Unique ethnic culture leads to booming rural tourism in China’s Guangxi

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The Longji Rice Terraces in Dazhai village, Longji township, Longsheng county, Guilin, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, was decorated with rice paddies, presenting a lively view.

Since ancient times, Longsheng county has been known for its mountainous landscape – most of the region is highland while the rest is halved by water and fields.

The diligent people of the Yao ethnic group leveled slopes into layers of terraces. After the terraces were shaped, they channeled in water and plowed the fields for planting rice. This feat of precision farming birthed the spectacular scenery of terraced rice paddies winding from the foot of the mountains all the way to the peaks.

For generations, the villagers of Dazhai have toiled on the slopes, gradually transforming them into a magnificent terraced landscape resembling a ladder to the sky. With more than 1,200 people in over 290 households, the village is predominantly inhabited by the Yao ethnic group, accounting for 98 percent of the village’s population.

Dazhai was once among the poorest villages in Longsheng county before it started developing tourism.

In recent years, the village has leveraged the scenic terraced landscapes and the unique cultural customs of the Red Yao ethnic group, a branch of the Yao ethnic group, turning the once impoverished village into a renowned tourist destination, said Yu Qiongtong, Party head of Dazhai village.

According to him, Dazhai village was named among the Best Tourism Villages of 2022 by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Early in the morning, Red Yao women would open the windows and hang their bright-colored clothes out on drying racks and corridors. Soon, the walls of every house were transformed into a “sea” of vibrant red garments.

The Red Yao costumes feature a passionate red color, as well as harmonious tones like blue, black, cyan, and green that blend with the surroundings. These colors are skillfully combined to express the Red Yao people’s longing for a better life.

In 2014, the traditional clothing of the Yao ethnic group in Longsheng county was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage of China.

The Red Yao people have a special affinity for the color red, and most of them have inherited the traditional craftsmanship of weaving, dyeing, and embroidery, which has been passed down to this day.

The traditional patterns of Yao ethnic clothing include geometric patterns, animal patterns, plant patterns, and landscape patterns. These diverse patterns not only have aesthetic value but also serve as cultural symbols.

“We embroider whatever we see, such as insects and flowers. It is a way to record our lives,” said Pan Jifeng, a national representative inheritor of the costume of the Yao ethnic group.

As the cultural charm of ethnic groups continues to unfold, ancient cultures are rejuvenated in the new era. The craftsmanship and vibrant colors of the traditional Yao costumes have ignited the tourism industry in Dazhai village.

Folk activities hosted there allow visitors to not only admire the breathtaking terraced landscapes but also experience the unique customs of the Yao ethnic group. Adorned in their splendid costumes, Red Yao women would sing joyful toasting songs and offer local sweet wine to tourists. Today, Dazhai village is bustling with tourists, with the laughter and joy full of mountains.

Extensive research, collection, and documentation have been conducted on local folk songs, ballads, and customs. Dazhai village is like a vibrant museum of Yao culture.

In addition to drying red clothes, the village also has traditional activities such as making sticky rice cakes, performing bamboo pole dances, and combing long hair. Dazhai village, far away from the hustle and bustle of cities, fully immerses visitors in the Red Yao ancient culture.

The unique farming culture of Dazhai village also attracts tourists. The 12 farming techniques often used on the Longji Rice Terraces present the beautiful local farming culture and villagers’ protection of the terraces, attracting many tourists to come to enjoy and experience.

“These 12 farming techniques were passed down by our ancestors who built the terraced fields. If any one of them is missing, the terraced fields may be damaged. This is our traditional terraced field culture,” said Yu, adding that developing tourism is an important way to promote the prosperity of the Yao culture in Dazhai village.

After years of development and innovation in local tourism, the villagers of Dazhai have turned into all-around farmers who not only do farm work but also engage in tourism businesses. As more and more tourists flock to the village, B&B and catering industries are thriving.

Currently, there are over 230 households in the village running distinctive B&B hotels. Besides, villagers are also operating farmhouse inns, selling handmade crafts, and performing ethnic dances, completely breaking free from the struggling days when they relied solely on agricultural work to make a living. This development has allowed the local culture to flourish, making it known beyond the mountains.



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