Once a frontier town, Fènghuáng (凤凰) marked the boundary between the Han civilisations of the central plains and the Miao (苗), Tujia (土家) and Dong (侗) minorities of the southwest mountains. Protective walls went up in the Ming dynasty, but despite the implications Fènghuáng prospered as a centre of trade and cultural exchange.
Rising from the subtropical and temperate forests of northwest Húnán, Zhāngjiājiè (张家界) has a concentration of quartzite-sandstone formations found nowhere else in the world. Some 243 peaks and more than 3000 karst pinnacles and spires dominate the scenery in this Unesco-protected park.
Hóngjiāng Old Town
This little-known town (洪江古商城; Hóngjiāng Gǔ Shāngchéng) boasts an extraordinary history as a Qing-dynasty financial and trading centre, due to its fortuitous location at the confluence of the Yuán (沅江; Yuán Jiāng) and Wū (巫水; Wū Shuǐ) Rivers. At one time it was the main opium-distribution hub in southwest China.