Chishui 赤水, in the northeast of Guizhou province 贵州省, is a small but prosperous town. It owes its prosperity to its strategic location on the Chishui River 赤水河 (Chishui means Red Water), right on the border with Sichuan 四川. It’s a beautiful and fascinating area to explore if you have time. The only other tourists you’ll meet here will be Chinese.
The Chishui River 赤水河 was once part of the imperial Salt Route, which provided Guizhou with this precious condiment for many centuries. The river continues even today to be a busy commerial tranport route between Guizhou and Sichuan, with large flat bottom barges plying up and down between towns.
The city still preserves a few streets with traditional wooden houses, but in general the buildings are modern and slightly drab. Judging by the local people’s curious looks, giggles and pointing, Chishui doesn’t see too many foreigners. However, everyone was friendly and above all they seemed to enjoy having a good time. Continue reading “Chishui赤水 / Sidonggou 四洞沟 / Shizhangdong Waterfall 十丈洞瀑布”
Whether you are leaving Guizhou Province from the West, or entering it from Eastern Yunnan, you’ll probably end up passing through Xingyi (see Map), a small town undergoing rapid development. To be honest, Xingyi is not the prettiest of towns, though we didn’t find it quite as grim as it was depicted in our guidebook. It is true that the town is entirely lacking in sights and has lost all its old neighbourhoods to the rampant white-tile and concrete construction that continues to proliferate in China. However, it’s a pretty laid- back place and its major sight, the Maling Gorge, just a few kilometres out of town and easy to reach, is truly spectacular.
Locals also recommend visiting nearby Fenghuang Shan (Phoenix Mountain 凤凰山), which they claim is another natural wonder not to be missed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to check this out.
We arrived in Xingyi on a bus from Anshun 安顺. The journey took around six hours and passes through some of the most dramatic limestone scenery you are likely to see.
As in the rest of China, rapid changes are underway even in this remote corner of the country. The future cross-China East to West Highway, currently in the initial phases of construction, will eventually pass close to Xingyi. For the moment, it’s giving China’s civil engineers and Continue reading “Xingyi 兴义 & Maling Gorge马岭河峡谷”
Our bus bumped into Rongjiang’s run-down and grubby bus station after a gorgeous five- hour, 160- kilometre bus ride from Kaili. Rongjiang, a scruffy town spread along the banks of two rivers, the Duliujiang and the Zhaigaohe, sits firmly within the Dong heartlands. Though the town has very little to interest travellers, it makes a good base for excursions to nearby Dong villages, some of which, such as Chejiang and Zenchong, are extremely beautiful. There are also a few interesting Miao villages, like Bakai.
We arrived in Rongjiang on a Saturday, as we were interested in visiting its large Sunday Market.
The Sunday Market
Rongjiang’s Sunday market is not as huge or hectic as the one in Anshun, or as colourful as the market at Chong’an, near Kaili. Still, it is an interesting place to wander for an hour or two and watch the local Dong minority going about their business. Many of the Dong, especially the women, dress up in their finest to come to the market: some wear bright blue jackets with appliquéd and embroidered borders along the sleeves and cuffs, combined with dark, baggy trousers, while others prefer shiny indigo jackets and short skirts. Dong people tend to have strong, sculpted features, similar to their South-East Asian neighbours in Thailand or Burma.
You might also catch a few different groups of Miao, such as the ‘Top-Knot Miao’ proceeding from Basha, a village near Congjiang, whose name refers to the typical hairdo of the men who wear their hair tied up in a high bun, or the ‘High Mountain Miao’, or ‘Gaoshan Miao’, from the nearby village of Bakai, with their beautifully patterned and embroidered trousers.
The Dong traders make quite an effort to sell their wares and the vegetable displays are particularly beautiful and elaborate. The market has two parts: Continue reading “Rongjiang Sunday Market”
The early morning mist and heavy cloud cover bestowed an eerie atmosphere over Chong’an. The river was motionless and silky smooth like a millpond.The town and the surrounding scenery seemed as if suspended in alandscape painting. Silence reigned. Then there was a shout, a curse and the haggling began. Chong’an Market was open for business.
The huge market held in Chong’an every five days is one of the best and most colourful in Guizhou. The local Miao and Gejia ethnic groups swamp the small scruffy town in a frenzy of buying and selling that lasts the entire morning and carries on into the early afternoon. Like the huge Sunday markets in Anshun and Rongjiang, Chong’an market is a farmers’ market, not a place to pick up souvenirs, but an excellent spot for people watching and soaking up the atmosphere. We got there pretty early, when things were just starting to kick off. Throngs of Miao, dressed in blue tunics and black trousers and wearing huge straw-hats over small white caps, or curious, shiny turbans of a brown, metallic material, were pouring into the market area from all sides. They were accompanied by the occasional Gejia lady, distinguishable by her multi-coloured hat with pointy side-wings and embroidered apron. The men came dressed in simple farming clothes and with the same conical straw-hats. Some of the villagers were ferried across the river to the market, while others had come over on a wooden suspension bridge, a few kilometres down-stream.
