Dong bridge Kaili (200 kilometers east of Guiyang) is another area famous for its ethnic groups. There are many Dong villages around Liping. Many Miao live around Shibing, where boat rides are offered on the Wuyang River. Most of the Dong and Miao that reside here live in stilt houses. Many of the Dong villages have drum towers, pavilions and bridges.
Kaili is a county-level city with about 500,000 people and the capital of Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture. The area has more than 25 ethnic minority groups, though Miao and Dong are the most numerous. Kaili is known as the "city of various festivals. " There are 135 festivals held in this area each year. The most well known ones are held in the middles of the first lunar month and the seventh lunar month. Visitors who attend get treated to rice wine, dances and songs played on reed pipes.
Qiandongnan Ethnic Museum (in Kaili City) and the buildings in the museum show the ethnic characteristics. The building in the center is the Drum Tower with double eaves — a typical architectural structure of the Dong people; and the towers in the east and west are the houses on the stilts of the Miao people, implying that it is the “land of Miao and Dong ethnic minorities”. The exhibition halls are on the second and third floors, devoted to the brief introduction to Qiandongnan Perfecture, the customs and life-style of the ethnic minorities, the costumes of the ethnic minorities, the dragon boats and the modern folk arts and crafts, respectively. The exhibition Hall of the Ethnic Minorities’ Customs and Lifestyle is the most facinating as it introduces to the civilian residences, costumes, lifestyles and customs of each ethnic minority.
Websites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide; China Highlights China Highlights Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Admission: Xianglu Mountain: 10 yuan; Jinquan Lake: 24 yuan; Xijiang Miaozhai: 100 yuan; Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ;
Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Kaili is accessible by train and bus. Take a train from Guiyang Railway Station or a bus from Guiyang Long Distance Bus Station near the railway station to Kaili. There are many trains but the service is slow. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Shibing and the South China Karst
Shibing Karst (150 kilometers east-northeast of Guiyang) is one the South China Karst, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. It is in Guizhou province includes dolomitic karst formations and is located within Wuyanghe National Park. Shibing Karst has an area of 10,280 hectares and a buffer zone of 18,015 hectares.
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, natural bridges and caves.
Zhenyuan Ancient Town
Zhenyuan Ancient Town (150 kilometers east of Guiyang) is located in the mountains of eastern Guizhou Province. Named one of the Top Ten tourist towns in China and famous for its long history and rich culture, it covers an area of 3.1 square kilometers and embraces more than 160 scenic spots, including villages, palaces, temples, caves and rivers. The marvelous natural landscape is combined with generous folk culture. The grandest celebration in the town is the Dragon Boat Festival which is held on May 25th of every year
According to China.org: “With a history of nearly 2,300 years, Zhenyuan has been a hub of land and water transportation, a center of politics, trade and culture as well as a strategically important spot in Eastern Guizhou. The area's local cultures blended together with the western ones, making it a place of unique glamour. The Black Dragon Cave, an ancient temple complex on Zhonghe Mountain in the eastern part of town, features pavilions, temples, shrines and palaces embodying Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist cultural elements.Dubbed the "Venice of the Orient", Zhenyuan is a surprisingly unspoiled ancient water town located in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, southeastern Guizhou. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains and rivers, the town is best-known for its picturesque landscape, historic sites and mysterious ethnic cultures. The ribbon-like Wuyang River, which runs about 94 kilometers from west to the east across Zhenyuan, cuts the town into the northern "Old Fu (Government) Town" and the southern "Old Wei (Fortification) Town".
“A stroll along the narrow lanes leads one to the still non-commercialized beauty of the town that includes well-preserved high walls, residential compounds, ancient wells and docks. Visitors can also make their way to the top of Shiping Mountain, north of the Wuyang River, to enjoy the ruins of the 3-kilometer-long Great Wall that was constructed during the late Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The site offers a spectacular bird view of the tranquil town. A boat cruise along a 35-kilometer stretch of the Wuyang River greets visitors with breathtaking sights of marvelous gorges, peaks and waterfalls.
