RICE TERRACES, ETHNIC GROUPS AND KARST SCENERY IN NORTHERN AND WESTERN GUANGXI

LONGSHENG

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Longsheng (near the border of Guizhou Province, 90 kilometers north- northwest of Guilin) is the home of Dong, Zhuang, Yao and Miao ethnic groups. The town of Longsheng isn't so nice but the countryside around is filled with stunning rice terraces and minority villages. There are organized tours to Longsheng from Guilin and Yanshuo. Many travelers do two or three treks in the area.

Longsheng Hot Spring (in Longsheng Hot Spring National Forest Park in Jiangdi Township, Longsheng County) is in an area with green mountains and verdant forests. Hot springs gush out of 1,200 meter-deep layers of rock. The springs are divided into an upper group and a lower group with 16 springs altogether. The water temperature is between 54 and 80 degrees C with a cold spring to regulate it. The specific feature about the water of the hot springs is that it has no smell at all and is drinkable, which has a wonderful taste.

Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Longsheng is accessible by bus or organized tour from Guilin and Yangshuo. Buses leave about every 40 minutes form the main Guilin bus station.Travel China Guide Travel China Guide

Longsheng Rice Terraces

Longsheng Rice Terraces (Ping’an Village in Heping Townshp, 23 kilometers from Longsheng County) comprise are a magnificent scenic area known as the Dragon's Backbone (Longji Titian) First constructed in Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) and completed in Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), it gets the name for resembling a dragon with the mountain top as its backbone. Covering an area of 66 square kilometers, it is scatted from the altitude of 300 to 1,100 meters. [Source: Lu Na, China.org, June 11, 2012]

June when the rice fields are green and filled with water is considered as the best time to visit. It is amazing when you stand on the top of the mountain and see the terraces in a fine weather. Before harvest time, when the rice has a golden, yellow color is also a good time. But if your timing is bad and you come after the harvest, the fields are filled with rice stalks

The rice terraces over a range of 1,000-meter-high hills. What makes them so remarkable are the way the cover the entire hills from top to bottom. The slope angles of the hills are between 26 to 35 degrees, and the biggest angle is 50 degrees. The terraced fields are very all encompassing with high and low layers. A half-hour climb to the top offers amazing views of the hills and layered rice terraces. You can hop off the main path to walk among the terraces to get a closer look.

The 600-year-old village of Ping'an sits near the top ridge of the backbone terraces. An ethnic Zhuang village, it has some small restaurants and accommodations. According to letstravelchina.com: “The climate here is perfect for rice-growing; the terrain isn't. That didn't stop the local farmers; over some 700 years of toil and sweat, they transformed the hills and mountains into terraced, intensely-cultivated rice fields. What they created was also breathtaking-a rare meeting of function and scenic interest. Nestled within the heart of the Longi Titian is the ethnic Zhuang village of Ping An. Charming as it may look with it's somewhat jumbled, terraced homes (everything is "terraced" in this hilly region!), Ping An is a hard-working community.

Travel Information: about two hours away by bus. The region can be done as a day trip from Guilin or an overnight trip if you want to stay longer to explore the endless rice terraces. Hours Open: all day long; Admission: 80 yuan; Getting There: take the minibus from Guilin Bus Station to Longsheng, transfer the local bus to Heping town, and change the minibus to Shuanghekou.

Yao Ethnic Group

The Yao are a fairly large minority. They live primarily in mountainous Guangxi, Guangdong, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces in southern China, but they are also found in northern Thailand (where they are known as the Mian) and northern Laos and Vietnam (where they are known as the Man). About 70 percent of those in China live in Guangxi with most of the remainder live across the border in Hunan, Guangdong, Guizhou, Jiangxi and Yunnan.

