kaili guizhou china

Kaili is often referred to as the “City of Festivals”, but don’t confuse it with Reading or Leeds; you won’t find any of the hottest musical acts here! Every year the villages surrounding the city play host to over 120 festivals, from the Miao people’s romantically charged Sister’s Meal Festival to the blazing Torch Festival of the Yi people. In fact, almost every day there’s a party somewhere in Kaili County!

The city itself is about 190 kilometres from Guizhou’s capital of Guiyang and has a population of only about 500,000 people. An approximate 75% of this population is made up of ethnic minorities, including the Bai, Dai, Dong, Miao, Yi, Zhuang, Naxi, and Hani people. So if you thought that London was culturally diverse, imagine a small city with 48 different ethnic groups!

Kaili is an industrial city and, as such, it represents a bizarre mixture of architecture, from characteristically Chinese homes built during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties to the now ubiquitous concrete high-rises. Yet the greatest throwback to ancient culture can be found on Kaili’s small market streets, where Sunday bazaars take place like clockwork every week. This bustling market sprawl offers anything and everything, from locally grown produce and handmade craftworks to discount washing machines and the odd basket of chickens!

酸汤鱼Thanks to the plethora of local farming villages that surround Kaili, the cuisine there is incredibly fresh and has been heavily influenced by the resident ethnic minorities. Spicy and sour flavours are employed to give their specialities an added tang and signature dishes include the Miao hotpot known as Sour Soup Fish and a Dong delicacy known as Pickled Fish. From the glorious traditional costumes and tantalising treats to the vibrant festivals and hand-woven crafts, Kaili is a city defined by its ethnic minority population.

The Kaili Folk Museum is entirely dedicated to these ethnic minorities, with exhibitions displaying their costumes, handicrafts, paintings, and architecture, as well as information about their history, culture, customs, and festivals. Like a colourful patchwork quilt, this museum brings together all of the elements that help to make Kaili, and Guizhou, so special.

Kaili’s superlative feature lies in its status as a cultural hub. The city provides easy access to some of the most popular villages and attractions in Guizhou, such as Langdeshang Miao Village, Xijiang Miao Village, and Leigongshan Nature Reserve. If you want to learn more about China’s vibrant ethnic minority culture, or are simply curious about what a pickled fish might taste like, Kaili is the place to be!


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Chengyang is a wonderful little cluster of villages just 18 kilometres away from the city of Sanjiang. The eight villages, known separately as Ma’an, Pingzhai, Yanzhai, Chengyang-Dazhai, Pingpu, Pingtan, Jichang and Guandong, are predominantly inhabited by the Dong ethnic minority. From lofty Drum Towers to elegant Wind-Rain Bridges, their vibrant culture shines amongst Guangxi’s karst mountains. This farming community is punctuated by fields ripe with tea bushes, bubbling brooks winding past misty mountains, and wooden structures of all shapes and sizes. With eight magical places vying for your attention, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Yet the main draw to this scenic area is Chengyang Wind-Rain Bridge, which was built in 1912 and is now over 100 years old. Though there are hundreds of wind-rain bridges in the area, this one is considered the most magnificent. It is also known as Yongji or Panlong Bridge and is made up of 2 platforms, 3 piers, 5 pavilions, 19 verandas, and 3 floors, giving it the appearance more of a palace than a bridge! It spans nearly 65 metres (211 ft.) in length and was miraculously built without the use of nails or rivets. The local Dong carpenters simply used dove-tailed joints to hold this amazing structure together and managed to accomplish the whole project without the use of blueprints!

In true Dong style, the villagers of Ma’an also hold performances twice every day. The Dong ethnic minority are well-known for their harmonious grand choirs and watching one of these performances represents both an audible and visual feast, from the soulful folk songs of the town elders to the dazzling festive outfits of the local girls. If you happen to be hiking through this cluster of villages, you may even come upon an impromptu performance in a local drum tower. Just be sure to give the villagers a small tip, otherwise the next song they sing might end up being “The Foreign Cheapskate”!