Travel Information: Best time to go: March to October; Tel: +86-0855-3873488 Admission: Qionglongdong: 30 yuan; Wuyang River: 20 yuan; Xiexi: 50 yuan; Shiping Mountain: 30 yuan; 50 yuan per person for Black Dragon Cave, and 120 yuan per person for the Wuyang River boat cruise Getting There: Take a train from Guiyang to Zhenyuan, or take a bus at the long-haul bus station near Guiyang Railway Station to Kaili, and transfer to the bus to Zhenyuan. Take a bus or taxi from Zhenyuan railway station; Website: g855.com (Chinese)
Miao Ethnic Group
The Miao are a colorful and culturally- and historically-rich ethnic minority that lives primarily in southern China, Laos, Burma, northern Vietnam, and Thailand. Originally from China, the Miao are animists and ancestor worshipers and have traditionally lived in villages located at 3,000 to 6,000 feet.
The Miao are known in Southeast Asia as the Hmong (pronounced mung). They are ethnically different and linguistically distinct from the Chinese and the other ethnic groups in China and Southeast Asia. Even though they have intermarried a great deal with the Chinese, they are shorter and their eyes and faces look different than those of Chinese. The Miao can be quite different from one another. The difference between Miao groups is often as pronounced as between Miaos and non-Miaos.
Hmong means "free men." Miao means :weeds” or ‘sprouts." The Chinese used to call them man, meaning “barbarians," The Laotians, Vietnamese and Thais call them the Meo, which means essentially the same thing as Miao. Hmong and Miao subgroups — Red Miao, White Miao (Striped Miao), Cowery Shell Miao, Flowery Miao, Black Miao, Green Miao (Blue Miao) — are in most cases named of the color of the woman's dress. There are two main groups in Southeast Asia: the White Hmong and Green Hmong.
The Miao are one of the largest minorities in China. They are widely distributed over Guizhou, Yunnan, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces, with a small number living on Hainan Island and in Guangdong Province and in southwest Hubei Province. Most of them live in tightly-knit communities, with a few living in areas inhabited by several other ethnic groups. The main Miao settlements are in the Southeastern Guizhou Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, the Southern Guizhou Bouyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, the Southwestern Guizhou Bouyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, the Western Hunan Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, the Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan, and the Rongshui Miao Autonomous County in Guangxi Province. The Southeastern Guizhou Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture has the highest concentration of Miao. [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 ~]
The Miao have very long history. Because they are scattered very widely, Miao in different places have quite different customs, and they go by many different names, After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, these disparate groups were given the standardized name: "Miao".
Miao Villages at Leigong Mountain
Miao Nationality Villages at the Foot of Leigong Mountain in Miao Ling Mountains was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. There are located in the Autonomous Prefecture of Miao and Dong Nationalities in southeast Guizhou Province in Leishan County (N 26 15-26 34, E 107 58-108 24); Taijiang County (N 26 22-26 51, E 108 08-108 28); Jianhe County (N 26 20-26 55, E 108 17-109 04); and Congjiang County (N 23 21-24 04, E 108 13-109 13). Many Miao live around Shibing, where boat rides are offered on the Wuyang River. Most of the Miao that reside here live in stilt houses. Shanglandgde is an interesting Miao village. Some of the Miao girls here wear enormous and elaborate silver headdresses.
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “As one of the numerous nationalities living in Southwest China, the Miao Nationality has a unique cultural tradition of its own. The Miao Nationality Villages in Southeast Guizhou Province are distributed mainly in Leishan, Taijiang, Jianhe and Congjiang counties. According to legend, the Miao Nationality has originated from a tribe called Jiuli that lived in the lower reaches of the Yellow River more than 5,000 years ago. Later this tribe migrated to areas in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River to form the Sanmiao Tribe. During the Qin and the Han dynasties, they moved to settle down in today's east Guizhou Province. During the Yuan and the Ming dynasties, they moved further to the southwest part of Guizhou Province. By the Qing Dynasty, the Leigongshan area of Guizhou Province became the chief area for the Miao Nationality people to live. Later, some Miao people moved to today's Viet Nam, the Laos, Thailand, Burma, and some European and American countries. The Leigongshan area in the Autonomous Prefecture of Miao and Dong Nationalities in Southeast Guizhou are densely populated by the Miao People, dotted by more than 200 Miao Villages, including 21 that have been included in China's Tentative List of World Heritage. [Source: State Administration of Cultural Heritage, People’s Republic of China]
“Distributed in lofty ridges and towering mountains or in the depth of forests, these rationally laid out villages are unique in architecture, ancient and simple in custom, and strong in life flavour. These properties reflect the traditional mode of production and life style of the Miao people, their housing form, and the changes of their society. They also reflect the course of evolution of their culture, the relationship between the unique natural environment and human residences, and the diversity of human culture. Intangible cultural heritage also stands out as an important element. The layout and architectural form of the Miao Villages in the Leigongshan area have the distinctive local style of an ethnic culture, demonstrating the key value of the authenticity of a heritage.
