In China, Guizhou may be the province which best preserves traditional customs. For thousands of years, it was hard to access, because of its mountainous geographical environment. Many minority customs there are still well preserved.
Today, people from 44 ethnic minorities are settled in this mysterious region, and they still practice fascinating customs.
For a variety of reasons, however, these cultures are gradually disappearing. Read on to see the customs you might see or experience today, which in a decade or two may have totally disappeared.
1. The Welcome Ceremony, Road-Blocking Wine
Guizhou minorities are skilled in making rice wine and fond of drinking it. When honored guests visit their villages, the first thing they encounter is "road-blocking wine".
Villagers prepare homemade rice wine and block the way, singing toasting songs to the guests. Guests must drink the wine in response, and only then are allowed into the village. Be prepared for this if you are going to visit a minority village in Guizhou!
Check here for the most famous Guizhou minority villages.
2. Miao Marriage, Couples Live Apart for 3 Years
Men and women of the Miao minority practice romantic love, and their matchmakers are their songs. On the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month, young men and women dress up and gather together on the hills or along the rivers, singing songs to find their love.
When a couple marries, relatives and friends of the bride come to the bridegroom's home and celebrate a banquet for 3 days. During these days, the couple are not allowed to sleep together.
Even in the following 3 years, the couple can't actually live together. After 3 years, when the bride is pregnant, the couple finally live together.
See other customs of the Miao ethnic group
3. Miao Lusheng Dance, Blowing and Dancing
Lusheng is a kind of reed-pipe instrument popular in minority villages in Guizhou. "Lusheng dance" is a traditional folk dance featuring men playing lusheng and simultaneously dancing in a synchronized way.
For Miao people, lusheng dance might be entertainment, performance or competition, or an expression of love from a boy to a girl.
Read here about the Lusheng Festival of the Miao minority.
4. 3rd Day of the 3rd Month, a Local Carnival
The 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month, also called 'sanyuesan', is celebrated by many minority groups in southwest China. In Guizhou, different groups celebrate the festival in different ways, but some customs are common.
On this day, villagers worship their ancestors, then sing and dance together. Does this remind you of the carnivals in some other countries?
People in some minority villages prepare and eat yellow glutinous rice, while others prepare five-colored glutinous rice. They eat the colorful rice and pray for a good harvest.
Sanyuesan is also a day for young villagers to concern themselves with love and romance.
5. Dragon Canoe Festival, the Liveliest Festival in Guizhou
Guizhou is a fount of festivals. There are over 1,000 festivals celebrated in the province every year. One of the most important is the Dragon Canoe Festival. In minority villages, the festival is celebrated on the 25th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar.
The dragon canoe festival is celebrated in Guizhou villages much differently than in other places, for local people combine one long canoe with two shorter canoes to make one dragon canoe. It is celebrated with festival food, sacrificial ceremonies and dragon canoe races. Generally, it all lasts 3 to 7 days.
See what people do during Dragon Canoe Festival.
6. Basha Miao Village, The Last Gunman Tribe
The Miao village of Basha is the only place in China where people can legally possess guns. It is not far from a town, but still retains its primitive life style. Adult male villagers wear dark-colored clothes, and carry broadswords and long rifles, as if they were ancient warriors.
Visitors to Basha Miao Village are welcomed outside the village via a special ceremony involving guns. No need to be scared, for this is the traditional way for local people to welcome honored guests.
See other customs and taboos of Basha Miao Village.
7. Dong Choral Songs, Historic and World-Famous Folk Art
Dong choral songs, with a history of over 2,500 years, are multi-voice folk songs, without conductor or accompaniment. This kind of singing is an intangible cultural heritage, and has been performed at many world-class events and ceremonies.
The songs may focus on love, teaching morals, or telling stories. One of the most distinctive is the "sound chorus", imitating sounds from nature, such as the sounds of insects, birds or rivers.
Nearly all Dong villages have their own choral teams. When you visit a Dong village, seize the opportunity to enjoy a live performance!
Listen to a Dong choral song.
8. Long-Table Banquet, Thousands of People at One Table
You may have shared a meal with dozens of people sitting at round tables, but have you ever had a banquet with thousands of people sitting at one endless long table?
In Xijiang Miao Village, you will have an opportunity to enjoy just such a spectacular banquet. The long-table banquet is the most important kind of banquet for Miao people. In recent years, it has also become a window for tourists to experience local customs and to feast like gourmets.
The long table is set in a large yard or along ancient streets and the banquet consists of all kinds of local produce and wine.
Find out more about Xijiang Miao Village.
9. Night Talks and Love Songs, Dong Courtship
In Dong villages, young men and women traditionally started courting in their mid-teens. Most villages have houses built on stilts, and these lend themselves to the following romantic routine.
After nightfall, boys grab their instruments and sing songs outside the home of the girl they fancy. If a girl is fond of a boy, she opens the window and invites him up for a night talk through the window, exchanging small gifts with him as a token of love.
If a girl does not much like a boy, however, the girl shuts the window, and her parents ask the boy to leave. If the boy still won't leave, a basin of cold water is showered on his head.
Find out more about the Dong minority group.
10. Yao Medicated Bath
Although they live in rugged mountains with a harsh environment, the people of the Yao minority are seldom troubled by disease. This is because of their folk medicine.
Having a medicated bath is a time-honored custom among the Yao, for they believe that such baths prevent and heal diseases, yielding good health and a long life.
Enjoy Guizhou Ethnic Minority Customs with Us
Guizhou is not only famous for its natural landscape, but also for its special folk customs. Are you tired of simply observing mountains and rivers? Why not follow us to some of the most famous or distinctive minority villages?
Check out some of our itineraries:
This tour includes many minority villages and the opportunity to experience different minority customs, including 3 traditional handicraft experiences.
You can attend a traditional festival of the Miao people. Festival times are best for experiencing the Miao people's culture as well as appreciating their beautiful minority costumes.