The Yao call themselves Mien, Mian and Iu Mien, which means “people." Yao is a Chinese expression that means “dog” or ‘savage." They are also known as the Byau Min, Kim Mun, Pai Yao and Yao Min. The Yao live in "small communities scattered across big areas". They have traditionally lived in the mountains ad engaged in farming and forestry and have been involved in the opium trade and are regarded as one of most advanced ethnic minoritiess. Among the Yao there are many differences in language, social organization, customs, practices, religious beliefs and clothing. Because of this the Yao are called a variety of names by other groups and among the Yao themselves dozens of names are used. In terms of population the Yao rank 12th among China's 56 ethnic groups. [Sources: Ethnic China ethnic-china.com \*\; Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~]

Compared with other nationalities, they have two unique features: they are widely scatted and they have many names. Historically, the Yaos have had at least 30 names based on their ways on where they lived, their lifestyles, and dresses and adornments. In China the Yao are found mainly in 1) Jinxiu, Bama, Dahua, Du'an, Fuchuan and Gongcheng counties of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; 2) Jianghua, Ningyuan, Lanshan and Xinning counties of Hunan Province; 3) Jinping, Hekou, Funing and Malipo counties of Yunnan Province; 4) Liannan, Ruyuan and Lianshan counties of Guangdong Province; and 4) Rongjiang and Congjiang counties of Guizhou Province.

The Yao have long history. As early as the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the name "Moyao"—thought to a name used for the Yao's ancient ancestors— appeared in historical records. Most Yao languages belong to the Miao-Yao language branch of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. Some of them belong to the Zhuang-Dong language branch and Dong-Shui branch. Significant differences exist among different dialects and some of them even cannot communicate.

Farming is the main occupation of the Yao people. They mainly grow on rice and corn. Sticky rice is their staple food. Yao houses are usually made of wood or bamboo. Some of them are also built with bricks and earth, with distinctive roofs. Often they are built on high mountains. Yao people celebrate many festivals, such as the Panwang Festival, the Spring Festival, Danu Festival, Zhongyuan Festival and Shewang Festival. Yao religious life has been heavily influenced by Taoism. They believe in Taoism and the ancient religions. Yao people have a variety of cultural and artistic activities, including their own music, dances and handicrafts. Different Yao groups have different customs and identify themselves as such by wearing different clothing.

Yao Women with Really Long Hair

Huangluo Village (10 kilometers from Longsheng, Longji Township of Longsheng County) is famous for its women with really long hair. The Yao women who here have really long hair, which they fold like turbans at the top of their heads.. The longest hair is about 1.6 meters long. Many Yao women have hair coiled up in many ways: resembling a dragon, an "A", a crescent, a flying swallow, a horn, a board or an umbrella. They very much like silver adornments, including silver medals decorating their jackets and silver bracelets, earrings, necklets and hairpins According to Xinhua: Women here have the tradition of keeping long hair. They use fermented rice water- the water after rinsing rice- together with natural ingredients such as tea seeds and orange peels to wash their hair. The natural shampoo keeps their hair healthy, smooth and shiny.”

According to Vogue: As legend has it, thousands of years ago a girl from the local Yao tribe literally whipped an unwelcome suitor with her hair, and to this day many of the Yao women cut their hair only once in their lives: When they are 18 it is shorn in a public ceremony. After that, the locks are left to grow to exuberant lengths, with the cutoff hair woven back into an elaborate coiffure. Unmarried women tuck their hair into a head scarf; married women favor a wrapped-up style with a large bun at the front. [Source: Vogue, February 4, 2019

“These manes require special maintenance. The hair is washed—lowered, really—into rice water that has been combined with a few other organic ingredients. The mixture is boiled in a pot and then poured into an enamel bowl; a wooden comb is used to methodically work the solution into the hair from tip to root. This routine is said to be the reason for the hair’s preternatural shine and luster, and the way it remains pitch-black even when the possessor is quite elderly.

“Until the 1980s, local lore warned that if a man saw an unmarried girl with her hair down, he would be forced to serve the girl’s family for three years. Now everyone can gaze upon these luxuriant locks without fear of consequences: Huang Luo village itself has become a tourist attraction. The town has even built a theater, where residents don traditional costumes, perform folk songs and dances, and demonstrate how their hair is washed and coiffed. (The revenue from ticket sales provides most of the village’s income; visitors can also purchase bottles of the rice water shampoo.)

