Xijiang (西江) is the largest village of the Miao minority in Chin. If you are planning to visit this place in this guide you will find some useful info.
Not many know that when talking about “Chinese people” the expression actually refers only to one of the 56 ethnic groups recognized by the government of China and to be precise, the Han ethnic group. The other 55 ethnic minorities make up about 9% of the rest of the population.
Two of the Chinese provinces with the highest number of ethnic minorities are Yunnan and Guizhou. In my blog, I wrote a lot about Yunnan but also Guizhou deserves a special mention. Although, at least in my opinion, not as spectacular as Yunnan, it is still one of the most beautiful and interesting provinces in terms of history and culture.
Without going into too much detail, it’s interesting to know this Chinese expression about this province: no three feet of land is flat, no three days are sunny, and no one as three taels of silver. Like most Chinese proverbs, it doesn’t translate very well, but the idea is that Guizhou Province is hilly, wet, and poor
The first impression for those who have never heard of this place might not be positive but the truth is that due to its location, Guizhou is one of the provinces where there are more ethnic minorities. Visiting some remote villages you’ll have the impression that time has stopped.
As for the climate unfortunately it is true that it rains often but this adds a certain atmosphere to its beautiful landscapes. Although on my last trip I focused particularly on the Miao minority I hope to explore some of the other characteristic places in Guizhou.
Scattered around the province there are hundreds of villages more or less beautiful and more or less easily reachable but the most famous of all is undoubtedly Xijiang: Thousand Household Miao Village.
A short introduction about the Miao minority
The Miao minority is the most represented in Guizhou. The criteria for a minority to be recognized by the Chinese government are quite strict so there are many other Miao branches with completely different customs and traditions that are not recognized as being a different ethnic group. If you happen to visit these areas you will see how the traditional attires and languages change radically from one village to another even if officially they all belong to the same group.
Some of the characteristics of the Miao is the passion for Mijiu (rice wine), the interesting hairstyles of the Miao women and their love for silver decorations.
The Miao festivals are a great way to taste the Mijiu: the rice wine
If you want to research a bit more this topic you should definitely visit the excellent Provincial Museum in Guiyang, Guizhou’s capital. You will realize that talking about Miao is actually an oversimplification.
Things to know beore visiting Xijiang in Guizhou
The first thing to mention is that Xijiang is the most famous Miao village. This means that it’s a very popular destination and therefore there are a lot of tourists. If you are looking for an authentic experience, Xijiang is probably not the ideal place for you.
Having said that, I think that is worth spending at least a couple of nights before exploring other more authentic areas. Staying in Xijiang will give you the opportunity to relax and enjoy the incredible view of the village houses without sacrificing any comfort.
A positive aspect is that unlike Lijiang, in Yunnan, there are still many families living there. So you will likely see scenes of everyday life.
As with all tourist sites in China, you will need to buy a ticket to enter the village. With the ticket, you will also have access to a performance in the main square held daily. The performance is not worth it in my opinion. You can attend, if you are interested, a much more authentic show (and without political propaganda) in the village of Langde (朗德) about an hour’s drive away.
As for the accommodation, you’ll have a lot of options. You can book a guest house in advance using Booking.com or search for something once you’ve arrive there. Remember that breakfast in Chinese hotels is not great. Most likely you’ll have to choose between soup noodles and fried rice.
Getting to Xijiang is relatively simple. There are numerous buses departing from Guiyang every day and the trip takes about 4 hours. Another option is to take the bus from Kaili. The trip takes about 1.5 hours.
If planning a trip in China makes you a bit uncomfortable (China it’s not the easiest country to travel to) I recommend that you contact a local travel agency. For my trips, I often collaborate with Wonders of Yunnan Travel who also arranges trips in Guizhou. Tell them that I have given you their contact.
Langde (朗德): a more authentic experience
Langde(朗德) is another Miao village about an hour’s drive from Xijiang. The best way to get there is by private transport.
It’s a bit more authentic than Xijiang, but you’ll see some tourists even there. In the afternoon you can watch a show performed by people from the village. The show is very nice and definitely more interesting than that of Xijiang.
Walking through the small streets of the Langde village you’ll have a clear idea of what is happening in China: an unprecedented exodus to big cities. In places like Langde, there are only elderly people and small kids. It’s as if an entire generation disappeared. The parents move away and leave their children with their grandparents until they grow up.
The people who live in these villages are generally very kind and smiling, especially if you have the opportunity to visit places where there are no tourists and locals rarely see foreigners. It won’t be unusual for them to invite you home to share a meal with you.
It’s experiences like these that make a trip unforgettable and make us understand how in reality most of the people are actually nice if you don’t have any prejudice and take some time to get to know them.
Final considerations about Xijiang
Xijiang is the perfect example of the Chinese concept of tourism: take a fascinating place, fill it with shops selling cheap souvenirs produced in some factories in northeast China and start an endless series of construction works that may end in ten years.
Don’t get me wrong: Xijiang is a place worth a visit as long as you know that you are not going to visit a remote village in the mountains of Guizhou. It would be nice if the authorities started to understand that tourism must be developed responsibly so that everyone, especially the local population, can benefit from it.
An exception to this sad trend is the Hemu Village in Xinjiang a truly nice and not too overly touristic place. Hopefully, in the future more and more people in China will realize that traveling is more about getting to know people and less about buying cheap souvenirs that look exactly the same no matter where you go.
- Before you leave for China, remember to get a good VPN. Here I explain why.
- Here you can find discounted flights for China.
Here you can read my complete travel guide to visiting China. Here is an article about Shaxi, a beautiful village along the ancient South Silk Road. Here some of the things to do in Zhangjiajie.