Guizhou province, located in the southwest of China, has just recently been discovered by international visitors. The area is rich in natural wonders and ethnic minority cultures. Guizhou is home to more than 15 ethnic minority groups, and most of them have settled in the most breathtaking scenic areas in Guizhou. Visiting these minority groups is a beautiful experience. Because Guizhou does not get a lot of tourists, its minority groups have remained relatively untouched and live now as they always have. It is a great experience to witness these traditional and exotic cultures relatively untainted by the modern world. Guizhou's minority festivals are filled with color and tradition. There are festivals held throughout the year, and if you are lucky enough to visit Guizhou at this time are openly welcomed to participate in the celebrations. Our programs aim to bring you inside the world of these fascinating cultures, and many of our trips can coincide with these fantastic festivals. The following are some of the minority groups that you will come into contact with during your Guizhou adventure.
Buyi Ethnic Minority Group
The Buyi or Bouyei ethnic minority group is the second-largest minority group in Guizhou Province. Buyi people are very frank and friendly. They hold the elderly in very high respect. Buyi villages are always located near rivers, and the communities are relatively small. Usually, a town will only house a couple of dozen families, but some villages have been known to hold several hundred households. Their houses are made of stone. The Buyi people are primarily farmers and are proficient at growing foods as well as animal husbandry.
Miao Ethnic Minority Group
One of the largest minority groups in Guizhou is the Miao people. Over 3,600,000 people, half of China's Miao population, live in Guizhou. With a history of over 4,000 years, the Miao are one of the oldest of China's minority groups. The Miao minority group can be found not only in Guizhou, but also in Hainan, Hubei, Sichuan, Gansu, Guizhou, Qinghai, Hunan, Guangdong, Yunnan, and Guangxi. Living mainly in mountainous regions, the Miao people live off farming and animal husbandry. The Miao people are famous for their hospitality and community spirit. Families will work on each other's farms during harvesting or planting seasons, and during construction projects, half of the village will show up to help on the project. The Miao people have several different dialects and did not have a written language until the 1950's. Before that history, traditions and customs were passed on by singing and dancing.
Yi Ethnic Minority Group
The majority of the Yi ethnic minority group scatter in mountainous areas. More than half a million Yi people are living in Guizhou. The Yi minority group used to have its own written script, which was formed in the 13th century. Many written works and stone tablets were written in the ancient Yi script that still exists. The Yi minority group has many unique customs. Traditionally cooking utensils were made of wood or leather and were usually painted in black, red, and yellow. Their wine cups are hollowed out of horns or hoofs. The clothing of the Yi group has a large variety depending on where they are. In Guizhou men wear black jackets with tight sleeves and pleated pants. Women wear jackets and pleated skirts. The jackets and skirts have embroidery and lace accents. Men and women, when going out, wear a dark cape made of wool with long tassels hanging from the hem.
Dong Ethnic Minority Group
There are over two and a half million Dong people in China. The Dong minority was first established in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The Dong people are primarily farmers and they are famous for their architecture and for the spinning and embroidering done by the Dong women. They live in villages constructed of wooden buildings which are watched over by the Dong drum towers.
Their buildings have foundations of stone with wooden upper-structures topped off with grey roof tiles. They blend beautifully into the surrounding landscape. The two best known types of structures that the Dong people build are the Wind and Rain Bridges, and Drum Towers. The Wind and Rain bridges can be found in most Dong villages. The bases of the bridges are constructed of stone and the upper part is built entirely of wood with clay tile roofs. The bridges were built without any kind of metal fasteners whatsoever. The individual parts of the bridges are connected by mortise and tennon joinery. The Dong Drum Towers are usually the first thing visitors notice when approaching a Dong minority village. They are the tallest structures in the village and are multi functional. It is a place to meet and chat, hold official village meetings, and warn the village of danger.
The drum towers are constructed of wood and from the outside appear to have multiple stories. Inside the tower however is entirely open and has a large drum placed in the center. Because of the design, when the drum is beaten, the sound can be heard for miles.