“Photographer Joyce Ng spent a third of her time on this project in the main village, but she also went to two less traveled places, located in the rice terraces surrounding Huang Luo...When she arrived in the area, Ng was surprised to find so few women in their teens and early 20s—most of them were off at school, the only way to escape the region’s poverty. And once they leave the village, most of them do cut their hair. When Ng asked older people how they felt about the girls abandoning the hair ritual, she was surprised that they were actually very relaxed about it. “They say it’s everyone’s choice. They are so open-minded,” she says. And even those who keep to the tradition and perform for audiences, dressed in their colorful ensembles, are also fully at home in the modern world: “They wear jeans,” Ng reports, “and they are all on WeChat.”

Pan Yao Three-Horned Hats

The topknots of the Yao women are very complicated. Some of them wear hats, some place decorated brocade or handkerchiefs around their head, some form mallet-like chignon, some use silver hairpins and some attach a board to their heads and then wrap their hair around it to form a chignon. The Panyao women in Longsheng County, Guangxi always wear a three-horned hat: a hat-like framework woven with sawali and hemp and then covered with delicately embroidered cloth. Women of different ages wear hats of different colors. Old women wear cyan hats, which stand for longevity; middle-aged women wear blue hats, which refer to good harvests and prosperity; and young girls wear colorful hats, which imply youth and a promising future. Various patterns are embroidered on the hats, such as flowers, birds, fish, mountains, rivers, trees, lions, dragons, elephants, kylins, golden pheasant and phoenix. But tigers and leopards cannot be embroidered because legend has it that the three-horned hats were originally made to drive off tigers and leopards. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

The ancestors of Panyao lived in the remote mountains and forests where tigers and leopards frequented their village and often caused casualties. Once all the men in a village went out hunting, leaving only women and children at home. At night a tiger entered the village and harassed the villagers by scratching doors and windows with its claws. The women were roused by the sound. Scared, they tried to drive the tiger off using sticks and hoes. This, however, did not drive it away. Instead the tiger began to approach them more viciously. At this critical moment, the sharp-witted Yao women, resourceful in an emergency, grabbed up a tripod in a fireplace and threw it at the roaring tiger. Surprisingly, this tripod fit exactly around the animal's head. The tiger, with no idea what on earth this weird thing was, turned around and hurriedly ran away. Thanks to the tripod, the women and children managed to survive. Afterward, the women made triangle hats based on the shape of the tripod, which they believed could bring them good luck and as well as keep tigers away. ~

Panyao women in He County, Guangxi also wear triangle hats. Their's are much bigger and magnificent than those worn by Longsheng women. Their tower-shaped hats sometimes have dozens of layers. The Pan Yao in He county believe that this kind of hat on will protect them from any danger if they enter remote forests and thick brush. In contrast, some Yao women in Jinxiu County prefer a kind of small and exquisite trapezoid hat, which also has a sawali-made framework covered with cloth, usually white. This hat is even smaller than the flowery hat of the Uyghurs and can only be put on the top of the head.

Dong Villages

Dong villages in Guangxi (50 kilometers northwest of Longsheng and 150 kilometers northwest of Guilin) are located in Ma’antun, Pingyan Village (N 25°53 37", E 109°38 14"); Pingzhai, Pingyan Village (N 25°54 00", E 109°38 20"); Yanzhai, Pingyan Village (N 25°54 25", E 109°38 18"); Gaoyou Village (N 25°59 02", E 109°52 35"); Yanglan Village (N 26°1.9, E 109°52.4);