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Bouyei Ethnic Minority

Bouyei Ethnic Minority

From the thundering waters of the Huangguoshu Waterfall to the sparkling stalactites of the Dragon Palace Cave, the Bouyei people’s ancestors were wise enough to settle the fertile plains of Guizhou over 2,000 years ago! There are currently nearly 3 million Bouyei people living in China, making them the 11th most populous of the 55 recognised ethnic minorities. Though they predominantly live in Guizhou province, small communities can be found in the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan and the country of Vietnam.

The Bouyei language is of Tai origin and is very closely related to that of the standard Zhuang language. It was originally accompanied by a writing system that incorporated and adapted Chinese characters. Tragically this writing system has since been lost, but a new writing system was developed in 1985 that uses the Latin alphabet. So even if you don’t understand the Bouyei words, at least you’ll recognise the letters!

The Zhuang and Bouyei both trace their ancestry back to the ancient Luoyue people and their language, behaviour and customs are very similar to that of the Luoyue. Before the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Zhuang and Bouyei were classed together under the term “alien barbarians” and appeared to be the same ethnic group. However, over time they migrated to different parts of China, developed their own unique cultures and, by the year 900 AD, they were recognised as separate ethnic groups.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the Bouyei and several other ethnic minorities suffered greatly under a landownership system that gave power and wealth to landlords but deprived the working class. Eventually this led to the Nanlong Rebellion in 1797, which resulted in many Bouyei people immigrating to Vietnam.

Bouyei villageNowadays Bouyei people traditionally live in settlements near mountains and rivers. As a rule, most villages will have no more than 100 households and the village entrance is usually flanked by a banyan or camphor tree, as they are considered to be sacred. The Bouyei believe that these trees protect the village and bring the villagers good fortune. So next time you’re a bit down on your luck, you may want to consider planting a tree!

In many Bouyei communities the people live in a style of wooden building known as a Diaojiaolou. These are two-storey dwellings that are suspended on stilts, with the ground floor being used for storage and the upper floors being used as living spaces. However, the Bouyei villages near the Huangguoshu Waterfall, particularly Chengguan Town in Zhenning County, are particularly famous for an ingenious style of stone house.

These stone dwellings are made without using cement and are built by simply layering specially cut flagstones in such a way that they create a natural, stable framework. In some cases even the roof will be made out of carefully placed stone sheets! Only the rafters will be made from wood and oftentimes-even furnishings, such as tables, stools, bowls, and cisterns, will be carved from stone. So you could say the Bouyei never made it out of the Stone Age!


Guizhou Local Snacks

The variety of flavours used in Guizhou cuisine means that, no matter what you fancy, there’ll be a local snack to satisfy your craving. Whilst the snacks in other provinces may strike us as far too large to simply be called snacks, the ones in Guizhou have been perfectly portioned to pack a big punch in a small package. The key to the potency of these snacks is in their liberal use of seasoning, which adds layers of flavour that one wouldn’t expect from such a small dish. We’ve included here just a few of the tastiest morsels that you might encounter on your travels in Guizhou.

stuffed Tolu BallBean Curd Balls or Stuffed Tofu Balls (豆腐圆子)

These crispy bean curd balls are a beloved local snack throughout Guizhou province. Tiny balls of tofu are rolled up and fried until they are golden brown on the outside and tender on the inside. Sometimes pork mince and green onions are chopped up and stuffed into the bean curd balls to add extra flavour. Traditionally bean curd balls are served with a sauce made from crushed chilli powder, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, pepper and chopped green onions.

Changwang Noodles (肠旺面)

changwang noodlesChangwang noodles are the breakfast of choice for most Guizhou locals. The noodles themselves are made from eggs, and are gently boiled in water before being scooped up and delicately ladled into a bowl of steaming chicken broth. The noodles are then garnished with cooked pork offal, blood curd[1], crispy diced pork, green onions and chilli oil. The crispy slices of pork, the soft blood curd and the aromatic soup all come together to make a dish that is frankly far too delicious to just have for breakfast.

