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Chengyang is a cluster of eight villages in a small river valley, in hilly country about five hours northwest of Guilin. It is about 18 kilometers north of Sanjiang on the Linxi River. The township is a farming community with tea plantations in the hills and fields next to the river. The villages are clusters of wooden structures, and the whole view is idyllic. Chengyang has a covered bridge, the Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge, over the river. The bridge is built on five thick pillars, and atop each pillar are multi-story wooden structures with layered roofs. It is unusual architecture. Perhaps the heavy layered roofs are meant to weigh the bridge down to the pillar foundations. There are about 100 traditional covered bridges like this in the area, but this is a big one. The big intricately covered bridges don’t seem so necessary for shelter, since the weather is generally mild. The Chengyang area is great hiking country, so the place is a great area for getting out and exploring a picturesque farming community with a unique culture.
Chengyang is a district consisting of eight famous stockade villages, giving a glimpse into the lives and customs of the Dong people. It is about five hours northwest of the famous tourist area of Guilin and Yangshuo. The region north of Guilin, however, actually has a more beautiful hiking and outdoor environment than Guilin itself or even the town of Yangshuo south of Guilin. The Li River valley of Yangshuo is beautiful, but the fields and villages around Yangshuo aren’t much more scenic than in the rest of China, and a hike can get boring. In Chengyang, you can walk around the hills and perhaps have meals in the villages or in a welcoming farmer’s house, and there are guesthouses that cater to backpackers. See China hiking tours
Chengyang has picturesque scenery. The multi-story houses in the villages are clustered into tight groups. They look very unusual. Walking in the higher hills, you can see the meandering Linxi River, tea trees growing on the hills, local farmers working hard in the fields, and revolving waterwheels. You can hike to see other villages or Dong architecture, such as the Mapang Drum Tower. You can see and walk over other covered bridges, since there are about 100 of them in the area. There are about 160 drum towers in the Sanjiang area.
There are several trails. One route runs from Chengyang through Pingtan, Gaoma, and Jichang, and takes about seven hours or a good day. You can also hike for about six hours from Chengyang to Mapang, where the Mapang Drum Tower is located. This route goes through the village of Guandong. In Mapang, you can catch a bus to Sanjiang. You see plenty of wooden houses, rice fields, and tea plantations on the hills during this hike. You can stay the night in guesthouses or hotels in both Chengyang and Sanjiang. The Chengyang National Hostel may have dorm bunks for 15 RMB or about 2 USD. The Dong Village Hotel in Chengyang may also have dorm beds for about 15 RMB. Such hotels may provide information about local trails.
The bridge is a few decades old. Its structure is unusual and rather beautiful. It has five solid stone pillars, each with a wooden pavilion on top. The bridge is about 64 meters (210 feet) long, 3.4 meters (11 feet) wide and 10 meters (33 feet) high. Wooden pillars run the course of the bridge and support the roof. It is said that the whole structure is built without a single nail or metal support; the planks and beams are held together using joints. In Mandarin, the bridge is called a Fengyu Qiao or Wind and Rain Bridge. It is one of about 100 such bridges in the area, and is said to be the biggest. It is interesting architecturally.
Such bridges are meant to shelter the villagers in bad weather and otherwise are places to sit together and enjoy the scenery. There is a fee of about 30 RMB for seeing the Chengyang Bridge, and women on the bridge sell embroidery and cotton blankets boldly patterned in black and white. One may also be able to buy shiny blue-black Dong jackets, dyed with indigo and varnished in egg white as protection against mosquitoes. Dance shows may be performed for an extra fee.
From the bridge, you can watch the river and the people going about their activities. You can see a tight group of two or three story houses. The houses are overlooked by a square drum tower. For an excursion while visiting the bridge, there's a trail from the main road up to two pavilions overlooking Chengyang. These give views of the villages nestled among vivid green fields.From the bridge, you can observe the river and watch the people going about their daily activities. You can see a tight group of two- or three-story houses. The houses are overlooked by a square drum tower. For an extra excursion while visiting the bridge, there's a trail from the main road up to two pavilions overlooking Chengyang. These provide views of the local villages, nestled among vivid green fields.