Dong Villages in southwest China in Guizhou Province, Hunan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013. There are many Dong villages around Liping in Guizhou Province. Most of the Dong and Miao that reside here live in stilt houses. Many of the Dong villages have drum towers, pavilions and bridges. The Chenyang Bridge in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region is regarded as the best Dong covered bridge. Tongdao Bridge in southern Hunan Province is another good on. Dimen is a Dong village of 500 households that has a community, cultural and research center and is home to the Dimen Dong Eco-museum. The Dong here were described in a National Geographic article by Amy Tam.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The nominated Dong Villages are located in six counties of three provinces (autonomous regions), and consist of 20 villages, covering the settlements where Dong cultural traditions have been well preserved. The nominated Dong Villages vary in their distribution regions, eco-environments, clans and branches, village landscapes, cultural characteristics, etc., which organically constitute a complete cultural value system of Dong Villages, which is distinct from other village cultural landscapes or agricultural landscapes domestically and abroad. Dong Villages are the representative of the cultural landscape of Chinese ethnic minority villages. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“In the context of Dong cultural traditions, Dong people have created various architectural systems with distinct vernacular characteristics. The unique drum towers and the roofed bridges have been preserved for generations. The drum tower is an important type of wooden structure in the Far East. Dong Villages are a classic model of vernacular architecture heritage. The Dong Villages contain historical information of Dong people’s origin, migration and lifestyle in the region. It is a major database with large quantity of historical and cultural information and a concentrated reflection of Dong Nationality’s history and culture. These historical cultures still exist and continue to evolve after more than thousand years and bear a living testimony to an ethnic minority’s cultural tradition which is rapidly disappearing. It is also an important part of the world’s diversified culture.

“The traditional architecture of Dong Villages, especially those for public use such as the drum towers and the roofed bridges, intensively reflect the traditional Dong construction skills and the cultural landscape in the Dong settlements. The ingenious combination of the single public structure and vernacular houses in Dong Villages represents the harmonious co-existence of the village and its natural environment. The architectural elements and landscape features have been adapted and promoted in settlements of Dong people and in other nationalities’ settlements, which became an outstanding example of regional architectural culture.

“The nominated Dong Villages have all undergone hundreds of years’ development at their original locations, their spatial locations are relatively stable and the eco-environments have been well preserved. The development and expansion of the villages, dependent on the macro natural settings, has continuously maintained the authenticity of the location and environment. The public structures and vernacular houses are all built with timber and tree barks harvested from surrounding forests, employ traditional construction techniques and design, and are of classic Dong architectural form and style, thus having preserved the authenticity of materials and substance, design and form, traditions and techniques. Significant heritage elements including the Sasui altar, drum tower, public square, vernacular houses, granaries, roads, etc., are still in use and the authenticity of use and function has been well preserved.”

Eight Villages of Chengyang (Sanjiang County) is located where of Guangxi, Hunan and Guizhou provinces come together. It is homes to 2,197 families in eight Dong ethnic group villages, totaling 10,000 people. These villages represent the traditional Dong style and are famous for well-preserved Dong-style wood buildings, clothes, dance and other daily traditions. Its Chengyang Bridge under national key cultural relics protection is the largest wind-rain bridge in the world. Built in 1912, the structure is a combination of painting, bridge, corridor, veranda and Chinese pavilion Admission: 60 yuan; Getting There: take a bus from Hexi Bus Station at Sanjiang County.

Dong Ethnic Group

The Dong are related to Thais and Lao and live primarily in the hills along the border of Hunan,Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. They have their own language, Kam, a Sino-Tibetan tongue, and had no written language until the Communist government gave them one after 1949. The Dong grow rice, wheat, maize and sweet potatoes for consumption and cultivate cotton, tobacco, soybeans and rapeseed as cash crops. They also sell timber and other forest products. Most Dong live among the green, rain-soaked mountains of Guizhou. One Dong saying goes: Not three feet of flat land, not three days without ran, not a family without three silver coins." [Source: Amy Tan, National Geographic, May 2008]

The Dong are one of the larger ethnic minorities in China. They are also known as the Gaem. They refer to themselves as "Kam." About 55 percent of them live in Guizhou Province. About 30 percent of all Dong live in the southern part of Hunan Province. About eight percent make their home in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. A few thousand can be found in Hubei Province. Those that live in Guizhou Province reside mainly along a fringe of flat lands that cross the province from north to south. [Source: Ethnic China ethnic-china.com \*\]

The homeland of the Dong is a 1336-meter mountain that defines the boundary between of Hunan, Guizhou and Guangxi called "Three-Province Slope". The Dong people have lived here generation after generation. Otherwise the Dong are found mainly in: 1) Yuping and Tongren Counties, Southeast Qian (short for Guizhou) Autonomous Prefecture of Miao and Dong Ethnic Minority Groups in Guizhou Province; 2) Xinshuang, Tongdao, and Zhijiang in Hunan Province; and 3) Sanjiang and Longsheng in Guangxi Province. They live together with some other ethnic groups such as Han, Miao, Zhuang, Yao, Shui, Bouyei and Tujia. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~]

Dong are mainly farmers. They are good at growing rice, raising fish in their rice fields. The area they live in is subtropical and relatively good for agriculture. The Dong generally live near the rivers in valleys or in low hills. They are not regarded as a mountain people. For domestic animals they raise mainly hens and pigs. They live in one of the eight huge forest regions in China. The forests have special spiritual importance for the Dong but also provides with a source of income. The Dong are famous for forest tea-oil and tung oil.

