Nuodeng 诺邓 (The Oldest Bai Village in China – or so they say)

Nuodeng 诺邓

(What to see, where to stay and how to get there)


There are few places like Nuodeng 诺邓 remaining in China. Local tourist propaganda calls it the ‘thousand – year – old village’ and while this may be an exaggeration, there is no denying that this spectacular hamlet of ancient Ming and Qing dynasty houses and flagstone streets is unique.

Old-house-Nuodeng

Not a single modern eyesore blights picture perfect Nuodeng. Add to this the fact that hordes of screaming tourists and tacky souvenir stalls are conspicuous by their absence, and you get the China of your dreams.

Like Heijing 黑井 and Shaxi 沙溪, Nuodeng was once an important stopover on the salt route, but those glory days have long passed, and only a few salt wells at the entrance to the village are a sign of times gone by. Today, Nuodeng’s residents, members of the Bai ethnic group, earn their livelihoods tilling the fields on the steep slopes of the surrounding hills.

Old Bai Man

Although during our visit it seemed most residents preferred to while  away their time chatting and smoking pipes in small groups on the steps of the two main squares, contributing to sleepy Nuodeng´s atmosphere of a time forgotten place.

Nuodeng-Market-square

The only thing you need to explore Nuodeng is a strong pair of lungs: so steep are the mountain sides that from below the houses seem to have been built on top of each other.

Stacked Houses

Locals use donkeys to carry their supplies up the near- vertical alleys.

Nuodeng-resident-and-horse

However, all that energy spent is worthwhile. Among the crumbling houses, which range from humble cottages to once-grand mansions, remnants of classic gates, beautiful courtyards, stunning roofs, and vibrantly decorated pavilions vie for the  visitor’s attention.

Grand Old Gate

The icing on the cake is the Confucius Temple set at the apex of the village. Today, the temple functions as the local school, but its grand gates and exquisitely decorated wooden ceiling point to a grander epoch.

Ceiling of Confucious Temple

Nuodeng’s inhabitants seem proud of their houses and you may find yourself invited in for tea and the opportunity to mosey around. While some of the houses are quite impressive on the outside, they tend to be quite Spartan, not to say primitive, inside.

We popped into an ancient mansion that once belonged to a Jinshi scholar , (scholars who had passed the highest exams in the Ming and Qing dynasties and became high ranking officials). The house, now inhabited by a frail- looking old man only possessed a decrepit bed and the sad, crumbling remains of the scholar’s wooden desk.

Try to find the five- roofed courtyards that create an almost cubist effect, a unique style used in Bai courtyard houses.

Five-roof-courtyard

There are no souvenir stalls as such. But if you happen to be in Nuodeng at the time of the torch festival, one or two shops sell miniature ethnic ghost costumes (sets of clothing made of paper and cloth and meant for the ghosts in their afterlife) which make quite a novel keepsake. We’d never seen them before.

Clothes-for-the-Touch-Festival

There are some signs in English, explaining the origins of buildings and pointing you in the right direction, but you won’t find any spoken English or much Mandarin for that matter.

Accommodation:

There are one or two basic accommodation options in Nuodeng. The most inviting is the Fujia Liufangyuan 复甲留房源, a traditional Bai courtyard house with a wonderful garden and gorgeous surroundings, located near the top of the village. The bougainvillea is spectacular when in flower.

Fujia-liufangyuan

Rooms are around 20 yuan and are pretty basic. The toilets are out at the back, next to the pigsty (Margie has just reminded me). In spite of the lack of creature comforts, it seems some travellers end up staying for quite a while. The owner proudly told us of a Spanish girl who had spent a few weeks there.

If you speak Chinese, the friendly owners will treat you like a king, which can be a bit overbearing at times, but they mean well. They also have a little museum with some interesting local objects they will gladly show and explain to you.

We saw another small inn at the bottom of the village, near the entrance, but it seemed to be closed.

If you are looking for more comfort, stay in Yunlong 云龙 a mere 7 kilometres away (see Yunlong article).

For more recent information click on this blog: http://ksine.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/nuodeng-going-back-in-time-for-a-long-weekend/

Eating:
The Fujia Liufangyuan is also the best (possibly the only) eating option in town. The owners understand vegetarianism and have a good selection of local produce they can wok up at a moment’s notice.

