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.
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.”
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 *]
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. 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.
Dong villages in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County (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);
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.
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]
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