Matang Gejia Minority Village is a leisurely two kilometre stroll from the turn off from the main road that leads to the lively, friendly and prosperous town of Kaili 凯里市 Guizhou Province .
On the way you’ll pass plenty of colourfully dressed Gejia ladies working in the fields, or dangling live chickens over their shoulders on their way back from the market.
The Gejia, a sub group of the Miao nationality
The Gejia, a sub group of the Miao nationality, wear distinctive clothes and are renowned for their batiks. Especially striking are the women’s multi-coloured striped hats, as well as their elaborately embroidered aprons.
At first sight Matang looks like any other minority village in the Kaili area. Large wooden houses ramble up and over a hill, green rice fields and terraces surround the houses on all sides.
It’s only as you approach the entrance that you notice something different about the place.
We weren’t the first foreigners to visit
First of all, you quickly realise that you are not the first tourist to pass by, as you are greeted by a scrum of ladies trying to flog you anything from batik cloth, local lace and embroidery to ethnic silver jewellery.
The negotiating is pretty good- humoured and you are soon left alone, once you make it clear you aren’t buying anything. The second thing you note is that Matang has been earmarked for special development.
Matang Gejia Minority Village: A Model Village
In Matang you won’t find the usual broken and scruffy paths, found in most Guizhou villages. In this model village you will come across well- laid cobbled paths with neat concrete gutters running alongside and little night-lights built in.
The houses, like the streets, show a cleanliness and order unusual in minority villages, as well as obvious signs of prosperity, such as TV aerials and satellite dishes.
The Gejia seemed friendly and pretty unfazed by a couple of foreign devils strolling around and poking their curious noses into homes.
Bedlam only ensued with the arrival of a French tour group that found itself besieged by souvenir sellers on the brand-new and partly covered village square.
In the commotion, we slipped away behind the village, where numerous paths wind their way into the pretty countryside, offering good hiking opportunities.
The day we visited Matang was a big day for the village. It was the culmination of the five-day annual bullfighting festival, an event held to commemorate the day that rebel leader Zhang Xiumei. He met his end at the hands of the Imperial troops in August 1873.
Luckily, bullfighting in China isn’t as bloody as in Spain. Basically, two buffalo are incited to fight each other by crashing their heads together, until one decides he has had enough and runs away.
There are loads of daily buses from Kaili that pass the turn off for Matang so getting there and back in a day is very easy. The village can be explored in an hour, but as I mentioned above, hiking opportunities abound in every direction.
Kaili has excellent accommodation and food.