Southern China Ethnic Folklore Hiking Exploration

Highlights:

  • Explore the remote and charming villages of the Miao and Dong minority ethnic groups, which are largely untouched by the modern world Experience the majestic beauty and rolling magnificence of the Longsheng Rice Terraces, which is widely considered the most amazing rice terrace in China
  • Take a cruise down the enchanting Li River, which will provide you some of the most gorgeous scenery of a lifetime. The Li River was just selected by National Geographic Magazine as one of the world’s “Ten top watery wonders”

(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)

Detailed itinerary:

Day 1 arrive in Guiyang

You will fly into Guiyang, and your English-speaking guide will meet you outside he baggage claim area. You will then be taken to your hotel. Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, is located in the southwest of China, on the eastern side of the Yungui Plateau. It is said that in ancient times, Guiyang was surrounded by dense bamboo groves and was famous for producing a musical instrument known as a Zhu. Hence the city is known also as Zhu.

After settling in to your hotel, we will pay a visit to the old town of Qingyan. Dating back to the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368--1644), Qingyan town was built for military and strategic reasons. Because of its geographical location, Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of Ming Dynasty established it as a station for transferring military messages and to house a standing army. Due to the local geology, Qingyan Ancient Town was built completely of stone. You’ll be albe to see spectacular city walls built right on the cliffs with vast rocks, which divided Qingyan into inner and outer towns. There are four gates in the wall facing north, south, east and west. Outside the four gates, there were originally eight stone tablets, which were considered the symbols of Qingyan Ancient Town. Of the eight, three remain with delicate sculptures on each surface. The most famous one is called Zhao Lunli Baisui (longevity) Fang.

Within the town, there are also over 30 types including monasteries, temples, cabinets, caves, courtyards and palaces. All of them were delicately designed by the skillful architects of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. A number of exquisite articles, such as the stone sculptures of Ciyun Temple and wooden sculptures of Shoufo Temple are all worth a look. You can visit the ancient business streets to admire the elegant classical wooden houses. If you like, stop at one of those teahouses and have a taste of the famous local snacks, such as Qingyan tofu, rice tofu and rose sugar.

Day 2 Guiyang-Kaili (15km of hiking)

After breakfast, we will drive to Kaili, a region of Guizhou where 25% of the Miao ethnic group live. Here we will explore the Miao ethinc minority villages. The Miao ethnic group is both mysterious and exciting. The Miao people are identified by their dialect, dress, location and other customs. In dress there are Long Skirt Miao, Short Skirt Miao, Black Miao, Flowery Miao and Long Horned Miao. By location there are River Miao and Mountain Miao. The villagers in Langde wear long skirts, hence they are "Long Skirt Miao". The Miao style houses "Diaojiaolou" and its featured and creative festivals will make you spellbound.

On our way to Kaili we will make a detour to the Miao village of Qingman. Located about 14 miles to the southwest of Kaili, Qingman Miao Village is built along the mountain contours. Surrounded by green mountains and rivers, it is the sweet home to over 300 households and 1,600 Miao people. The unique wooden stilt houses put up range upon range are indeed a splendid scene to see!

From Qingman we will begin our hike, and on the way we’ll stop at the Shiqiao Miao village where we’ll learn about the Miao way of making paper. Shiqiao paper is smooth, white, and difficult of bursting. It is said that the paper making in Shiqiao Miao Village has a history of over 1,000 years. By using the Han Chinese people's experience, the local Miao people use high-quality spring water, tree roots and bark to make papers. Their craft of papermaking is regarded as a “live fossil”. Come to Shiqiao, you'll have a chance to witness how they make papers.

Continuing our hike, we’ll keep going until we reach the village of Boji. Shaped like a dustpan, Boji Miao Village is located in Danzhai County where the land is beautiful and fertile. Over 100 households live here generation after generation. The life in this old village is quite serene and bucolic.

After exploring Boji we will meet up again with our van, and we will complete the drive to Kaili, spending the night there.

Day 3 Kaili-Paiyang-Xijiang (23 km of hiking)

In the morning take we’ll take 1 hour's coach to Paiyang to start our hiking trip. En route, we’ll explore a silversmith village and a Miao village by visiting with the local families and learning about their daily routine. You’ll marvel at the village’s terraced paddy.

