Miao Villages in Southeast Guizhou Province

The Miao people form one of the largest ethnic minorities in southwest China, the Miao Nationality has a unique cultural tradition of its own. The Miao Nationality Villages in Southeast Guizhou Province are distributed mainly in Leishan, Taijiang, Jianhe and Congjiang counties. The Leigongshan area in the Autonomous Prefecture of Miao and Dong Nationalities in Southeast Guizhou are densely populated by the Miao People, dotted by more than 200 Miao Villages, including 21 that have been included in China’s Tentative List of World Heritage.

Exploring Chinese ethnic minority villages in the southwestern province of Guizhou, one will be fascinated by the locals’ exotic dress, daily life and the unique architecture of their wooden houses. Xijiang Miao village is one such place that researchers call a living fossil for the study of Miao people’s history and traditional culture. Distributed in lofty ridges and towering mountains or in the depth of forests, these rationally laid out villages are unique in architecture, ancient and simple in custom, and strong in life flavour. These properties reflect the traditional mode of production and life style of the Miao people, their housing form, and the changes of their society. They also reflect the course of evolution of their culture, the relationship between the unique natural environment and human residences, and the diversity of human culture. Intangible cultural heritage also stands out as an important element. The layout and architectural form of the Miao Villages in the Leigongshan area have the distinctive local style of an ethnic culture, demonstrating the key value of the authenticity of a heritage.

The Miao people create a variety of colorful arts and crafts, including cross-stitch work, embroidery, weaving, batik, and paper-cuts. Their batik technique dates back 1,000 years. A pattern is first drawn on white cloth with a knife dipped in hot wax. Then the cloth is boiled in dye. The wax melts to leave a white pattern on a blue background. In recent years, improved technology has made it possible to print more colorful designs, and many Miao handicrafts are now exported.

Compared with the Miao villages distributed in other parts of China, the Miao Villages in Southeast Guizhou Province are the most typical in terms of the environment and layout, the production mode and life style of their residents, and the craftsmanship and technology involved in the construction.