The are divided are into two main groups: the Dong of the North and the Dong of the South. In general those of the north have been influenced more by Han Chinese culture, while those of the south have done a better job keeping alive Dong traditions. Drum Towers, Bridges of Rain and Wind, and the Temples of the Goddess Mother Sama, are all characteristic of the Dong of the South. Numerous Dong villages are situated among the tree-clad hills of the extensive stretch of territory on the Hunan-Guizhou-Guangxi borders. Situated about 300 kilometers north of the Tropic of Cancer, this area has a mild climate and an annual rainfall of 1,200 millimeters.

Dong population in China: in 2010 according to the 2010 Chinese census; 0.2161 percent of the total population; 2,879,974 in 2000 according to the 2000 Chinese census; 2,962,911 in 2000 according to the 2000 Chinese census; 2,514,014 in 1990 according to the 1990 Chinese census. [Sources: People's Republic of China censuses, Wikipedia]

Dong Villages in Guizhou, Guangxi and Hunan

Dong Villages were located in: 1) Guizhou Province: in Liping County, Rongjiang County and Congjiang County: in Shudong Village (N 26°06 22", E 108° 55 21"); Dali Village (N 26°02 26", E 108° 38 21"); Zadang Village: (N 26°00 15", E 108°38 38"); Village (N 25°57 37", E 108°44 11"); Zengchong Village (N 25°54 55", E 108°41 36"); Tang’an Village (N 25°54 03", E 109°12 40"); Xiage Village (N 25°54 11", E 109°12 07"); Gaoqian Village (N 25°51 18", E 108°40 31"); Zhanli Village (25°50 38"N, 108°54 39"E); Gaoshang Village (N 26°01 37", E 108°41 26"); Kezhong Village (N 26°01 37", E 108°41 26"); Gaosheng Village (N 26°01 37", E 108°41 26");

2) Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region: in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County: in Ma’antun, Pingyan Village (N 25°53 37", E 109°38 14"); Pingzhai, Pingyan Village (N 25°54 00", E 109°38 20"); Yanzhai, Pingyan Village (N 25°54 25", E 109°38 18"); Gaoyou Village (N 25°59 02", E 109°52 35"); Yanglan Village (N 26°1.9, E 109°52.4);

3) Hunan Province: in Tongdao Dong Autonomous County and Suining County: in Gaoxiu Village (N 26°09 26", E 109°42 11"); Pingtan Village (N 26°1.9, E 109°52); Yutou Village (N 26°08 19", E 109°42 22"); Shangbao Village (N26°22 23", E 110°07 46"); Hengling Village(N 26º04, E 109 º43 18");

Characteristics of Dong Villages

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Residing close to the water is the most important settlement pattern of Dong Villages. The houses are distributed on mountain slopes along rivers The drum tower and Sasui (famous heroine of Dong Nationality) altar are the most important basic elements of a Dong village. The multi-storey drum tower, the symbol of a Dong village, is usually built in the flat or high grounds of the village center. A square is built in front of the drum tower, and provides a venue for the entire village to come together for meetings, festival celebrations, and other public activities. The typical residences of Dong people are called “Diaojiaolou”, stilt houses built with Chinese fir wood and consisting of three or four floors. They feature a wood column-tie structure, and a tiled roof, and are surrounded by corridors and railings. In some regions, the corridors and the eaves are respectively connected between houses. A large number of Dong Villages have fish ponds digged out in front and at the back of the houses and build a two-storey granary on stilts beside. The fish ponds are used to rear fish and for fire safety, features a waterside village. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“The village road network uses public structures including village gate and drum tower as nodal points, the road between the gate and public structures is the artery with secondary paths leading to every household. The roads are mostly paved with stone slabs or embedded with pebbles. In large Dong Villages located beside the river, there is often a gate that leads to the waterside dock. Some village gates are integrated with drum towers, providing quite a magnificent view. Roofed bridges (Fengyuqiao) are often seen above the river. They are supported by stacked layers of wood that extends outward to widen the span and minimize shear force of major beams. On top of the bridge is a wooden-structure shelter with a tiled roof. Sometimes, pavilions are built on both ends of the bridge or at the location of the bridge piers.

