The Miao tribe is one of the 56 ethnic groups, found mainly in South China. The Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village that we visited at Kaili city is the largest in Guizhou. The term Qianhu in Chinese means thousand households. Our tour guide in Guizhou is a sweet looking Miao tribe lady Tang Bi Xia who wanted us to call her just as Tang Tang.
She explained that the Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village is in fact consisting of over 10 small villages with some 1200 families and a population of about 6000 people and 99.5% of them of are of the Miao tribe. The village is located on the mountain slopes on both sides of the Baishu River (White Water River) which follows through the village.
Diao Jiao Loi
Famous for its layer upon layer of closely connected wooden-stilted houses known as Diao Jiao Lou in Chinese, these houses form a magnificent scene when viewed from afar. “The houses usually have three storeys, all for different purposes. The ground floor is used for storing tools and manure, raising poultry and livestock, the second floor is used as living rooms, bedrooms and kitchen. Some have special area for doing embroidery, while the top floor is for storing grains, fodder and other farm produce harvested from their farms,“ explained Tang Tang.
Fung Yi Bridges
Fung Yi Bridges (Wind and Rain bridges) are built over the Baishui River connecting the two parts of the village. They are no ordinary bridges, but with welldecorated roofs which resemble the architecture of the Chinese temple. Each bridge have its own name. The Miao tribe believes that the bridges could improve the Feng Shui of the village and for the convenience of the villages, where they could take a shelter in case they encounter bad weather conditions.
The pillars are also well decorated with elegant design of cravings and motifs. Some have benches on both sides of the bridges for people to take a rest after a long journey, for chitchatting during their free time while enjoying the scenery and listening to the “music” of the flowing river water. It is also a dating place for loving couples in this modern era. “Originally, the bridges were built by skillful craftsmen, without using a single nail. But nowadays wooden planks for the floors have been replaced with concrete to make them stronger,” the guide explained.
Not only the traditional style houses are preserved in the Miao village, so is the culture which include the colourful traditional costumes, songs, dances, festivals and rituals as well as silver crafts including head gears, ornaments, tea pots, spoons and the like. When our tour bus reached the village entrance, we boarded the electric mini coach, which took us along the village and up to the viewing platform. From there, we could get a picturesque panoramic view of the village on the other side of the mountain slope, the terrace paddy fields and farmlands.
Around the viewing platform are shophouses which rented out the traditional costumes and offered photo-taking service for tourists. Visitors can also find handicrafts, clothings and souvenirs aplenty here. The compound is always crowded with tourists. We also had the opportunity to witness the traditional dances performed by the dancers of age ranges from young to old. As it was a public holiday, we had the rare opportunity to witness the dancers dressed in their full costumes, presenting the harvest festival rituals and dances. A few aged musician were blowing the musical instrument made from multiple bamboo pipes called Lusheng to provide the background music for the occasion.
Long Table Feast
We were “treated” to a special lunch called the “Miao Special Long Table Feast”, at a local theme restaurant. We were given a rousing welcome with traditional music and songs presented by the ladies in traditional costumes at the entrance of the restaurant. The ladies in traditional costumes served the rice wine to every guest, similar to the Ibans in Sarawak, serving the ‘tuak’, as the guests enter the longhouse. The ladies served the rice wines in three opened top wine pots (without lids) and a bowl (instead of a cup).
There was a continuous flow of wine pouring from one pot to another and into the bowl of the drinker who could prove to be a good drinker by finishing the drink in the first bowl of wine. The long table feast originated from the tradition that whenever there were distinguished guests visiting the village, every household would prepared their favourite dishes and placed them on a table at the courtyard in front of the house.
Each and every one of their neighbours would also do the same and place their tables side by side to form a “long table feast”, which is a sign of respect and to honour the guests. The special characteristics of the Miao delicacy is the sour and spicy taste (far more spicy than the Malaysian favour). Their sour soup is a must during every meal. In fact, Guizhou is also widely popular for their spicy food. So we have to tell our tour guide to inform all the restaurants that we visited to reduce the spiciness in their cooking.
We also had dinner at a restaurant where we were entertained to stage performance of colourful traditional dances and songs by the various ethnic tribes in Guizhou, against the colourful backdrop of a huge LED screen showing various beautiful scenery of Guizhou. Some of us were also been invited to take part in the traditional dances on stage, which made the trip more memorable for us.
Other ethnic Groups During our trip, we also had the opportunity to learn more about the Shui tribe, after having a lunch at the Shui Tribe theme restaurant. Before the lunch started, two waiters carried a sedan chairlike carriage into the restaurant accompanied by traditional music. One of them took out a soup pot with red ribbons tied over the lid for each table.
A representative from each table was given the honour to declare open the meal by cutting the ribbons. The pot contained a wholechicken soup. There was also a mini museum in the restaurant, which displayed the artefacts, art and culture as well as historical books of the Shui Tribe. Surprisingly, the Shui tribe used to have their own language and writing known as Shui Shu (Shui Letters). The calligraphy of the Shui scripts were on display at the walls and pillars of the restaurant. It uses the logographic writing system with some pictographic characters to form the Sui language.
However, most of the younger generation nowadays cannot understand this language any more. They use Mandarin and standard Chinese characters in their everyday life. Nowadays, it is only use for geomancy and rituals purposes. We also visited the Millenium Buyi Ancient Village at Anshun city. It is a village of another ethnic group known as Buyi tribe, whereby all the houses are constructed using stones from the floor to the roof. The bricks for the walls are made of stone slabs and the roofs are covered with specially crafted stone shingles.
The Buyi tribe is famous for their farming and weaving skills. Traditional lifestyle and culture are well preserved in this highland settlement. We were then entertained to a traditional dance at an open stage, performed by the Buyi lady dancers in their prominently red costumes. However, the olderly people both males and females in the village were seen wearing the prominently dark blue attires.
Our final night at Guizhou, we had dinner at the Dong tribe restaurant. To our pleasant surprise, we were treated to a Dong tribe style big roundtable reunion dinner. Our whole group of 18 who used to be seated in three tables every other meals were then able to sit together for the first time during the trip, around a large table that could accommodate about 20 people, in the atmosphere that resembled the Chinese New Year reunion dinner.
Our tour leader from Good Times Travel Sdn. Bhd, Chong Jia Xin revealed that the dinner was specially requested by the management of her company to show its appreciation to our group which joined the first ever Guizhou trip conducted by the company. It was an unforgettable experience for us to conclude the Amazing Guizhou Tour.