In the afternoon we’ll arrive at Xijiang, the largest Miao village. You will be greeted into the village by drinking the block way wine. Xijiang Miao Village sits on a mountain slope, with wood buildings climbing to the mountain top. There are around 1000 wood houses; therefore the village is nicknamed as "One Thousand household Miao Village". All the buildings remain in ancient Ming and Qing dynasties style.The ancient buildings surrounded by lush mountains appear to belong to a time long past. The scenery is especially charming in early morning when the village and the surrounding mountains are shrouded in mist.

You’ll be amazed at the elegant and glittering silver ornaments worn by Miao females for holidays. Silver ornaments are major components of festival dressing-up of Miao girls and women in the southeast Guizhou region, particularly in the village of Xijiang. Once in festivals, they will decorate their heads, necks, hands and backs with various silver ornaments such as silver chaplet, silver bracelet, silver ox horn and silver earring. The village is also a center for grand Miao festivals and celebrations in the area. Miao people from the nearby villages gather at Xijiang for festival celebrations. Famous festivals include the Lusheng Festival, the Miao New Year, and the harvest celebration, during which the Miao people worship their ancestors and celebrate the autumn harvest. Songs and dance are major components of these festivals.

After an evening cultural performance, we’ll hike in the village to explore more. Dinner will be at with a village family, and we’ll spend the night in their home.

Day 4 Xijiang-Nanhua-Leishan (18km of hiking)

Today we’ll start our hiking via the mountainous zigzagging path and sandstone country road. En route, we’ll pay a visit to a long-skirt Miao village. We’ll then continue our trek to the Miao village of Lanhua, another beautiful village, and a Christian Church can still be seen here.

Our day will conclude with a visit to a special pottery-making village, where you will learn how the Miao have perfected this spectacular art form. We’ll spend the night in the town of Leishan.

Day 5 Leishan-Rongjiang-Congjiang (all driving)

After breakfast we will make our way to Congjiang, stopping at the Basha Miao Village along the way. Basha is a very special and old Miao ethnic village. The villagers still practice their unique traditions dating back to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). Basha Village is almost untouched by China’s rapid modernization. Residents there still live in their wooden houses, practice centuries-old customs and have their own unique beliefs. Basha is a relatively big village with 2,140 residents, but they rarely connect with the outside world. They live in their community and lead a self-sufficient life in their mountainous surroundings.

We will then complete our drive to Congjiang, spending the night there.

Day 6 Congjiang-Zhaoxing (all driving)

After breakfast we will make our way to Zhaoxing, which is home to some of the largest villages in Guizhou. We will learn more about the Dong minority ethnic group at the Dong People Village, which is also in Zhaoxing. The Dong ethnic minority lives primarily in the border regions between Guizhou, Hunan and Hubei Provinces, and it was during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), that this minority separated from the mixed minority 'Bai Yue', naming themselves Dong. The Dong people work on agriculture, forestry and the industrial arts. The women are adept at spinning and embroidering and on the brocade. The staple food of the Dong ethnic minority is rice, millet, corn, wheat sorghum and glutinous rice. Oil tea is their favorite drink, which can also be their breakfast, whose ingredients include peanuts, sesame, soybean, tea leaves, and so on.

There are five sections which make up the village, namely ren (meaning benevolence), yi (meaning justice), li (meaning courtesy), zhi (meaning wisdom) and xin (meaning faith). One clan lives in every section, and every clan has built its own drum tower. A street runs from east to west in the village. The houses are typical Dong dwellings with stilts and roofs of black tiles. The features of the Dong architecture are also demonstrated in the five wooden drum towers, the four magnificent wooden roofed flower bridges and five performance stages.

We will stay in an inn in the village, and you can spend your night further exploring the village.

Day 7 Zhaoxing-Sanjiang (all driving)

Today we’ll startday with a drive to the Tang’an Dong village. The village is renowned as the “most primitive Dong Village" in China. The village is 5 km from the Zhaoxing Village. The country road stretches to the village, which is located on a mountainside and is surrounded by paddy field and lush greens. There are about 800 people and 160 households in the village. The village has a long history, though it hasn’t got any written records of its history. There is a village gate, drum tower, drama tower, ancient graveyard, ancient well, and water-powered roller for grinding grain, barns and the pit to worship the female ancestors of Dong people. There are also ancient stone paths and wood houses in the village. All of these make it a perfect place for people to return to nature.