“On the periphery of the Dong village, one can usually find rows of wooden stands which are called “Heliang”, used to dry the grain. Outside of the village are usually paddy fields, with fish kept in water and featuring the co-existence of rice and fish. Such agricultural and breeding system achieves the ecological balance and can provide adequate and proper nutrition to villagers.

Dong Village Life

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Dong Villages are a perfect integration of humanity and nature, and they reflect the Dong peoples’ principle of adapting themselves to nature for survival and development. The Dong Villages are not only an organically evolving landscape, but also a continuing landscape. It has retained its positive social role in the contemporary society connecting with traditional lifestyle, and is a testimony to the evolution and development history of the Dong Nationality. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“Dong Villages have preserved a wealth of cultural information thanks to its large number, wide distribution, and multiple clans. It is an integration of Dong tangible and intangible cultural heritages, an epitome of Dong social conditions including languages, festivals, song and dance, crafts, cuisine, customs, spiritual beliefs, social systems, etc., and is a living example of cultural anthropology.

“The authenticity of the Dong language, festivals, song and dance, medicine, crafts and other intangible heritages has been well preserved in all the nominated Dong Villages, which make the Dong village culture distinct from those of the local and surrounding Han, Miao, Zhuang and other nationalities. The social life and organizational operation of the village have largely inherited the traditional village management mode which has a history of hundreds of years, thus having preserved the authenticity of its traditional system. The aborigines of Dong Villages have retained traditions of nature worship for mountains, rivers and trees, and the ancestor worship for Sasui (famous heroine of Dong Nationality) and ancestors of “major branches”. All these manifest the authenticity of Dong people’s spirit and emotion. It is especially important to emphasize that the core of the authenticity of Dong Villages as a classic model of living heritage lies in the indigenous people and their community, and this element is the carrier of the above three aspects of authenticity. The indigenous people and their community have maintained the authenticity of the extant tangible and intangible heritages of Dong Villages, and they will continue to pass on the authenticity in the future.

“The Dong Villages are a representative of a traditional human settlement lifestyle featuring Dong people’s adaption to nature and harmonious co-existence with the environment, and also an outstanding example of Dong people’s sustainable utilization of land and resources in the past nearly one thousand years. They are a manifestation of Dong people’s wisdom generated during the long-term production and living, and precious heritage of traditional agricultural civilization in the mountainous area. With the violent and rapid transformations brought about by modernization, urbanization and globalization, these Dong Villages have become one of rare “cultural solitary islands” retaining the age-old traditions.

“The intangible cultural heritage of Dong Villages is also remarkable and unique. The “Grand Song” of Dong Nationality has been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The Dong Medicine and the living and production traditions, the autonomous administration of the villagers, the marriage and courtship customs, the funerary customs, music and drama, traditional costumes, weaving skills, etc. have all been well preserved.”

Huanjiang Karst

The Huanjiang Karst (near Hechi and the Guizhou, 200 kilometers west of Guilin) is one the South China Karst, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. It is a cone karst area located in Guangxi Province within the boundaries of the Mulun National Nature Reserve. The Huanjiang Component has an area of 7,129 hectares and a buffer zone of 4,430 hectares.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Libo and Huanjiang karst... preserves many unique and iconic inland karst landscapes, including tower karst (fenglin), pinnacle karst (shilin), cone karst (fengcong) and other karst landscapes.Huanjiang karst belongs to cone karst, which is located on the boundary of Mulun National Nature Reserve in Guangxi Autonomous Region. Libo karst is located in Guizhou province, which includes high-conical karst landscape, deeply incised closed depressions (depressions), underground rivers and longer underground caves. The karst landform in Tunpu Scenic Spot is well developed, symbolized as the combination landform of cone fenglin and large corrosion basins. The scattered fenglin is marked by various morphology and pretty shapes, with high aesthetic value and humanity importance. Although the two landscapes belong to the fenglin under the action of plateau karst, fenglin in Tunpu Scenic Spot is more developed than that in Libo and Huanjiang.

