The Mesmerizing Culture of the Miao People: Living by the Mountains and Rivers


The Mesmerizing Culture of the Miao People: Living by the Mountains and Rivers

by Live in Guizhou

PUBLISHED Nov 11, 2021 • 4MIN READ

The Miao ethnicity of China has a long history, rich culture, and an ancient folk religion. Adorned in beautiful traditional clothes, possessing natural talent for singing and dancing, they live in uniquely designed indigenous architecture. Throughout history, the Miao people were constantly migrating, always on the move. In more modern times, part of the Miao people gradually settled down in southeast Asian countries, some of them have even immigrated to Europe and the Americas.

Today, the Miao people in China are mainly concentrated in eight provinces, autonomous regions, and cities in southwest and south-central China, among which Guizhou Province has the largest population.

Historians have discovered that Xijiang Miao people are the direct descendants of Chiyou, the leader of the prehistory Jiuli tribe. After many wars and life as nomads, they chose to hide in a remote mountainous region and settled down at the base of the Leigong Mountains in today’s Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture in southeastern Guizhou. There they built their dwellings adjusting them to the natural geography of the mountains and constructed terraced gardens, continuing this way of life for thousands of years.

The Miao people have continued to live off the lush vegetation of the mountains and river for generations. The Miaoling Mountains located in Guizhou Province are the watershed between the Pearl River and the Yangtze River. It was named so because of the large community of Miao people here. Kaili City, the capital of Qiandongnan, is known as the Pearl of Miaoling Mountains. Just 10 kilometers from the city center, the crystal-clear Bala River winds its way through the valley by the city. On the cliffs of the two peaks on either side of the river, a cluster of Miao villages is scattered like pearls among the green peaks. Bamboo forests shade the stilted homes of Miao families that have black roofs and brown walls.

Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village, located in Xijiang Town, Leishan County, Kaili City, is the largest Miao village in the world. It is made up of four administrative villages — Dongyin, Nangui, Yangpai, and Pingzhai. Half of the mountain is covered with layered stilted houses, preserving the “ancient ecological” culture of the Miao people.With the rise of tourism, Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village on both sides of the Baishui River has been developed to cater to tourists, providing all the needed travel conveniences including shops, restaurants, hotels, open-air markets, streets where local snacks are sold, and cars to take visitors sightseeing around the village. The slippery and rugged stone steps in the old village area lead to the traditional stilted houses of Miao families on the slope.

In the morning, Miao men and women can be seen carrying loads on their shoulders as they walk along the moss-covered steps. Dogs look on quietly at the people passing by, not differentiating between locals and strangers. Inside the stilted houses, a mixture of human voices and hollering chickens can be heard. Blooming wild flowers make their way through the green tiles covered with thick green moss. Near an elderly person drying grain on a wooden sundeck, a wooden placard hanging over the entrance of a house reads, “Peace to this Family.” The strong Miao women can be seen hanging their quilts and lay out their rice to dry.

Over the Baishui River that runs through the village, there are seven traditional “wind and rain” bridges, which not only serve as a means of channeling traffic, but also provide shelter from the rain.

The people who live in the ancient village are sincere, kind, hospitable, and honest. When I stayed there, I often took rides in cars of local families. If you ever get lost, there is no need to worry. All you need to do is just call out in a loud voice outside any courtyard, “Is anyone home? I’m lost.” A wooden window would open instantly, and an elderly person would stick their head out and give directions in simple, basic Putonghua (standard Chinese) describing which route is close and which route is farther, and which road is easier to walk and which one is rough and uneven.

(Source:China Today)