Lovers Tofu (恋爱豆腐果)

lover TofuThe name “Lovers Tofu” was adopted during World War II. This snack was frequently used to stave off hunger when locals were waiting for the all-clear after an air raid siren sounded. Supposedly, since these moments also allowed local men and women to mingle freely and frequently resulted in the development of romantic partnerships, the tofu was aptly dubbed “Lovers Tofu”. The recipe for Lovers Tofu varies from vendor to vendor, but traditionally it consists of a square of tofu, about the size of your palm, that is gently grilled until it is golden brown on the outside but still soft on the inside. The vendor then slices open the centre of the square and fills it with finely chopped zhe ergen[2] and a sauce made from red chillies, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger.

SiwawaSiwawa (丝娃娃)

The name Siwawa literally means “silk doll” in Chinese and is derived from the appearance of this snack, which supposedly looks like an infant swaddled in cloth. First you take a thin rice-flour pancake and liberally fill it with shreds of vegetables like seaweed, radishes, bean sprouts, cucumber, zhe ergen, and fried soybeans. Chilli paste is added last and the pancake is then rolled up. The vendor will usually add some sauce to the pancake to taste. This snack is an explosion of flavours, spicy and sour, crispy and wonderfully refreshing.

la rouLa Rou (贵州腊肉)

La Rou is a kind of bacon that originated from the Miao ethnic minority. The local Miao people allow their pigs to roam freely because they believe this will keep them fat and happy. They cure and smoke the bacon in their own homes, which gives the bacon its distinctively salty, succulent and smoky flavour.


[1] Blood curd: A gelatinous curd, like tofu, made from the blood of an animal, usually a pig. Its flavour resembles that of British black pudding, but its texture is much softer.

[2] Zhe ergen: An edible root that is usually found growing near rice fields. It’s said to have a fresh, peppery flavour and a satisfyingly woody crunch, although some people describe its flavour as medicinal and bitter.

Jiaxiu Tower

Jiaxiu Lou

Jiaxiu Tower has long been the symbol of Guiyang, the provincial capital of Guizhou, and yet it appears to suffer from rather mixed luck. On the one hand, the tower was supposedly responsible for the success of three Guizhou scholars in the imperial examination. On the other hand, it’s been destroyed and rebuilt six times. It is sometimes referred to as First Scholar’s Tower because the term “jiaxiu” can be interpreted to mean “first scholar” or “to come first in the imperial examinations” and the tower was initially built to encourage local scholars to study hard and perform well. While it seems it managed to achieve its aim, evidently whatever good luck the building had went to the scholars and left it with none for itself!

The initial Jiaxiu Tower was masterminded by Jiang Dongzhi, the local governor, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and was completed in 1598. For over 400 years it has loomed over the city, witnessed its many trials and tribulations, and subsequently been destroyed by many of them. From almost complete incineration to damage during warfare, this poor tower has suffered in countless ways and yet still managed to rise back up. The final rebuild took place in 1909 and, although it may not be as ancient as many of the other Chinese attractions, it is nonetheless magnificent.

This three-tiered pavilion rests on Turtle Rock in the centre of Nanming River and is connected to both the northern and southern banks by Fuyu or “Floating Jade” Bridge. With its emerald green tiles, bright red pillars, upturned eaves, and white marble parapets, it looks like a small palace rising up out of the water. It is approximately 20 metres (66 ft.) in height and its upper levels provide a panoramic view of Guiyang that is truly breath-taking. In the bustling urban sprawl of this growing city, Jiaxiu Tower offers its visitors a moment of tranquillity and peace in this otherwise lively place. At night it is lit with lanterns and its reflection shimmers across the rippling waters of the river, providing passers-by with a night-scene that is unmatched throughout Guiyang