Libo and libo karst extension huanjiang are belong to cone karst. The climate is subtropical monsoon climate. It is located in a typical mid-subtropical cone-like fengcong karst landform development area, and they all belong to the fenglin under the effect of plateau karst. Compared with the combination of geomorphology, the Libo and Huanjiang areas are larger, so there are more landform combinations, including fengcong depression, fengcong valley, fengcong canyon, fenglin depression, fenglin valley, fenglin plain. . [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

South China Karst

The South China Karst was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. According to UNESCO: South China Karst is one of the world’s most spectacular examples of humid tropical to subtropical karst landscapes. It is a serial site spread over the provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan and Chongqing and covers 176,228 hectares. It contains the most significant types of karst landforms, including tower karst, pinnacle karst and cone karst formations, along with other spectacular characteristics such as natural bridges, gorges and large cave systems. The stone forests of Shilin are considered superlative natural phenomena and a world reference. The cone and tower karsts of Libo, also considered the world reference site for these types of karst, form a distinctive and beautiful landscape. Wulong Karst has been inscribed for its giant dolines (sinkholes), natural bridges and caves.

“The huge karst area of South China is about 550,000 square kilometers in extent. The karst terrain displays a geomorphic transition as the terrain gradually descends about 2000 meters over 700 kilometers from the western Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau (averaging 2100 meters elevation) to the eastern Guangxi Basin (averaging 110 meters elevation). The region is recognized as the world’s type area for karst landform development in the humid tropics and subtropics. The World Heritage Property of South China Karst is a serial property that includes seven karst clusters in four Provinces: Shilin Karst, Libo Karst, Wulong Karst, Guilin Karst, Shibing Karst, Jinfoshan Karst, and Huanjiang Karst. The total area is 97,125 hectares, with a buffer zone of 176,228 hectares. The property was inscribed in two phases.

“The property contains the most spectacular, scientifically significant and representative series of karst landforms and landscapes of South China from interior high plateau to lowland plains and constitutes the world’s premier example of humid tropical to subtropical karst: one of our planet’s great landscapes. It complements sites that are also present in neighbouring countries, including Viet Nam, where several World Heritage properties also exhibit karst formations. Phase I inscribed in 2007, include three clusters totalling 47,588 hectares, with buffer zones totalling 98,428 hectares.Phase II inscribed in 2014 includes four clusters totaling 49,537 hectares, and buffer zones totaling 77,800 hectares. The property’s forest cover and natural vegetation is mainly intact, providing seasonal variation to the landscape and further enhancing the property’s very high aesthetic value. Intact forest cover also provides important habitat for rare and endangered species, and several components have very high biodiversity conservation value.

“The South China Karst World Heritage property includes spectacular karst features and landscapes, which are both exceptional phenomena, and of outstanding aesthetic quality. It includes the stone forests of Shilin, superlative natural phenomena which include the Naigu stone forest occurring on dolomitic limestone and the Suyishan stone forest arising from a lake, the remarkable fengcong and fenglin karsts of Libo, and the Wulong Karst, which includes giant collapse depressions, called Tiankeng, and exceptionally high natural bridges between them, with long stretches of deep unroofed caves.

“It also includes Guilin, which displays spectacular tower karst and internationally acclaimed fenglin riverine landscapes, Shibing Karst, which has the best known example of subtropical fengcong karst in dolomite, deep gorges and spine-like hills often draped with cloud and mist, and Jinfoshan Karst, which is an isolated island long detached from the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau, surrounded by precipitous cliffs and punctured by ancient caves. Huanjiang Karst provides a natural extension to Libo Karst, contains outstanding fengcong features and is covered in almost pristine monsoon forest.”

