of the modern slapdash buildings that spring up overnight in other Chinese cities.
The Old Town is really neat. It has narrow, almost claustrophobic, streets and alleyways. Streets that seem to be the mark of ancient cities, streets that you just don’t see in the United States.
On our last day, Danny and I went to a town an hours drive from Fenghuang. Huangsi Bridge Old Town was supposed to also have an ancient town that wasn’t as tourist driven or as well preserved as Fenghuang. We made it after spending half a day figuring out how to get there and haggling with taxi drivers. Fenghuang is a pretty small town by Chinese standards and it attracts a lot of tourists, mostly Chinese but a few Westerners, so nobody was surprised by our presence. Huangsi felt like we were really in the sticks and we drew a lot of attention from the towns people. The town itself was not remarkable, but we did find a store owner that let of play with old swords and shoot arrows from new bows.
Now a little bit about what Fenghuangs role in Chinese culture. I’m lifting this from the wikipedia page on Fenghuang. They are a mythical bird known in English as the Chinese Phoenix. Its body is a composite of many birds, including pheasants, ducks, peacocks, cranes, and swallows. Males used to be called Feng and females called Huang, but in more recent times the Fen and Huang have combined to create a female entity (which can represent the Empress) that is often paired with the male dragon (the Emperor) to create a yin-yang balance. Paired with dragons the Fenghuang also symbolizes blissful relations between husband and wife, so the two are commonly seen on wedding decorations.