The tower also acts as a cultural museum, exhibiting authentic calligraphy and paintings from famous Chinese artists throughout the ages. The stunning woodcrafts, stone engravings, and calligraphy scrolls attract visitors and locals throughout the year and provide a welcome insight into Guiyang’s ancient past. The most famous relic of the collection is a couplet written by poet Liu Yushang during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). This couplet consists of 206 characters, making it technically 26 characters longer than the “longest couplet in China”, which is preserved in Daguan Tower in the city of Kunming, Yunnan. Liu’s choice of words in this famed couplet is supposedly so delicately poignant that it will strike at the heart of anyone who reads it, connecting us all in appreciation of the human condition. However, since the poem is written in ancient Chinese characters, nowadays it tends to leave visitors more bewildered than enlightened!

Surrounding the tower, the Cuiwei Garden boasts an ancient complex that perfectly combines the Ming and Qing styles of architecture and includes Gongman Pavilion, Cuiwei Pavilion and Longmen Academy. A new exhibition hall was recently constructed within the garden and contains examples of traditional clothing worn by Guizhou’s many resident ethnic minorities, from the glittering silver jewellery of the Miao people through to the intricate batik[1] cloths of the Dong women. All of these articles were made for or donated to the display, so there’s no need to worry; you won’t bump into any disgruntled, naked locals nearby!


[1] Batik: A cloth-dying process whereby a knife that has been dipped in hot wax is used to draw a pattern onto the cloth. The cloth is then boiled in dye, which melts the wax. Once the wax has melted off, the cloth is removed from the boiling dye. The rest of the cloth will be coloured by the dye but the pattern under the wax will have remained the original colour of the cloth.



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Ranking 2nd among the Top Ten Summer Capitals of China, Guiyang is rapidly becoming one of the country’s most popular summer resorts. Its relatively high altitude and southerly location mean it benefits from a warm but not overly humid climate, making its summers far more comfortable than cities like Beijing and Chengdu, where even the inhabitants find the weather simply too hot! Every year domestic tourists descend upon the city to escape the oppressive summer heat elsewhere and, although the city is rarely crowded, this tourist interest has allowed the city to develop and flourish. With a population of just over 4 million people, Guiyang is a small provincial capital with a big heart!

The city was officially established in 1283 AD, during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), as the Mongolian rulers wanted to use it as a military base in the south. Their aim was so transparent that Guiyang’s original name was Shunyuan (顺元), which literally means “to obey the Yuan”. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it was named the capital city of Guizhou and has been so ever since. The city remained largely unchanged until the 1990s, when it experienced rapid growth as its tourism industry began to prosper. Yet its humble beginnings are evidenced by its layout, as the whole city still surrounds the “Big Cross” (大十字) or traffic intersection at its centre, which was named for its resemblance to the Chinese character for “ten” (十).

Since Guizhou is one of the most ethnically diverse provinces, it’s unsurprising that Guiyang is home to communities of 23 different ethnic minorities. After the ethnic Han majority, the Miao people boast the largest population in the city and their influence shows in the vast quantities of Miao silver jewellery, batik[1] cloth, and embroidery that can be purchased there as souvenirs. Other locally made goods, such as Yuping flutes[2], green tea, and the fiercely strong Maotai liquor, are available throughout Guiyang and provide a taste of the local culture. Just be careful not to develop too much of a taste for Maotai, or you may end up forgetting half your trip!

Bizarrely the city is currently the seat of a Roman Catholic Archdiocese and Catholicism has thrived there since 1696. This is evidenced by the stunning North Catholic Church (贵阳北天主教), which was built in 1875 and still holds Mass every Sunday. The church’s architecture is a magnificent combination of traditional Catholic influences with a Chinese flair. The round open windows are bedecked with carved wood instead of stained glass and the bell tower is styled like a large pagoda. Among the many unusual tourist attractions in Guiyang, the North Catholic Church definitely ranks as one of the highest.