Geology and Geomorphology of the South China Karst

The South China Karst World Heritage property protects a diversity of spectacular and iconic continental karst landscapes, including tower karst (fenglin), pinnacle karst (shilin) and cone karst (fengcong), as well as other karst phenomena such as Tiankeng karst (giant dolines), table mountains and gorges. The property also includes many large cave systems with rich speleothem deposits. The karst features and geomorphological diversity of the South China Karst are widely recognized as among the best in the world. The region can be considered the global type-site for three karst landform styles: fenglin (tower karst), fengcong (cone karst), and shilin (stone forest or pinnacle karst).The landscape also retains most of its natural vegetation, which results in seasonal variations and adds to the outstanding aesthetic value of the area.

“The South China Karst World Heritage property reveals the complex evolutionary history of one of the world’s most outstanding landscapes. Shilin and Libo are global reference areas for the karst features and landscapes that they exhibit. The stone forests of Shilin developed over 270 million years during four major geological time periods from the Permian to present, illustrating the episodic nature of the evolution of these karst features. Libo contains carbonate outcrops of different ages shaped over millions of years by erosive processes into impressive Fengcong and Fenglin karsts. Libo also contains a combination of numerous tall karst peaks, deep dolines, sinking streams and long river caves. Wulong represents high inland karst plateaus that have experienced considerable uplift, with giant dolines and bridges. Wulong's landscapes contain evidence for the history of one of the world's great river systems, the Yangtze and its tributaries. Huanjiang Karst is an extension of the Libo Karst component. Together the two sites provide an outstanding example of fengcong karst and also preserve and display a rich diversity of surface and underground karst features.

“Guilin Karst is considered the best known example of continental fenglin and provides a perfect geomorphic expression of the end stage of karst evolution in South China. Guilin is a basin at a relatively low altitude and receives abundant allogenic (rainfed) water from surrounding hills, leading to a fluvial component that aids fenglin development, resulting in fenglin and fengcong karst side-by-side over a large area. Scientific study of karst development in the region has resulted in the generation of the ‘Guilin model’ of fengcong and fenglin karst evolution. Shibing Karst provides a spectacular fengcong landscape, which is also exceptional because it developed in relatively insoluble dolomite rocks. Shibing also contains a range of minor karst features including karren, tufa deposits and caves. Jinfoshan Karst is a unique karst table mountain surrounded by massive towering cliffs. It represents a piece of dissected plateau karst isolated from the Yunnan-Guizhou-Chonqing plateau by deep fluvial incision. An ancient planation surface remains on the summit, with an ancient weathering crust. Beneath the plateau surface are dismembered horizontal cave systems that appear at high altitude on cliff faces. Jinfoshan records the process of dissection of the high elevation karst plateau and contains evidence of the region’s intermittent uplift and karstification since the Cenozoic. It is a superlative type-site of a karst table mountain.”

Hanging Coffins of Donglan County

Donglan County (50 kilometers west of Hechi, 300 kilometers west of Guilin) contains hanging coffins on the Hongshui River cliffs built by the Buyang people. The Buyang are a very small ethnic groups that lives in Guangxi and Yunnan. Their population is fragmentary and some of the information about them is contradictory. The Buyang concentrated in five villages in Gula Township of Funing County in Yunnan are officially considered part of the Zhuang nationality and most of them can speak the local Zhuang dialect and local Chinese dialect. In Napo County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region there is another group of about one thousand people who also call themselves Buyang. They are officially considered Yao.

Hanging coffins are an ancient funeral custom of some ethnic groups, especially the Bo people of southern China. Coffins of various shapes were mostly carved from one whole piece of wood. Hanging coffins either lie on beams projecting outward from vertical faces such as mountains, are placed in caves in the face of cliffs, or sit on natural rock projections on mountain faces. [Source: Wikipedia]

It was said that the hanging coffins could prevent bodies from being taken by beasts and also bless the soul eternally. Spiritually, the Bo people viewed the mountain cliffs as a stairway to heaven and believed that by placing the coffins up high the deceased would be closer to heaven. A practical reason for placing the coffins on cliffs includes isolation, so that they are hard for animals to reach and less vulnerable to destruction.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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