We’ll resume our drive until we arrive at the Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge. It was built in 1916, and it is the best one among the wind and rain bridges in Dong stockade villages. At present, it is the largest wind and rain bridge. We will spend the night at an inn in Sanjiang, and you can spend the evening at your own leisure exploring the Dong villages nearby.

Day 8 Sanjiang-Longsheng

After an early wake-up we will make the drive to Longsheng. By foot we will walk up and down the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. A vast region of rice terraces stretches layer upon layer, coiling around from the base of Longji (the dragon's backbone) Mountain to its summit; this is the most amazing rice terrace in China. The Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces is a beautiful natural picture. The linked together rice terraces vary from season to season. In spring, the water is irrigated into the fields and the terraces look like great chains or ribbons hung on the hillsides. When the onset of summer, green waves rush continuously down the mountainside from the heaven. The theme of autumn is the harvest, with the mountainside decorated with the gold of ripened millet. Coming into winter, the whole mountain will be covered with white snow, just like dragons playing with water.

Dotting all along the rice terraces are the peoples and villages of the Zhuang and Yao minority groups. The women dress in unique and colorful costumes, singing and dancing. Guests also can join in with them to enjoy the original Zhuang life and culture, and even stay with local families enjoying both the Longji tea and the Longji wine.

We will stay here the rest of the day in order to better understand the Zhuang’s and Yao’s fascinating way of life.

Day 9 Longsheng-Guilin (15 km of hiking)

We will start in the morning with a trek to the town of Dazhan, with the terraced rice fields making a magnificent backdrop to our walk. Once we arrive at Dazhan we will make the few hours drive to Guilin, which is located in Guangxi province. he stunning landscape in which the city is situated has a kind of magic that is all its own. The strangely shaped hills, or karsts, with the verdant vegetation ranging from bamboo to conifers together with wonderful caves make Guilin such an attraction for visitors.

We will spend the night at a hotel in Guilin.

Day 10 Guilin-Yangshuo

Today you will be cruising down one of the world’s most stunning rivers, the Li. Gorgeous karst peaks give you surprises at each bend of the limpid river under the blue sky. Water buffalo patrol the fields, peasants reap rice paddies, school children and fisherman float by on bamboo rafts. With its breathtaking scenery and taste of a life far removed from the concrete metropolis, the scenery along the Li River become one of China's top tourist destinations. Some of the highlights you will see on your 7-8hour cruise will be Elephant Trunk Hill, a hill resembling an Elephant taking water from its trunk, Pagoda Hill, just a few minutes away from the Elephant Trunk Hill, Daxu Town, an ancient river town, and of course you will also see local fisherman and workers over their normal course of work. The cruise down the Li River offers a fascinating insight into the lives of the local population here.

The cruise will end at Yangshuo. Yangshuo is a lush and exotic city that includes minority groups from all over Asia. Yanghsuo is characterized by crystal clear rivers, limestone crags, lush vegetation, traditional Chinese architecture and customs, which have been immortalized in Chinese classical landscape paintings and poetry. The beautiful natural scenery so admired by painters and poets has made Yangshuo famous throughout China and internationally. Word of Yangshuo's charm has spread like wildfire among travelers worldwide, greatly boosting its popularity and made it a paradise for backpackers. After checking into your hotel, you can go down to West Street, the hip main street that features foreign pubs and bars, along with traditional shops and inns.

Day 11 Yangshuo-Guilin

In the morning, we will rent bikes and ride onto the country roads, lanes, and tracks, through the paddy fields orchards that surround the misty mountains. You will also have the chance to visit the home of a local farmer, and from this you’ll learn about what local life is like in these parts.

In the evening we will make the drive back to Guillin, where you will spend the evening in the same hotel as the night before.

Day 12 Guilin-departure

Following breakfast, you will be taken to either the Guilin airport or train station, and you will travel on to your next destination.