Songpan Festival

Songpan Festival 松潘: What the crowds were watching

Last week’s Photo of the Week showed enthralled spectators enjoying the entertainment at the 2004 summer festival in Songpan, Sichuan Province. What was captivating them?

Muslim Hui Minority
A watching spectator in Songpan

The Songpan Festival was a marvellous spectacle. The spectators were spellbound by a riot of colour as Chinese dragons, Tibetan Qiang minority dancers, and Muslim Hui singers took over the town, paraded through the streets and usurped the public squares.

Songpan Festival
Tibetans with their dragons

The real fun began after the Communist Party leaders had made their speeches, sped off to lunch in their limousines and left everyone to an afternoon of spontaneous revelry. Here are some photos of what they were enjoying.

Click on read more for some larger photos.

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Xingyi & The Maling Gorge

Xingyi 兴义 & Maling Gorge马岭河峡谷

Xingyi 兴义

The-Lost-World of the Maling Gorge

Xingyi is not the prettiest of towns

Xingyi & The Maling Gorge: 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 architects a field day in designing immense and seemingly impossible construction projects to dominate this wild and spectacular landscape.

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Novedades en la parte española de Hola China

Gracias a Alfredo, nuestro corrector infatigable, hemos podido colgar bastante material nuevo en la parte española de Hola China. Para empezar, en la sección de Gemas Ocultas hay dos nuevos textos, uno sobre la ciudad antigua de Lanzhong, y otro sobre el pueblo de Xizhou.


Esta pequeña ciudad con una gran historia está situada al lado del río Lialing, a unos 225 kilómetros de Chengdu. Es, a la vez, última morada del famoso y infame general Zhang Fei de la época de los Tres Reinados, lugar de nacimiento de Luo Xiahong, inventor del calendario chino, y guardián de muchos tesoros de la arquitectura tradicional de Sichuan …

No te detengas en Dali, el antiguo pueblo mítico y paraíso de mochilleros, hoy convertido en parque temático, atestado de turistas. Sigue en tu camino y, a solo 33 kilómetros, llegarás al pueblo encantador de Xizhou, con unos ejemplos impresionantes de la arquitectura Bai, cuyas calles apacibles recuerdan el Dali de antaño …

También hemos abierto la sección de Grandes Mercados en español. De momento cuenta con 3 textos sobre los mercados de Wase, Anshun y Laomeng.

Una excursión al Mercado de Wase:

Llegar al Mercado del pueblo Bai de Wase, que se celebra cada sábado, no fue tan fácil como habíamos pensado. Para empezar, la mayoría de la gente en Xizhou, la ciudad al otro lado del Lago Erhai donde nos alojamos, nos dijo que el ferry ya no existía, y que deberíamos ir en autobús, utilizando cualquier de los numerosos autobuses que dan la vuelta al Lago. Para complicar las cosas aún más …

…Wase esta situado en el lado este del Lago Erhai, unos 350 kilómetros al norte de Kunming, la capital de Yunnan. … Aparte del atractivo del mercado, el pueblo está lleno de bellas casas y mansiones Bai, caracterizadas por sus paredes de adobe y sus portales pintadas…

El mercado dominical de Anshun:

La recepcionista nos miró con cara sorprendida y preguntó: “¿Mercado? ¿Qué mercado?” “El mercado dominical”, respondí desesperado, y en un chino cada vez menos coherente. Desgraciadamente es lo que suele pasar con mi dominio de dicho idioma, sobre todo cuando la respuesta a una pregunta no es del todo lo que uno esperaba …

… La ciudad de Anshun, que se encuentra a solo dos horas de autobús desde Guiyang, la capital de la provincia de Guizhou, es una ciudad moderna, normal y corriente … No obstante, nos habían dicho que el mercado dominical de Anshun merecía una visita y, de hecho, no nos defraudó …

El mercado de Laomeng

El propietario de nuestro hotel en Yuanyang nos había dicho que deberíamos ir pronto, ya que mucha gente de los tribus tiene que volver andando a sus cabañas en lo alto de la montaña y que, por lo tanto, el mercado empieza a vaciarse alrededor de las doce …

… Habían traído una mezcla caleidoscópica de colores, en forma de muchas señoras y señoritas Hani, Yao, Yi, Miao y Thai Negra, todas vestidas en sus mejores galas, y dispuestas a pasarlo bien. ¡Y hacer sus compras y negocios al mismos tiempo, claro! …
Durante las siguientes tres horas disfrutamos de toda una fiesta visual que nos dejó sin aliento, y sin carretes …

Para saber más tendréis que ir a Hola China.

Tunbao Village, Wulong Si & Dixi Opera

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……

Click here for Updated version of this article: Tunbao Village 屯堡 and Dixi Opera

Click here for updated version of Tiantai Shan and Wulong Si

Tunbao Ladies
Wulong Si
Dixi Opera Mask

Long Horn Miao (Reflections)

The Long Horn Miao (visited in 2007)


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


Final Reflections

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.