However, if you fancy visiting a more traditional Chinese construction, the Jiaxiu Tower is a must-see attraction day or night. The tower rests at the centre of the Nanming River and has been a symbol of the city since 1598. By day this huge pavilion acts as a cultural museum, where visitors can marvel at the many artefacts on display. By night its many tiers are adorned with lanterns and the shimmering reflection of the tower floating on the surface of the water is a breath-taking sight.

The Qianling Park, with its curious community of wild monkeys, and the Hebin Park, with its restaurant inexplicably shaped like a UFO, are just a few of the other destinations that the city has to offer. From chanting priests to chirruping monkeys, Guiyang features a plethora of diverse attractions that are sure to entertain and delight!

[1] Batik: A cloth-dying process whereby a knife that has been dipped in hot wax is used to draw a pattern onto the cloth. The cloth is then boiled in dye, which melts the wax. Once the wax has melted off, the cloth is removed from the boiling dye. The rest of the cloth will be coloured by the dye but the pattern under the wax will have remained the original colour of the cloth.

[2] Yuping Flute: A type of end-blown vertical flute made from bamboo that originated from Yuping Dong Autonomous County in Guizhou. These flutes are particularly sought after for their beautiful carvings of dragons and other motifs. They are particularly popular with the Dong, Miao, and Tujia ethnic minorities and have been produced for over 400 years.

Discover more about Guiyang on our travel: Explore the culture of Ethnic minorities in Southeast Guizhou

Dong Oil Tea

dong oil tea 01

Oil tea is the traditional drink of the Dong ethnic minority. In Chinese it is referred to as yaucha or youcha (油茶), which literally means “oil tea”. It is consumed on a daily basis by Dong people, usually as part of their breakfast, but also plays a focal role in festivals and ceremonies, particularly the guest welcoming ceremony. It is perhaps better described as a “tea soup”, since it is thicker than normal tea and contains solid ingredients, such as peanuts. Oil tea comes in many different varieties, including lima-bean tea, red pea tea and white pea tea, although the basic components of the tea remain relatively unchanged.

Firstly, tea seeds are pressed to make what is called tea oil. Although these tea seeds are harvested from tea trees, they do not come from the same species of tea tree as the tea leaves used in the oil tea. Sticky or glutinous rice is cooked so that it is lovely and soft, and then dried out in the sun. After it has dried completely, it is fried in the tea oil until the rice grains puff up like popcorn. Additional ingredients, such as peanuts and soybeans, are then stir-fried. Finally, black or green tea leaves are quickly fried in the hot tea oil until they are crisp. The puffed rice, tea leaves and additional ingredients are added to individual bowls. Before the hot water is poured into the bowl, the host will normally add some extra ingredients to enhance the flavour of the tea, such as pork offal, chopped pork liver, green onions, chopped garlic leaves and salt.

dong oil tea 02The ritual surrounding the oil tea is particularly fascinating. Each guest will be presented with a bowl full of the aforementioned ingredients and one chopstick. It is said that Dong women can eat any snack using just one chopstick without piercing the food itself. In this instance, the chopstick is there primarily to indicate when you are done drinking the tea and not as a tool for drinking it. Hot water is then poured into the bowls and the tea is left to steep. Only women will serve the tea and the first bowl is always served to the oldest member of the family or the guest, following thereafter from oldest to youngest. However, out of politeness you should not start drinking the tea until everyone has been served and the hostess indicates you may begin drinking by saying “please”. As a sign of respect, every guest should drink at least three bowls of tea. The first three to four bowls of tea are usually salty, followed by a sweet tea. Once you have drank your fill, you must place the chopstick across your bowl to indicate that you are finished, otherwise the hostess will continue filling your bowl until you are ready to burst!

