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Situated in southeastern Guizhou, 72 kilometers (45 miles) from Liping County, Zhaoxing village (also called Zhaodong) is one of the largest Dong Minority villages in China. It lies in a basin surrounded by mountains where a small river passes through. Zhaoxing enjoys a critical and strategic geographical position, as one can reach Guilin and Liuzhou in Guangxi Province in the southeast through Sanjiang County; Tongdao, Jinzhou, and Huaihua of Hunan Province in the northeast through Hongzhou County; and Guiyang and Chongqin in the northwest through Kaili County.
In 2001, Zhaoxing Drum Towers and Dong village were both listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. A must for every traveler in Zhaoxing is enjoying a Dong drama, which plays on the stage near the Drum Tower.
Dong village in Zhaoxing has a long history. According to folk legend, the village was constructed in the fifth year of the Zhenglong Emperor of the Song Dynasty (1160). Ancestors of Zhaoxing village settled here some 840 years ago.
Zhaoxing village is a cradle for Dong festivals. The important Dong festivals are the Dong New Year, the New Harvest Festival, and the Sama Festival. Of these festivals, the Ni Ren Jie Festival (泥人节) (Doma and Daoshen in the Dong language, Duoma means playing with mud and Daoshen means cattle fighting), with its 500 years of history, is one of the most fascinating celebrations.
The festival is normally celebrated after the Autumn harvest to express gratitude to the gods. On the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, young, naked men enter the pond, which muddies the water, and then they start to catch fish with their hands. Each time they catch one, they hold it high in the air for onlookers to shout praises to them.
As the young men catch more and more fish and the pond becomes muddier, they daub mud on the bodies of everyone in the pond until they are all covered with mud. Upon exiting the pond, each team separately takes their bulls into the pond for a bullfighting competition. After each round, a final winner is chosen and the title "Bull King" is given to the master of the bull as a special privilege and honor. The festival expresses not only the worship of the earth and their great love of the land, which gives birth to humans, it also expresses an artistic appreciation of the land. The Ni Ren Jie Festival is held every year in Xiage village, located four kilometers from Zhaoxing village and built along the shape of the mountain, with numerous surrounding terraces.
The village is the real masterpiece of the Dong nationality, with a theater stage, singing platforms, and grain barns. There are five drum towers, the village’s special symbols, and they appear as five lotus flowers scattered in five naturally formed villages.
Zhaoxing is renowned for its drum towers, which are unique to China. Therefore, the village is praised as the land of the drum towers.
Among the 628 drum towers in China, Liping County owns a large proportion of them, 328 towers. The five towers standing in one village are the most famous tourist attraction in Zhaoxing. Each drum tower shows its unique style and characteristics.
As a symbol of the Dong village, the drum towers serve as the embodiment of the Dong people's exquisite building skills and technology. The towers were built without using a single nail or rivet. The insides and outsides of the drum towers and covered bridges are often painted colorfully with scenes from Dong folk tales, legendary heroes, landscapes, animals, and activities such as ox fighting and festive dancing. Aspects of daily life are likewise portrayed, such as playing musical instruments, hunting, spinning, weaving and dyeing, and cooking. One can also see carvings of dragons, snakes, tigers, geese, and other animals. In the past, when enemies invaded Zhaoxing village, the villagers assembled with their weapons at the tower to await orders from the head of their clan. According to the tradition of the Dong ethnic groups, each drum tower represents one group of locals. The head of the village divided the people into five groups to simplify administration. The five towers separately represent kindness, politeness, intellect, righteousness, and creditworthiness.
Dong village built the drum towers to serve as a symbol of good fortune and a sign of prosperity. They also symbolize the Dong village and Dong nationality, and function as a relaxing place for the Dong people, a social meeting spot for local young people, a place to receive guests, a meeting place, and a tool for transmitting information or alarms.
In the village, the drum towers are the tallest and most respected buildings. During festivals and special meetings, villagers always congregate in the lower pavilions of the tower. The gather there in the evening, dance, and listen to traditional folk songs. Particularly during the harvest period, the village is full of joyful, young people who perform the festival dance surrounding the drum tower. They are honest and hospitable, and welcome tourists to join them.
The roofed Diping Wind-Rain bridges, also called the Flower Bridges, are best known for their unique architectural style. They have the longest history in Dong's architecture.
Dong nationality features three unique folk culture symbols, the Wind-Rain Bridges (the Flower Bridges), the Drum Tower, and songs of the Dong nationality. While walking into the Dong village, travelers come across many bridges, which are basically roof-covered buildings across the river, covered with pavilions. The bridges are built with fir timbers and have projecting eaves and tile interlocks. The columns and planks were engineered to fit together tightly without using nails.
The bridges, built in 1882, have earned the name "flower bridges" because of the exquisite sculptures that cover them. Roofed with tiles engraved with flowers, the bridges have on their sides five large pagoda-like, multitier pavilions beautifully decorated with carvings. The Flower Bridges are covered walkways with railings and benches, giving people a place to sit and enjoy the scenery. On a rainy day, sitting in the bridge pavilion and chatting with friends is a most pleasurable experience.
All bridges are masterpieces of folk architecture in every detail, with wood columns, purlins, stools, and railings. Every bridge was built without using a nail or rivet, and without any blueprints. Boasting great historical, scientific, and artistic value, the bridges were listed fifth on the national cultural heritages list.
The bridges are located on the Nanjiang River, flowing through Diping Dong village, Liping County, in Guizhou Province.