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Mapang is a stockade village about 28 kilometers (17 miles) from Sanjiang county town. It is a masterpiece of Dong architecture.
The original Mapang drum tower was built during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), but over the years it was repeatedly damaged. The current one, with upturned eaves, was rebuilt in 1943. It is perhaps the largest drum tower in the area. It covers about 169 square meters (about 0.04 acres).
The Dong people are spread mostly around the borders of three provinces in southern China: Guizhou, Hunan and Guangxi. They are one of China’s distinct ethnic groups.
According to legend, Dong forefathers traveled south and west from where Chinese people live today. In the southern Dong territory, there are numerous drum towers at the center of Dong villages. These towers may represent either clans or whole villages.
In Sanjiang County, there are about 160 drum towers. The Mapang drum tower may be the most attractive. Understanding how the drum towers were used is one way to know more about the traditional life of the Dong people.
The drum towers each had a drum that was used to summon villagers if something important had happened. Clans or villages might use their towers for convening ceremonies, meeting or relaxing.
At Mapang, villagers assemble at festival times to perform Dong plays accompanied by lusheng flutes, dancing and singing. The Dong people are renowned for their choral singing.
In 2009, UNESCO officially listed the Dong choral song performances as a World-Class Intangible Cultural Heritage. While in Mapang, you can also admire the expert carpentry skills for which the Dong are renowned.