Discovering Fengyang: Birthplace of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of China’s Ming dynasty

Discovering Fengyang: Birthplace of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of China’s Ming dynasty

One of my previous teacher’s favourite Chinese emperors has always been Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of China’s Ming dynasty.

It was through him that I learned all about that particular emperor’s life, achievements and also failures. Back then I never dreamt of one day having the chance to go and visit this emperor’s birth place and walk the paths he has walked as a child. But with the help of Anhui International TV I got the opportunity in late June 2015 to discover Fengyang, the birthplace of Zhu Yuanzhang.


fengyangFengyang 凤阳 is actually a small county of Anhui province. To be honest I hadn’t heard about the city before. When we arrived at first it looked like any other smaller Chinese city in Anhui.

Only after we started filming and I got introduced to the local history did I discover how important this city (or county) has been and still is to many people.


As I said at the very beginning, Fengyang is the birth place of Zhu Yuanzhang (1328 – 1398), who later became an important rebel leader and the founder of China’s Ming Dynasty. So most historical sites in Fengyang are linked to this famous person. Even though Zhu Yuanzhang became the Hongwu Emperor and took up his seat in Nanjing, he never forgot his roots. He honoured the memory of his father and mother by posthumously raising them to imperial dignity, and building an imperial-style mausoleum in Fengyang, known as Ming Huangling (明皇陵, literally, “Ming Imperial Mausoleum”) for them. Most of the stone figures of the Huangling Mausoleum have survived and can still be seen today. Zhu Yuanzhang even went so far as to start building a new imperial capital, named Zhongdu (中都, “The Central Capital”) in Fengyang, but the project was never finished.

Nowadays, both the Ming Huangling Mausoleum and the remains of the capital-building project in Fengyang are protected as a national historic site known as “Zhongdu Imperial City of the Ming and the Imperial Mausoleum’s Statuary” (明中都皇故城及皇陵石刻).

Fengyang is also very popular for one of China’s most famous and auspicious symbols, the phoenix. In one of my previous posts I have already talked about all the meanings and how I had the chance to learn from one of Fengyang’s old masters in Pheonix art. The phoenix is present all over Fengyang. We also visited a primary school where children still learned the old traditional dance with little drums, called Fengyang Huagu 凤阳花鼓. For centuries it was a tradition to decorate the little drums with phoenix paintings. The traditional dance with these little drums has survived until today in Fengyang and I got a little dance lesson as well.

Below you can check out the entire show we shot that day. It was really a great experience I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.


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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

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