Itching to escape Guangzhou, if only for a weekend? Longing to go back in time and experience life in an ancient minority village in China? Then Nangang Yao Minority Town (Nangang Qiannian Yaozhai) is the place for you! Many people are under the false impression that Guangdong is just an urban jungle of high rises, flashy cars, dizzying commerce and other signs of the province's impressive developmental feats. An excursion to the rolling, karst hills in northern Guangdong will quickly dispel this illusion, as it is here, nestled between craggy, green hills and rural farmland, far from the steel and glass eyesores of modern China, where the fascinating town of Nangang lies.
Nangang is located in Liannan County and is the largest, oldest and best preserved Yao minority village in China. Built on limestone hills, some 800 metres above sea level, Nangang's origins date back to the Song Dynasty – well over a thousand years ago. During its peak, the village consisted of 700 houses, 1000 households and 7000 people. Nowadays, the town is only inhabited by over 100 people; most of the young people have left to find greater opportunities elsewhere. Four different Yao clans manage the city using ancient Yao laws and systems – a mysterious, yet strict system of governance which villagers democratically elected way back in the Song Dynasty and which continues to this day.
Upon entering the village, visitors will be greeted by a solid stone wall and several ancient pine trees – the protectors of this historic hilltop "fortress". Once you cross the threshold of this walled entrance, you are immediately transported into a different world, accentuated by beautiful stone buildings distinct to Yao culture. Even the air seems to have a breadth of ancientness about it. Most of the buildings are still in their original state, having miraculously avoided developers' tendency to give old buildings in China a modern "facelift", often taking from their authenticity in the process. The village does have some ramshackle buildings however, but this just adds to the village's ancient charm.
The buildings: structure and layout
Most of the houses here are "diaojiao lou" (literally meaning hanging foot buildings), common among minority cultures in China's south and built with bamboo, cement and with slates adorning the exterior. The houses are all the same height, and are interconnected by narrow alleyways. Wood adorns the interior, and most houses have a stove, shower basin and draft-proof bedrooms. Unique decorative paintings are still faintly visible on the walls of some buildings, as well as inscribed slogans from the Qing Dynasty saying "100 sons, 1000 grandsons" (百子千孙). A number of propaganda slogans from after the opening can still be seen on several buildings too.
Take a stroll through natureView In Map
Stunning natural scenery of karst summits and ancient trees embraces all sides of Nangang Yao Minority Town. There's a notable air of serenity in the village; one only hears the occasional clink of a villager at work. The air is crisp and clean compared to Guangzhou's, and the slow pace of life and absence of cars further offers a soothing break from city life.
Strolling through the streets of the town, you're likely to see villagers preparing the day's meal and old people and children dressed in the beautifully embroidered, traditional clothing. You may also see women busy embroidering, multi-colored bags and textiles, a project that can take up to three months to complete.
While the town is slowly but surely starting to receive more visitors, it is still a fairly undeveloped ancient site – perhaps one of the last villages unspoiled by tourists and greedy developers. Plans are under way to cash in on this pristine ancient town – much to the embitterment of locals – so make your way there soon before it becomes just another commercial tourist trap.
Add: Chengxi Nan, Liannan County, Qingyuan City, Guangdong
Tel: 0763 8662 003
Opening hours: 8:30-18:00
Price: 50 RMB admission fee
Getting there: take a Liannan County Town (连南县城) bound bus from the Guangdong Provincial Long-Distance Bus Station, which costs 60 RMB and takes about 3.5 hours. Once you get to Liannan County, there are plenty taxis that can take you directly to Nangang Qiannian Yaozhai (南岗千年瑶寨 | Nangang Thousand-year Yao Village). It should take about 30 minutes to reach and cost around 10 RMB.
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Keywords: Nangang Qiannian Yaozhao Yao Minority village Guangdong Yao Minority China traveling around Guangzhou Nangang Yao Minority Town
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