Oil tea is traditionally served with an array of snacks, including batter-fried fish, pickled vegetables, nuts, and fried corn. One could even say that the oil tea ceremony in Dong culture is like a Chinese version of afternoon tea in England! If you happen to be traveling through a Dong village, some friendly villager will undoubtedly invite you in for a bowl of oil tea. Although it is vastly different from the black tea that we are accustomed to, it is none-the-less healthy, tantalisingly aromatic and unexpectedly delicious. Once you catch the scent of the crispy tea leaves and the steaming bowls of rich, oily tea, we’re sure you’ll want to have a bowl!

Dong Funerary Customs

Dong funerary

Dong funerals are notoriously complex and consist of many phases. People who suffer accidental or unnatural deaths will be cremated whilst those who died from natural causes will be buried. The first phase is the “receiving of the breath” phase, where the family will listen out for the person’s last words and their last breath. Once the person has perished, three spoonfuls of clear tea and a small piece of silver are placed into their mouth. The corpse is then “washed” with wet paper money and the old clothes are removed and replaced with burial clothes. A “dream bed” is arranged for the corpse, similar to a wake, and the suona[1] is played during the vigil. A red cockerel must be sacrificed before the corpse is moved from the “dream bed” into their coffin. White cloths will be worn on the heads of the mourners, which is also common practice among the Han Chinese.

The grave, which is referred to as the “well”, is then dug high up on a mountainside. A memorial ceremony will be held and gifts will be offered to the deceased as they are lowered into the grave. As prayers are being said, another chicken is sacrificed, lowered into the grave and then pulled back out for later consumption. A funeral reception is held at the deceased’s home. The sons will then build a burial mound near the family home and, once the burial mound is complete, the deceased is “called back home” to live at the altar of the family’s ancestors.

[1] Suona: A Chinese wind instrument. It is made up of a horn with a double reed that makes a distinctively loud and high-pitched sound. It comes in several sizes and the size of the horn affects the sound it makes. It is used throughout China in ritual music and folk music.


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Zhenyuan Ancient Town

The history of Zhenyuan Ancient Town stretches back over 2,000 years. It is located on the eastern edge of the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau and is sheltered in the lush, green mountains of Guizhou. Zhenyuan was instated as a county in 202 B.C. by Emperor Gaozu and has remained an important part of Guizhou’s history ever since. However, as a tourist attraction, it has yet to receive the accolades that it deserves. It is a melting pot of Dong, Miao and Han ethnicities, meaning its architecture exhibits features and styles from many different cultures. It is home to a stunning sequence of temples known as Qilong or Black Dragon Cave and boasts the finest section of the Wuyang River, yet few tourists outside of Guizhou visit Zhenyuan or even know of its existence. Zhenyuan is a pearl hidden within the mountains; an “Oriental Venice”.

The town is relatively small and only covers approximately 3 square kilometres (about 1.2 square miles). It was once one of the major transport and trade hubs in Guizhou, as it was easily accessed via the Wuyang River. The river itself winds through the town and splits it in half, effectively dividing it into two parts. The south part of the town is called “Old Wei Town”, with “wei” meaning “fortification”, and the north part of the town is called “Old Fu Town”, with the “fu” meaning “government”. Zhenyuan is a water town, with many boats still traversing its water, and thus has earned the name the “Oriental Venice”. It is also one of the best places to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, which takes place on May 25th according to the Chinese lunar calendar. They hold a dragon boat race on the Wuyang River every year, where long, elaborately decorated dragon boats are paddled to the beat of a large drum and race one another down the crystal clear river.

Black Dragon Cave (Qilong Cave)

Black Dragon Cave’s name can be quite misleading, as it is not actually a cave at all. It is a complex of ancient temples that slowly climb their way up the side of Zhonghe Mountain, just to the east of Zhenyuan Ancient Town. The temple complex covers a monumental area of about 21,000 square metres (approximately 220,000 square feet). The temples were built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and have managed to outlast two wars without sustaining much damage. They have been renovated since, but still maintain a lot of their original features and character.

