Situated in southeastern Guizhou, Zhaoxing is one of the largest Dong minority villages in China. It lies in a basin surrounded by mountains with a small river passing through it.
Zhaoxing enjoys a critical geographical position, as Guilin can be reached in the southeast through Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, with Guiyang and Chongqing in the northwest being accessible through the county-level city of Kaili.
The village is a real masterpiece of the Dong nationality, with theater stages, singing platforms, and grain barns. There are five drum towers, which are the village's special symbols, and they appear as five lotus flowers scattered in five naturally formed villages.
In 2001, Zhaoxing Dong Village and its drum towers were listed in the Guinness World Records.
- Name: Zhaoxing Dong Village (肇兴侗寨)
- Population: about 1,000 families; 6,000 people
- Age: nearly 860 years
- Must-sees: drum towers, ancient buildings
- Popular activities: enjoy local food, attend local festivals, hike between villages
- Suitable for: culture lovers, hikers
- Time needed: 1 day
Top 5 Things to Do in Zhaoxing
1. Visit Traditional Architectural Structures
Zhaoxing is renowned for its drum towers, which are unique to China. The five towers standing in the village individually represent the five good manners in Chinese tradition, namely benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, and trust. Each drum tower shows its unique style and characteristics.
As symbols of the Dong village, the drum towers are the tallest and most respected buildings, and a sign of good fortune and prosperity. The towers were built without using a single nail or rivet.
The interiors and exteriors of the drum towers are painted colorfully with scenes from folk tales, legendary heroes, landscapes, animals, and daily activities.
While walking into the Dong village, travelers come across many wind and rain bridges, which are roof-covered bridges across the river. The columns and planks were engineered to fit together tightly without using nails.
The 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.
Besides the drum towers, other characteristic structures, such as the wind and rain bridges, theater stages, and barns, are worth a visit.
2. Listen to the Dong Chorus
The Dong Chorus has a history of over 2,500 years and features multivoiced folk songs without a conductor or any accompaniment. This kind of singing has been performed at many world-class events and ceremonies, and was listed as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009.
The songs focus on history, legends, love, and teaching morals. One of the most distinctive performances is the "sound chorus", imitating sounds from nature, such as the sounds of animals.
Zhaoxing has free open-air folk art performances every night during which you can admire the Dong Chorus as well as many other folk arts, such as dancing and opera. If you are visiting the village, don't forget to experience this.
Read about other interesting Guizhou minority customs.
3. Eat Tasty Food
The Dong dietary culture can be summarized in three words:
- Varied: Dong people use more than 500 kinds of ingredients in their food.
- Sour: Over half of the dishes prepared by local people have a sour flavor.
- Joyful: People sit at long tables for a banquet and sing songs for a toast.
In Zhaoxing, you have the chance to taste some local dishes, snacks, and drinks. During festivals or ceremonies, try some red meat, pickled fish, pork salad, steamed meatballs, oil tea, and rice wine. Local people even fry grasshoppers as a snack!
Find more Guizhou food to eat.
4. Hike Between Villages
Besides traveling in a car, travelers in reasonable physical condition can also hike between villages. Your guide can advise you about the different hiking routes, such as Zhaoxing–Xiage–Tang'an.
The hike may take about 2½ hours and has eye-catching scenery all the way, including mountaintop views, fields, and rice terraces.
Before embarking on a hike, it's a good idea to ensure you have a good pair of walking shoes. Some country roads are well constructed but others are not. A good pair of shoes will be helpful when walking on uneven surfaces.
5. Attend Local Festivals
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. As well as these festivals, the Grain Rain Festival (谷雨节) and the Muddy Men Festival (泥人节) are the most fascinating celebrations.
- The Grain Rain Festival: Celebrated around April 19th to 20th, this festival is a carnival for everyone in the village. Local people prepare black-colored gluten rice and send it to other people, and paint each other's faces with black coal slag. The more coal slag coloring on a face means the more blessings are received. Does this remind you of Halloween?
- The Muddy Men Festival: This festival is celebrated after the autumn harvest to express gratitude to the soil. On the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (the same day as China's Mid-Autumn Festival), young men enter a muddy pond and catch fish with their hands. Each time they catch one, they hold it high and shout praises to the onlookers. Other events in the festival include bullfighting competitions, singing songs, playing instruments, and opera performances.
If you are interested in the festivals, remember to confirm the actual date with your travel consultant.
How to Get to Zhaoxing
- From Guiyang: Travelers can take a bullet train from Guiyang North Railway Station to Congjiang Railway Station (about 1 hour 40 minutes), then take the bus to Zhaoxing.
- It is also possible to travel to Kaili, start a minority village tour in a car, and select Zhaoxing as one of the villages to visit. In this case, you can visit other villages first, arrive in Zhaoxing at night, and start your visit the next day.
- From Guilin: Travelers can take a bullet train from both Guilin and Yangshuo to Congjiang (about 1 to 1½ hours), and then transfer to Zhaoxing.
Due to the lack of English services, you are not recommended to take a train or bus by yourself if you can't speak Chinese.
Using a travel service, like China Highlights, is a good choice as you will have a travel consultant to help you customize your itinerary and will travel in a private car with a guide speaking in your language.
Read about Guizhou transportation.
Zhaoxing, as well as the neighboring district, enjoys a cool and rainy climate. You are advised to take some long-sleeved clothes with you even if you are traveling in summer as well as an umbrella.
Most of the country roads are in good condition but some are not, so wearing a pair of good walking shoes is highly recommended.
Due to the pleasant climate, Zhaoxing is suitable for visiting all year round. During peak seasons, such as Chinese national holidays and summer holidays, you are advised to confirm your booking as soon as possible.
It is unavoidable to encounter other large tour groups but just let your guide help you to keep away from the crowds.
There are lots of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in Liping County. Although they are not as luxurious as those in large cities, they have good services and facilities.
In the village, there may only be hostels or guesthouses. You can tell us your preferences and let us manage the booking for you.
Travel to Zhaoxing Dong Village with Us
You can customize your tour to Zhaoxing Dong Village with us, and here are some ideas to manage your tour:
- 6-Day Minority Adventure: Start from Guiyang, visit interesting minority villages near Kaili, arrive at and explore Zhaoxing, return to Guiyang, and leave.
- 8-Day Guilin and Guizhou Relaxation Tour: Visit Guilin and Yangshuo, and then travel northwest to Zhaoxing. Continue traveling north to Kaili and leave from Guiyang.