“As a unique architectural achievement and a masterpiece of talented creation, these villages are of great value for scientific study. The Miao culture kept here is the most authentic and integral. The Miao's flying songs, love songs, drinking songs, bronze-drum dances and other art popular in these villages are the important representatives of the Miao culture. The phenomena of the primitive culture kept in these villages are of outstanding universal value.
“As the property of building clusters, the authenticity of the Miao Villages in Southeast Guizhou Province is reflected in their environment, layout, architectural form, the building materials and technologies, and the traditional production mode and life style. The villages referred to in this project are numerous in number and differ from each other. Modern life has influenced and is continuously influencing the villages themselves, their architectures, and the production mode and life style, in particular. Generally speaking, however, the major villages mentioned here can fully reflect the uniqueness and authenticity of the Miao culture...Compared with the Miao villages distributed in other parts of China, the Miao Villages in Southeast Guizhou Province are the most typical in terms of the environment and layout, the production mode and life style of their residents, and the craftsmanship and technology involved in the construction.”
One-Thousand-Household Miao Village of Xijiang
One-Thousand-Household Miao Village of Xijiang (150 kilometers east of Guiyang, 50 kilometers from Kaili) is village cluster, known as an open-air museum, displaying the authentic and well-preserved distinctive culture and customs of the Miao people. Visitors can take a peek at original Miao dances, customs, rites, costumes and silver ornaments.
Known as the biggest Miao village in the world, Xijiang is located 36 kilometers northeast of Leishan County in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, southeastern Guizhou. It consists of more than ten naturally formed villages that have been long inhabited by nearly 1,300 Miao households (hence the name).
The Miao people have their typical architectural characteristic: wooden houses built tier upon tier on the hillside, dotted with bamboo groves. Lying amidst green mountains, the village enjoys beautiful settings, with the terraced fields rising up along the slopes and the crystal-clear Baishui River flowing through. It offers a more spectacular view when it's lit up in the evening.
Travel Information: Best time to go: All year round; Admission: 100 yuan per person; Getting There: Take a bus from Kaili, the capital city of the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, to Xijiang Town, Leishan County.
Niudachang (100 kilometers east-northwest of Guiyang) is a town in the Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture with many ethnic minorities, of which Miao and Dong are the main body of the population. With mountains to the north and south, and several rivers crossing the area, the town features mist-covered mountains, gurgling springs, unspoiled forest. Unique customs, and a peaceful life of local residents also render the town addition allure. The must-see attractions around the town include Yuntai Mountain, Shanmu River, Wuyang River and Heichong scenic area Admission: Yuntai Mountain: 30 yuan; Shanmu River: 150 yuan (including rafting ticket) Getting There: You can take a bus from Shibing County to Niudachang Town.
Getu River Scenic Spot
Getu River Scenic Area (77 kilometers southwest of Anshun) is regarded as one of the most beautiful examples of Karst landscape in the world. It is part of the Huangguoshu Scenic Area, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019. According to the report submitted to UNESCO: “There are some pretty landscape combinations of karst, gorges and caves in Getu River (Getuhe) Scenic Area, called a rare karst nature park. It almost contains all the features of karst landform, such as fenglin, fengcong, gorges, valleys, depressions, most of which are rarely seen in the world. On both sides of Getu River River are full of beautiful scenery, such as cliffs, stone inscriptions, cave burials, cliff coffins” and the world’s second largest undergorund chamber. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]
“The three caves of Dachuandong, Wangtiandong and Shangchuandong share the same sky, forming the magnificent and wonderful views. Shangchuandong Cave is the highest remains of fossil river course; Xiangshuidong Cave is the deepest shaft of underground rivers with the depth of 216 meters; there exist the final troglodytism tribe in human history — Miao Village in Zhongdong Cave. It not only has shown the skillful works of heaven, but the harmonious beauty of nature respecting and remodeling by human. Getu River Scenic Spot is a serial interconnected whole, constituting the unique karst natural park.
