Dong Village: An Cooperative-built Eco-museum Project Between China and Norway
In today's video, I went to two Dong villages in southwest China, 5kms away from each other. The villages are outdoor museums of Dong people, a minority ethnic group in China. Their village and lifestyle are similar to that of ethnic Miao people in my last video but there are also many unique features. The second village is a cooperative-built ecological museum by the Chinese government and the Norway government.
It is surrounded by spectacular terraced fields and is renowned as the "most primitive Dong village" in China. Hello I am Yanyan Today I am in Zhaoxing, Guizhou Province People living in this village is Dong people, an minority ethnic group in Southwest China I am wearing their dress today In today's video, Let's get to know this Dong village and Dong People Zhaoxing Dong Village is in Guizhou province, near the intersection of Guizhou, Hunan and Guangxi provinces. Although separated by contemporary jurisdictions, these three border regions historically share the same history and culture and are where Dong settlements are distributed. Xijiang Miao village is not far away. The majority population in southeast of Guizhou province are Miao and Dong people and this region is a Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture. Everyday at 9:30 in the morning, there is a welcome ceremony at the village gate.
This is their traditional food. Barbecue pork wrapped by glutinous rice Right behind this row of houses by the main street, there is a stream. Let me show you how close the stream is. Residing close to the water is a typical settlement pattern of ethnic minority villages in Guizhou Province. This is one of the bridges in the Dong village. As you can see it is not big because the river is not very wide.
Dong people call the bridge "Flower Bridge". The roofed bridge is of wooden structure. It's very similar to the Wind Rain bridge in the Miao Village. So similar that I can't tell their difference.
This is a grandma from the Dong village. I invited her to say hello to you guys. Zhaoxing Dong village is home to more than 1000 households and 6000 people.
Villagers all have the same surname and they are internally divided into five branches. Each branch live around a drum tower. Behind me is a drum tower. It's the symbol of a Dong village and the first thing to be built in a Dong village. it's the place for villagers to convene and to discuss important agenda of the village When it's time to convene, a highly revered person of the branch would climb up to the top of the tower and beat the drum to inform inhabitants to come to the drum tower.
Can you see that small stage across the street? There is always a stage facing the drum tower. These two are always together. The stage is just the size of a small room. I didn't even notice it had local villagers not pointed it out for me. During festivals, Dong opera would be performed here.
A pond was dug out next to the drum tower for fire safety. There are many ponds in the village. They are very important in a village full of wooden houses. Behind this pond is another drum tower. Elderly people hang out in drum towers to spend leisure time just like people in cities do in parks.
In addition to a stage, each drum tower in this village is also associated with a bridge. See that drum tower across the main road? And that's the bridge associated with it. Less than 5 minute's walk.
The typical residences of Dong people are called "Diaojiaolou" a type of wooden house built on stilts, similar to the ones in the Miao village. They are built with timber and tree barks harvested from surrounding forests. In this village along the stream, the corridors and the eaves are respectively connected between houses. This is the third drum tower. Across this bridge is another drum tower. It was first built in the 18th century.
There are 5 drum towers in this village in total. The entire village is organized around these 5 drum towers. People say I'm from drum tower 1 or I live near drum tower 2 Let's go looking for the stage of this drum tower.
The bridge is right next to the drum tower. But where is the stage? Can you see the stage behind the drum tower? Zoom in! This is a good example of a complete set: a drum tower, a stage and a bridge, all in the same place This is the fourth drum tower. It's on the other side of the main street, on a secondary path. And the stage is right next to it. The associated bridge however is not in the same place.
It's located at the end of this path. Can you see a roofed bridge? There should be a drum tower nearby. This is the fifth drum tower. Pay attention to the posts on the outer ring.
There are four on each side. How many are there in total? 16? No! 12 They represent the 12 months of the years. In the center, there are 4 posts, representing the four seasons of the year. This pattern applies to all drum towers here. And where's the stage? Right next to the drum tower and the bridge. This is another good example of a complete set.
