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 The Dong

  With a total population of some 2 million, the Dong maily live in the remote mountains in Guizhou, Hunan and Guangxi. Among them, 1.64 million is found in Guizhou which make up about 56% of the total of the Dong featured by large concentration and small living separately.

  The Dong is one of the tribes with a very long history whose people living in Linna( Fujian and Guangdong of today ) during the Spring and autumn period was called "Luoyue", "Liao" in the Wei and Jin dynasties. The Dong was named " Dong" after the Ming dynasty, a kind of organization called " Kuan" appeared in the Dong community with the development of economy and the private owning of land. The leader of it was called " Kuanshou" which is divided into " Dakuan" and "Xiaokuan", the "Dakuan" owns a huge of lands spreading more than 50 kms far and wide. The "Kuanshou" was the leader of military affairs, he became the ruler relying on his own of the the power of politics, economics and military.

  Rice is the Dong's staple food, sticky rice is their favorite. They particularly enjoy sour food as well as rice wine. The region inhabited by Dong is rich in China firs, so they use wood to build their houses, drum towers and wind and rain bridges. The Dong also like drinking oil tea which is a specialty of them.

  The Dong are excellent architects. When you walk to the Dong villages of the Souther Dong region, you will see beautiful and exquisite drum towers and wind and rain bridges every where. Drum towers and wind and rain bridges become the symbol of a Dong village. In Congjiang, Liping, nearlly every village has drum towers, of course not every village has drum towers, but when you see drum towers in a village, it must be a Dong village. Some villages have a drum tower, some have more drum towers. For example, there are 5 drum towers in Zhaoxing village, that means there are 5 clans in the village. The wooden drum tower is connected by mortises and tenons without any nails. Its bottom part is square, and the upper part is octagonal or hexagonal, and the number of the floors on the drum tower is also odd number, namely from 3, 5,7, 9,11,13 and the like. The highest one exsited nowadays is the one newly built in Congjiang near the main high way. Some drum towers have survived for many decades, the drum tower in Zengcong, Congjiang county is the well preseverd one which has the longest age, built in 1672, this drum tower is one of the national key protection relics, The docrations on the drum towers are very beautiful, the patterns are from village life to ancient legendary stories or mythes, and they are vivid and true to life. Unfortunately the village is only accessible by 4 WD jeeps.

The wind and rain bridge is also the Dong another's outstanding architecture, the bridge becomes a place for the villagers to keep shelter from rain and sun during the summer season, hence wind and rain bridge. The wind and rain bridge is also called " flower bridge". The wind and rain bridges in Guizhou have many beautiful painted pictures, the motifs are from Dong people's daily life, festivals to chinese ancient stories. The most elegant and oldest wind and rain bridge is the one in Diping, Liping, it was built in 1873, the bridge was burnt several times and rebuilt, unfortunately it was destroyed again by the big flood of a few year ago. Now a new one with the same length and size was completed building.

 The Dong language belongs to Sino-Tibetan language family, Zhuang Dong branch which is similar to the Tai language. The Dong have no written language, in 1956, the Chinese government transcribed the written language for the Dong by using Lantin words-Chinese pinyin.

  The Dong are good at singing, and there are various songs, the most noted is the Dong big song which has been known both at home and abroad. The popular musical instruments of the Dong are Lusheng, Pipa and Legged violin. A little girl must learn singing folk songs from the old since her childhood.

  The Southern Dong women also like embroidery and silver ornaments, the twisted stitch of the Dong is very superb.
Many festivals occur annually in the Dong community, they are " New year of the Dong", " San Yue San" and " New rice eating festival". During the festivals, Dong men wear dyed turbans, jackets buttoned on the left and trousers playing Lusheng, women sing big song, bull fight, bird fight also can be seen.

  The Dong of China is classified into the Northern Dong and the Southern Dong. The northern Dong region includes Tianzhu, Jinping, Jianhe, Zhenyuan, Sansui and Yuping of Guizhou and Tongdao, Jinzhou of Hunan whose traditional costumes and architectures are not really well preserved dut to the more developed transportation and the living close to Han. Women usually seldom wear traditional costume for working in the fields. Only on some festival occastions, for instance, the women in Baojin, Zhenyuan still wear emboidered dress and silver for the festival of " San Yue San". However Sanmentang in Tianzhu is the exception there you can find old stone tablets and family ancestral temples are well preserved from the Ming and Qing dynasties, it worth a visit If you want to make the trip to Sanmentang, you may connect the journey to Longli old town in Jinping, then to Liping. The southern Dong region includes Liping, Congjiang, Rongjiang of Guizhou and Sanjiang, Rongshui and Rong'an of Guangxi. However, the Southern Dong's traditional costume and architectures are so well conserved because they live in the remote region with poor transportation. Even not on festival days, you still can see women in traditional leggings and dress. Especially the drum tower and wind and rain bridge are everywhere in the villages. Furthermore, the market of the southern Dong region is very interesting. If lucky, you will see the market in Xiajiang or Tingdong on the way from Rongjiang to Congjiang, the Miao girls join the market in silver jewelry, the Dong women also dress beautiful costume, so I highly recommend the tour to the southern Dong region.

You may make the tour suggested as below:

Guiyang-Kaili( Miao villages or indigenous paper making )-Rongjiang-Zhaoxing( via Congjiang, Dong villages or markets )-Sanjiang-Longji( tea platation or terraced fields)-Guilin or Yangshuo. Many villages on this route are worth visiting, and some are tourist villages for common tourists, some are traditional villages for adventure travellers or anthropologists, you may get the details from your travel agent, if you want to make the tour with Tony, you can find it out from him.







  To make the tour, contact Along
All texts and image by Chen Hualong Email:. tony6868@163.com, alongdiscovery@hotmailcom
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