Getu River Scenic Spot “ assembles valleys, rivers and pristine vegetation as a whole, with the features of magnificence, precipitousness, deep and serene, grace and pretty and primitive simplicity. They are representative and valuable in ornament, science, aesthetic, preservation. In Getu River Scenic Spot, the rich karst landscapes are grand with various landscape types and high quality, and Miao culture has followed from one generation to next
Cool Stuff and Places Related to the Getu River
Miao Hanging Coffins: The cliffs along both sides of the Getu River are home to the hanging coffins of the Miao people. Hundreds of thousands of ancient coffins are placed in the caves on the cliffs. The hanging coffins were buried in caves and survived more than 1,000 years of natural catastrophes. [Source: China Daily, chinadaily.com.cn, December 10, 2014]
According to the report to UNESCO: “Getu River Cave Burial: The water flows through the wide cave. Being spacious, the hole is 10 meters high and 30 meters wide. From the entrance to the cave, there are about thirty or forty meters. The coffins were placed on the prominent and huge rock since the Qing Dynasty. We can see hundreds of coffins regularly placed on shaped wooden frame, classified into five rows, head outwards or inwards.
Miao Free Climbing: The Miao singer Donglang practiced a free-climbing stunt as they carry the decedent for burial in cliffs along the river. The stunt has been handed down from generation to generation for more than a thousand years, so the Miao ethnic group could climb the extremely tall cliff of thousands of feet without any protection facilities.
Village Inside a Cave: Zhongdongqianfudong village is considered the mountain's eyes. It is located on the hillside of a large mountain near a river. The cave is vast and spacious with a Miao village established inside. The village can accommodate more than 1,000 people and hundreds of topless wooden houses. A school was built around the cave. For generations, Miao people were born, lived and buried in the nearby cave. They are known as the last cave tribe in the world.
Earth Loophole: Rushing water has carved out the world's deepest giant shaft, the Tiankeng-Xiangshui Hole, in the central mountains. The hole is called the "earth loophole" due to its great size and extreme depth. On a 1,200-meter-high mountain top, visitors can see the ancient river cutting a large hole through the mountain like a heavenly gate.
Miao Chamber, the Second Largest Underground Chamber in the World, occupies 140,540 square meters and measures 336 x 824 x 177 meters. According to the China Daily: “At the base of the mountain, the water from the Getu River and underground water from all directions work together to dig out the world's second largest cave hall...The large underground space is called the earth's shell. The largest underground chamber in the world is Sarawak Chamber in Lubang Nasib Bagus in Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia. It occupies 154,530 square meters and measures 429 x 641 x 113 meters.
Miao People in the Getu River Area and Their Unique Culture
Fifteen groups of Miao people with different languages, clothes and customs live on the banks of the Getu River. According to the report submitted to UNESCO: “The cultural landscape of Miao in Getu River is a social culture generated by using the natural environment in the special karst mountainous area by ancient ethnic Miao of China in the fourteenth Century A.D. The distinctive troglodytism tribe culture, cave burial culture, and climbing culture are the historical witnesses of local people to make the best of the local natural environment. The abundant national culture, agricultural civilization and village building style also reflect the interdependence, mutual development of man and nature in the karst mountainous area. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]
“The Miao of Gutuhe is a resident lived in the southwest of China, mountainous area of Southeast Asia. They are approximately isolated with outside in a tough mountainous area, the traditional ways for living had preserved such as cow plow, hand-operated agriculture, corn storing, brewing technology and developed a unique countryside landscape in karst mountain area. The Miao of Gutuhe is still using traditional production tools and techniques to cultivate, and the ancient Miao lifestyle continues to this day and forms a good ecological balance.
“The Miao villages of Gutuhe Area are located in the karst mountainous area on the western of China. As the local residents cut off by the inconvenient traffic, each village has well-preserved their culture. Among them, the cave villages that make full use of local karst caves for living, production and funeral activities are still well preserved and continued. The unique wooden houses, sheds, warehouses and reservoirs with bamboo hedge structure and hanging coffins on the rock walls fully reflect the traditional social structure and national culture of the local Miao people.