The few shops sell luke-warm beer. It’s still worth getting a bottle and finding one of the many vantage points to lie back and take in the peaceful surroundings.

Great-views-over-Nuodeng and surroundings

Getting there:
Nuodeng is reached from the town of Yunlong云龙 (see getting to Yunlong). From there you can take a motor rickshaw for around 10 yuan for the 7- kilometre ride; though you may find it more difficult to arrange a ride back. Not to worry; you can either wait patiently, or walk. It’s a lovely rural road that winds through Bai villages and green countryside. You actually walk past Taijitu, though you won’t notice it from ground level.

Author: Adam

My name is Adam. I have a degree in Chinese History from SOAS and a masters in International Politics focused on China from the same university. I have travelled around China 9 times and since 2000 I have travelled every year for two months. I guess I kind of like the place!

5 thoughts on “Nuodeng 诺邓 (The Oldest Bai Village in China – or so they say)”

  1. Oh my God, it’s so beautiful. When I was in Kunming, I told my taxi driver that I want to see villages and mud houses and he took me to one and I thought I was in heaven, seeing that one, but this is something else. Wow, I’m going there and soon. Thanks

  2. Hello,
    My name is Xenia Chiu, I am writing on behalf of Dr. Christopher Rea from University of British Columbia (http://www.asia.ubc.ca/people/faculty/christopher-rea.html) to request permission to use an image from your website [http://holachina.com/?p=476].

    Dr. Rea has written a chapter, “Spoofing (e’gao) culture on the Chinese Internet”, that will be collected in a book to be published by Hong Kong University Press provisionally entitled “Humour in Chinese Life and Letters”.

    Hong Kong University Press is seeking permission to reproduce this image [http://holachina.com/?p=476] and would like to know the following:

    1) Do you own copyright for this image?

    2) If you do not, could you please provide me with any information about others to whom I should write?

    3) Or, in your estimation, is this image in public domain?

    4) If you do own copyright for this image, would you be willing to give permission to Hong Kong University Press to reproduce this image at no cost?

    Please note that Dr. Christopher Rea is not receiving monetary compensation for this chapter.

    Planned publication in 2011; please respond at earliest convenience. Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Xenia Chiu

  3. Hello!

    I study at UWC Changshu China, an international school filled with diverse students from all over the world studying in one place; Changshu, China.
    Me and a group of 12 other friends (From all over the world including Switzerland, Italy, India, Canada, El Salvador etc) are planning a project week which aims towards learning, exploring and providing a new experience in the environment that we live in. I read your article on Nuodeng, the salt village, and we have decided to visit this village with the intention of creating a pamphlet on the place, and trying to provide them with facilities and resources and knowledge on if they want tourism, how to manage and control tourism from commercialising a place and losing it’s culture.

    We have begun planning it and have already got our project planned, including the guesthouses we are staying at etc, however I wanted to ask about any procedures you had to take while planning your trip to nuodeng; before and after​.

    Any help about the place would be immensely appreciated! I hope to hear back soon, we plan to leave for Dali on the 24th of March.

    Thanks for your time,
    Rohini Maiti

  4. Hi
    We didn’t have to make any real preperations for the trip. We turned up at the bus station at Xiaguan (Dali city) and took a bus to Yunlong. We stayed in Yunlong a and visited Nuodeng twice. The road to Yunlong after you get off the motorway was rough and we had several landslides that made the journey take more than twice the normal time.
    Apart from Nuodeng and the view over Taijitu, there are a number of other villages and ancient bridges in the region. we didn’t have time to visit them.
    When we left Yunlong we we heading towards the Nujiang Valley to Liuku. From Yunlong we carried on to Liuku六库 at the entrance to the Nujiang Valley. There’s no direct bus. You have to take the morning bus to Caojian 漕涧, get off on the main road outside the town and flag down passing buses. We only had to wait about 15 minutes. It’s a spectacular, and at times hairy, ride that crosses the Bi River and Lancang (Mekong) River valleys, before eventually dropping down to the Nujiang Valley.
    Have a good trip
    Adam

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