The complex is made up of temples dedicated to Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism and, since all of the buildings adhere to the architectural styles of their respective religions, the complex is a myriad of elaborate styles and designs that make it relatively unique amongst temples in China. The complex encompasses a few, particularly attractive sites such as Zhusheng Bridge, Zhongyuan Temple, Ziyang Shuyuan or the Academy of Classical Learning, the Longevity Palace, and Yuhuang Ge or the Jade Emperor Pavilion. The temple complex is said to appear like a beautiful stone garden clinging to the mountainside of Mount Zhonghe.

The National Wuyang Scenic Area

The Wuyang River flows 95 kilometres (59 miles) through the Miaoling Mountains, all the way from Huangping to Zhenyuan, and eventually joins the Yuanjing River in Hunan province. Three distinct scenic spots in Zhenyuan, Shibing and Huangping counties, known as the National Wuyang Scenic Area, have become famous tourist attractions, of which the scenic area in Zhenyuan is considered to be the most beautiful. Visitors can either walk along the river or take a relaxing, scenic cruise. Traveling downstream, the towering peaks and glittering clear waters will undoubtedly make you feel at peace and provide the perfect opportunity for some nature photography. As you traverse the Wuyang River, you’ll come across various scenic spots that have been given fanciful names based on their appearance or on legends related to that spot.

The Wuyang Three Gorges are the most magnificent section of this scenic area. This is a 35-kilometre waterway that is made up of the Dragon King Gorge, the East Gorge and the West Gorge. Amongst these three gorges you’ll find powerful waterfalls crashing into the river, mysterious caves, the gentle gurgling of springs and the jagged figures of rocks emerging from the karst mountainsides. It is truly breath-taking to witness and we strongly recommend you take advantage of one of the local cruises in order to make the most of this scenic spot. It is said to be as spectacular as the Yangtze River Three Gorges and as mystical as the Li River in Guilin.

On top of Black Dragon Cave and Wuyang Scenic Area, Zhenyuan is also home to an unlikely scenic spot of great historical significance. At the northwest edge of the town, you’ll find Shiping Mountain, which acts as the entrance to one of the southernmost sections of the Great Wall. Unlike the Badaling section of the Great Wall in Beijing, this 3-kilometre stretch of the Great Wall has not been renovated and is largely in ruins but is none-the-less beautiful. It was built during the late Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and from its perch on Mount Shiping it provides a breath-taking view of the surrounding countryside.

Compared to most small towns in Guizhou, Zhenyuan is relatively easy to get to. There are direct trains from Guiyang to Zhenyuan that take about 4 to 5 hours and from there the ancient part of the town is about a 10 minute drive from the train station. There are also regular trains from Kaili City to Zhenyuan, which only take about 2 hours, and also a few long haul buses from Kaili to Zhenyuan. Once you’re in Zhenyuan, there are plenty of guesthouses on the waterfront that are reasonably priced and offer a wonderful view of the Wuyang River.

Dong Birth Customs


The birth of a child is a momentous occasion in a Dong village and requires strict adherence to many conventions. The first is the “stepping-over-the-threshold” convention, which is the belief that the first person to enter the house where the child was born will be the greatest influence on its personality and future success. After this person is established, neighbours are invited to the house to bring gifts. The birth is then announced to the mother’s family and, on the third day, female relatives will visit with more gifts.

Dong CradleAfter the visitations from friends and relatives, a ceremony called “building the bridge” is practised, where three wooden planks are lined up side by side to symbolise a bridge and express goodwill to people passing by the house. The child’s hands are then wrapped in cloth, which the Dong believe will influence the child not to steal things later in life. The child’s first haircut and first taste of fermented rice happens when they are about one month old, and it is considered unlucky if these events happen prior to the one month mark. At six months old, the child will have their first taste of meat dipped in wine, which is considered a major milestone in the child’s life.


Join a travel with us to discover the Culture of Dong Ethnic Minority:  Explore the culture of Ethnic minorities in Southeast Guizhou