“Getu River Scenic Spot is an outstanding example of an ancient natural culture of human beings in the world. It reflects not only an inherited process of ancient natural culture, but also a developing process of an old nation who lived in a landform based on the karst mountain. Getu River Scenic Spot is of unique culture developed in the mountainous area for thousands of years. The exceptional structure of buildings, traditional custom, hanging coffin with cave burial and rock climbing vividly depict the pictures of the inhabitants who use limit resources of land, biology and water to develop in a narrow land of the karst mountain areas. That made a probability for old Miao culture existing in the karst mountain areas and forming an exceptional culture that has not been found in other Chinese karst areas. The present characters of the landscape are the result of Miao culture developing in the karst environment during hundreds of years and it is an outstanding example of a traditional human production and life-style with the natural environment. It is a traditional human settlement representative of a culture on mountain areas which has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible changes such as the developing of modern agriculture, public infrastructures addition, urbanization development and economic policy for poverty alleviation. As a result, the site meets criterion (v) on reflecting the ancient buildings of Miao, troglodytism tribes and the culture of hanging coffin with cave burial.
“Miao is an old nation with a long history. According to the statistics, there are more than 10 million Miao people living in about 20 countries and regions in the world. The Miao culture has a history of over 2,000 years, and the history of the remains of Miao culture is over 600 years. Getu River Scenic Spot is the most complete, multiple and unique culture of Miao in the world. Miao culture in Getu River is formed by the long-term interaction between the culture of Miao and local karst environment. Firstly, Geluohe Scenic Spot is mainly mountainous area. Miao villages are distributed in various fengcong-depressions and fengcong-valleys. Due to the lack of communication caused by topographic obstacles, various types of Miao culture can be developed and preserved. As a result, the most abundant Miao languages in the world are well-preserved in Getu River. Secondly, numerous karst caves and karst hills provided natural environment for the development of multiple Miao culture. Near Xiaochuandong (light through cave), there is the final troglodytism tribe in human history-Miao Village in Zhongdong Cave. The Dahe Miao village located at the middle of Getu River River is an outstanding example of the culture of Miao village in the world, for the conservation of traditional stilt houses, languages, customs, clothing and agriculture production mode. Last but not the least, Getu River Scenic Spot is known in the world for its amazing cultures of cave burial and rock climbing based on the limit natural space. We can reproduce the picture that people overcame the extremely harsh living condition to survive and development hundreds of years ago through the survived Miao village. These unique and precious Miao ancient cultures are of highly historic and cultural values for human beings to understand ancient civilization and human cultural diversity.
Dong Villages in Guizhou (200 kilometers east of Guiyang) are located 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").
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.”
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.”
Zhaoxing Dong Village
Zhaoxing Dong Village (300 kilometers east-southeast of Guiyang, 100 kilometers northwest of Guilin) is one of the largest Dong villages. Situated in a basin surrounded by mountains with a small river passing through it, the village is -known for its five beautiful drum towers, five wind-and-rain (flower) bridges and five theater stages, all scattered across the five naturally formed villages. A drum tower is a multi-storied pagoda-like wooden structure built without the use of any nails. The symbol of a Dong village, it is usually the tallest building, used as a venue to host special events and ceremonies. In 2001, Zhaoxing Dong Village and its drum towers were listed in the Guinness World Records. . Zhaoxing is a good place to experience Dong culture. There are theater stages, singing platforms, and grain barns. The five drum towers are set up so they look like five lotus flowers. The village is famous for it festivals, songs and dancing. The most famous one is the Grand Song, a unique polyphonic folk music style that, it is said, has been passed down from generation to generation for over 2,500 years. Visitors can also have the opportunity to enjoy the hospitability of the Dong people.
In 2005, Zhaoxing was ranked one of China's six most beautiful villages and towns by Chinese National Geography. It holds over 1,000 households and nearly 6,000 inhabitants. A small river runs through the village, which lies in a basin amidst the green mountains with terraced fields creeping upwards along the slopes. The Dong people have their timber-made houses built row upon row on the hillside.
Travel Information: Zhaoxing is located in Liping County of the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, southeastern Guizhou. Admission: 70 yuan per person; Getting There: Zhaoxing enjoys a critical geographical position, as Guilin can be reached in the southeast through Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, with Guiyang and Chongqing in the northwest being accessible through the county-level city of Kaili. Take a bus from Liping County to Zhaoxing.
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