Last week's blog post was an introduction to Fenghuang, a small village in Hunan province in south central China. This week, I want to show some of the natural beauty of the Fenghuang area, the waterfalls of Furong. Furong means hibiscus and the 2000 year old town was renamed as such because a famous Chinese movie called "Hibiscus Town" was filmed there. The above videos highlight the Furong waterfall. The height of the waterfall is about 60 meters; it's about 40 meters wide. Travelers may walk under and behind the waterfall, as seen in the video on the right. The sound of the rushing water is very peaceful and can be heard from at least a mile away. There were very few foreign tourists in Furong, at least that was the case in 2016.
Join me on a Chow Fun tour and witness some of China's natural beauty!
My son, Max, has been to China three times. (Three is the number of times I went to China in 2014, but in comparison with the average American, three times is a lot.) Max has seen a lot of China and in his opinion, the most beautiful place is Fenghuang.
Fenghuang is a village surrounded by mountains, located in Hunan Province, south central China. The architecture is traditional Ming and Qing Dynasty. All of the houses along the water are built on stilts, adding to the charm and mystery.
The Tuojiang River flows through the well-preserved, ancient part of the village. The locals row long, wooden boats on the water. Some are traveling to and from different parts of the village for work or shopping; others boats are available to rent, like a gondola in Venice. Waterfalls abound. There are round rock pillars across parts of the river on which people walk from one bank to the other.
The area is home to Miao and Tujia minorities. Their clothing, food, culture, music and traditions are distinct, making a journey to Fenghuang seem like entering another country.
Visiting Fenghuang gives travelers an idea what it was like in all of China before modernization. Better get to China soon! Modernization is a sign of growth and strength and something to which the Chinese government and people aspire. The Fenghuangs of China will not stay this way forever.
In almost every pond in every garden in China are koi fish. In every gallery, there are paintings, embroideries and sculptures of koi. Clothing is embroidered with koi. Koi are a common tattoo in China. But why?
Koi, colorful carp, are a common symbol in Chinese culture. Since they swim upstream, against the current, they represent energy in nature. To the Chinese people, koi are a symbol of good fortune, longevity, success and courage. These positive attributes stem from the legend of "Dragon Gate". In this tale, koi swim through waterfalls, upstream to reach a gate at the mountaintop. When they reach the gate, it turns into a dragon, which is the most powerful symbol in the Chinese zodiac.
Two koi are often seen in the shape of the yin yang symbol, representing balance in the universe. The symbol usually has one white koi and one black, representing the male and the female, the light and the dark.
In most public gardens in China, people of all ages feed the koi, hopeful that this will bring them good fortune. The koi are huge! They clamber over one another in search of the pieces of food on the water's surface, their mouths opening and closing as if they are blowing bubbles.
Whether it be in the ponds surrounding Hangzhou's West Lake or in the Yu Garden ponds, koi are an ever present reminder of color, serenity and beauty.
I like to get close ups of fruits, vegetables and spices when I travel, particularly in China. Months or years after a trip, when I look at photo books, the pictures that speak to me are the colorful shapes of the red chili peppers, the purple eggplants and the pink dragonfruit.
I see the same fruits and vegetables at every market in China, but I take the pictures anyway. Each time I look at a bunch of carrots, or a pile of chilis, what I see at the end of the lens is different. The colors, the shapes, the arrangements bring back the smells of the market and the people who sell there.
Although we have weekend farmers' markets in the States, they are poor substitutes for Chinese markets, like painted black and white photos. They seem like an attempt to emulate the real thing, but without the loud yelling, ripe smells, throngs of people, haze of smoke and bright, carefree smiles. They leave me feeling a little empty. I yearn for the original, those markets that take me back in time and make me happy.
I hope that you will join me in China and discover a true farmer's market!
I have traveled all over the world, including adventures in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, England, Denmark, Russia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Dominican Republic, Canada and Mexico. My greatest love is introducing Americans to the sites, traditions and people of China. My hope is to give travelers a new lens through which to see the world.