Phoenix City

Hunan Province in China

I went to Fenghuang in Hunan Province 2006, because it is said to be one of the most beautiful ancient cities in China and therefore many artists live there. It got its name from an immortal mythological Chinese bird and is therefore called: “Phoenix City” in English.

During the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220) there were two phoenixes, one male (feng) and the other female (huang) and they were often shown together facing each other. During the Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368) the two terms were merged to become the king of all birds and came to symbolize the Empress when paired with a dragon, which represented the Emperor. Fenghuang was also used in the emblem of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay and one of the reasons was that it belongs to fire in five elements in Chinese philosophy.

Fenghuang seems not to be the same as the phoenix of the Western world, which derives from Egyptian mythology. The Egyptian phoenix, set fire to itself every 500 years and is reborn, rising from its ashes.

Fenghuang is a small city that became famous because of Shen-Congwens writings, who was born there (1902 – 1988) and was a member of the Miao ethnic minority. He contributed greatly to the development of modern Chinese literature.

Fenghuang is surrounded by mountains and the Tuojiang River runs through the city and can be crossed by the Rainbow Bridge. There is a tea house on the bridge and an exhibition of old paintings. Many traditional Miao-style houses, built on stilts, stand by the river. I sailed on the river with a boat, which reminded me of a gondola in Venice, Italy.

The majority of people in Fenghuang belong to the Miao ethnic communities, who have their own language and unique culture. Women wear finely worked silver headdresses and ornaments.

I walked beside the river from the city and found a restaurant where I had an excellent lunch. It is said that the four essentials in Chinese kitchen are a cutting board, knife, wok and spoon. Rapid, even cutting is an important trademark of any good cook. The most common method of cooking is stir-frying in a wok over very high heat. This saves fuel, results in crisp texture, maximizes vitamin retention and most important for tourists it makes the food safer.

The music is provided by my friend Chuck Jonkey in Los Angeles. He is musician/composer and known as the “Indiana Jones of the music world” because he has travelled around the world to collect sounds, instruments, environmental recordings and ethnic tribal music. He is the owner of the independent record label Sonic Safari Music, where e.g. ethnic tribal music and music by him can be bought. His collection of strange musical instruments is enormous, which he uses sometimes in his music. Chuck Jonkey’s music has been featured in many feature films e.g. Rambo IV (2008), J.F.K. (1991), The Doors (1991) and TV shows, e.g. Nip / Tuck (2003), Survivors and shows at Discovery Channel. He has also composed several hundred musical pieces for Microsoft’s software products.

To order the CD with music in the video from Sonic Safari Music you can click on the cover:

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