Same as Miao people, Dong people have their own language but have no script. There is no written records of their history and origin. It's highly possible that they are indigenous to this region. With modernization, Han Chinese culture inevitably influenced this village. the five drum towers are now named after the five constant virtues proposed by Confucius. This is Drum Tower Integrity, Drum Tower Wisdom, Drum Tower Righteousness, Drum Tower Etiquette and Drum Tower Benevolence.
The drum towers always have odd number of layers. For example, Integrity has 11 layers. The rest four have 9,11, 13 and 7 layers respectively. The cross section of drum tower is either a square or a hexagon, with even number of laterals. Having an extra half day, I boarded the shuttle bus to Tang'an Dong village 5 km away.
There is a classic hiking program to Tang'an which is located on the top of a mountain. If you choose hiking, you'll go all the way cross the terraced fields. It would take about 3 hours.
Having only half a day, I chose the shuttle bus. And it's also fun going on the winding mountain road. I am now in another Dong village about 5km away from the Zhaoxing Dong village.
It's much smaller. But there is a terrace. Now the terrace and the entire village is an ecological museum established by both the Chinese government and Norway government.
Thank you Norway! Lying on a mountainside and surrounded by terraced fields, Tang'an village with a history of over 700 years is home to 170 households and more than 800 people. In 1990's, after visiting dozens of ethnic minority villages in Guizhou Province, a Norwegian named John Gjestrum believed this Dong village is the "most primitive village" in China. Being an eco-museologist, Mr. Gjestrum helped bring about the eco-museum project cooperatively built by Chinese government and Norway government, aiming at preserving the Dong tradition and heritage. The houses are Diaojiaolou.
Behind them is the terraced field. 30 years after Mr. Gjestrum's visit, this village for sure is not as primitive as was in his eyes anymore. Restaurants opened, new houses built, but there are still some very old houses in the village. Here we are! The drum tower This Dong village is very small But no matter how small the Dong village is, there is at least one drum tower And let's go to see if we can find the stage Tata. It's very obvious! It's over there.
Dong people eat rice and gluetinous rice. It's mid-June the rice is growing very well Up in the hill in the paddy field, there is a special architecture. Althought the entire village and terrace is the ecological museum this is the actual museum you know, the physical location of the museum.
Unfortunately, it's closed. It is part of the Eco-museum project. Unfortunately, Mr. Gjestrum didn't visit it.
It was finished in 2005, four years after his death in Siberia. Don't ask how I got inside. There is a small library on the second floor of the museum.
This is the messiest library I've ever been to. It shouldn't be like this. There are cute tables.
Kids in the village should come here to read. The way to go upstairs is locked. Villagers told me the museum is supposed to be open to visitors but the staff is off duty.
Such a disappointment! But since there's no entrance fee to the village nor the museum, I guess I can't demand anything. The house at the entrance of the village is the best spot to observe the terraced field. Back to the Zhaoxing Dong village. When night falls, the village gate and drum towers are lit up.
This is the village gate where the welcome ceremony went on in the morning. The village gate is integrated with drum towers, providing quite a magnificent view. Can you tell which drum tower this is? It's Integrity.
There is a hill outside the village where visitors can see the panorama of the village. Can you find the five drum towers? This is integrity Wisdom Righteousness Etiquette very dim light Benevolent is too far away to tell The village feels very different from the Xijiang Miao Village at night. The street is empty. Many travelers prefer this village because they want to see more traditional lifestyle. No bars no loud music.
Instead, traditional Dong songs are sung below the drum towers. In my next video, I'll go to a village built on top of a waterfall. You'll get to know another minority ethnic group in China, the Tujia people. In history, the region was under the governance of Tusi, tribal leaders officially recognized by the imperial court. The village was the location of the summer palace of the Tusi.
In my next video of this series, I'll tell you about the tusi system that was popular in history in minority ethnic regions in southwest China. I am Yanyan. I make videos about sights of interest in China and histories and stories behind them.
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