In 2003 it was free to enter Xijiang西江镇Miao minority village, Guizhou and there wasn’t a tourist in sight. Now tourism is big business. The entrance ticket appears to be a whopping 90 yuan.
When we get into the lift and look down at our feet, we discover that yesterday’s floor mat, which read ‘Wednesday’, has been replaced by a ‘Thursday’ one. We wonder if this is a new fashion and whether there might be a special member of staff, responsible for keeping the lift mats up to date.
At the bus station we catch an 8.30 bus to Leishan, which takes just one hour. The scenery is great, we follow a beautiful river that runs through green fields with rolling hills behind.
The countryside is dotted with prosperous-looking wooden farmsteads, all with front balconies and rows of corn-cobs, hanging out to dry.
Near the river, there are several picnic areas with little wooden pavilions, kiosks or small restaurants, where families come and spend the day relaxing, eating, dipping their feet in the river. This might answer my question as to what on earth the Kaili people do in their free time.
We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived at Tunbao village, next to the larger town of Tianlong. We had heard that it was home to a special group of Han Chinese who still dressed in Ming clothes. Although we had wondered whether it was going to be some themed, Disney-style village to amuse Chinese tourists, we were actually pleasantly surprised.
The first thing we discovered came as a total shock: the women in Ming dress were the same ones we had seen haggling at Anshun market, or working the fields in nearby villages. We had previously mistaken them for Bouyi, but from our previous visit to Shitou Zhai we had learnt that they wear darker clothes, embroidered in the different way.
The ladies in Ming dynasty clothes were definitely authentic; there were not only old ladies, but many young girls too, who continued to sport these traditional garments. There seems to be an area of villages and towns around Anshun where this practice continues.
The Ming costume basically consists of long, calf- length blue tunics, black trousers, dark aprons and the embroidered cloth shoes that are common in this area of Guizhou. The tunics are usually bright blue, but can be turquoise, purple or pink as well. The ladies wear: For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China
I’ve never felt comfortable about visiting small villages, only to gawp at the exotic inhabitants. When trekking or walking in the countryside, passing through a remote village can be a rewarding experience and a nice break, but I am always glad to move on, unless I am going to eat there or stay the night. So it was with some conflicting thoughts that we set off to visit the Long Horn Miao.
Below are our thoughts on the visit. For Further information on how to get to the Long Horn Miao villages and how they do their hair go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China
I am not an Anthropologist, my degree is in East-Asian History. So it is difficult for me to pontificate on what should or should not be done about the Long Horn Miao villages. I enjoyed the visit. I took some great photos. The scenery is stunning, the costumes and hair are fantastic and the villagers friendly. Nevertheless, I can’t help wondering what impact tourism will have on their society. Are we, as some of the first tourists, only the shock troops that will pave the way for hordes of well-heeled Chinese and Western tour groups on ‘adventure’ holidays who will commercialise and eventually destroy the Long Horns’ traditional lifestyle? It is something that worries and disturbs me – though I can imagine many of you thinking ‘you shouldn’t have gone then..’.
On the other hand, and looking on the positive side, tourism might help the Long Horn Miao to preserve their culture. By learning to take pride in their ethnic culture and being able to earn a living from it, the exodus of the younger Long Horns to the towns might be halted.
Change is inevitable, and the modern world has already caught up with the Long Horn Miao. The young children go to school in Soga, which is only an hour and a half away from the large town of Liuzhi, which in turn is connected to Anshun and Guizhou’s booming capital, Guiyang.
The pretty and interesting town of Zhenyuan lies in the far east of Guizhou, not too far from the Hunanese border and can be easily reached by train from the railhead town of Huaihua in that province, or by bus from Kaili and Taijiang in Guizhou. Apart from being pretty, Zhenyuan is close to some remarkable scenery and is also home to many of Guizhou’s Miao minority, even though in town very few people wear traditional costume and are mostly indistinguishable from the Han majority.
For the traveller it is worth spending a few days in Zhenyuan to soak up the relaxed small town atmosphere, unwind in a riverside teahouse, snoop around the ancient back alleys, and visit….
This triangle linking the south of Sichuan province with the north of Guizhou is a great combination of lush subtropical scenery, traditional villages and impressive architectural monuments. Yet, in spite of its attractions, the area has not been put on the tourist map, which only contributes to its charm.
This route is equally feasible from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, or from Guiyang, capital of Guizhou, given that the bus connections are good both ways. If you start from Guiyang, like we did, you may find the first part between Guiyang and Chishui, a bit long and tiring, though you could always break up the journey in the historical city of Zunyi….