Guizhou Ethnic Minorities and Yunnan Rice Terraces, Jan 13-25, 2015
On this photography expedition you will walk into farmyards and country villages apparently untouched by modern technology since the advent of the water buffalo. Traditional dress, farming technique, crafts and religion hold fast in this lush and picturesque region of China. Known as the Kingdom of Mountains, this region was opened to foreigners in the late 1980s. This trip takes us to rural villages that are built like layered wedding cakes in an orderly fashion on hillsides. You will experience an explosion of color, culture and landscape. This is the most remote and least developed region in all of China and 35% of the population is comprised of 16 ethnic groups.
GUIZHOU ETHNIC MINORITIES AND YUNNAN RICE TERRACES, JAN 13-25, 2015
with Jeremy Woodhouse & Herb Leventon
January 13 - 25, 2015 – maximum 10 people
Main Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Jan 13, Tuesday – Arrival in Shanghai
Arrive in Shanghai and transfer to our hotel near Hongqiao Airport.
A 4 or 5 star hotel near Hongqiao Airport
Day 2: Jan 14, Wednesday – Shanghai to Guiyang to Zhaoxing
We take an early morning flight to Guiyang by MU5429 (0720/1010). We then drive 5.5 hours to Zhaoxing, the largest Dong Ethnic Minorities Village in the world.
Guizhou is one of China’s lesser known provinces and best kept secrets. It was opened to tourists in the late 1980s. It has the most hills and the least sunshine in China. Guizhou is nicknamed 'The Kingdom of Mountains', as 87% of its land is comprised of mountains and plateaus. The Capital Guiyang city, literarily translation is “Precious Sunshine”.
Guizhou is a multicultural province with third largest ethnic population in China. Forty-eight distinct ethnic groups live alongside Han Chinese who has migrated there from all regions of the country. The variety of ethnic groups living in Guizhou makes up 36 per cent of the total population of 40 million. A major charm of the province for travelers is the number of festivals, resplendent with color and suffused with music, that take place throughout the year and that remain an important part of continuing traditional lifestyles and customs.
However, like all the tribes elsewhere in the world, more and more young people in Guizhou is working outside in the city, their valuable culture is vanishing. Fewer and fewer young people know how to make their traditional costume and its exquisite embroidery. Most of them only dress the colorful traditional costume during the festivals or special dates when they return home. As a lot of villages are located in the deep mountains, among the festivals, in the past, one of the important functions is providing the opportunities for young men and young girls to know each other. Other festivals are mainly celebrating the harvest and worshipping the ancestors.
The major ethnic minorities in Guizhou are different sub-groups of Miao. Miao people was regarded their ancestor as Chiyou in Yellow River region. They were good at agriculture, so it was very strong tribes. Then Yellow Emperor and Yan Emperor united to beat Chiyou. They had to migrate southwards where less plains for scale agriculture and much more mountains with poisonous plants and insects. Easy for frequently migrating, Miao people spent most of their fortune to buy silver craft for women in the past. Also, silver is a good way to test poison for food and water. Later, the unmarried girl’s family spent years to make a finery costume with full of silver craft for the girl during the courtship festival. This area is also the most silver expense place in China. Some of Miao people keep migrating to Southeast Asia, they called Meng in Vietnam and Thailand.
As Miao people’s animal-worshipping religion, buffalo horn is their tattoo. We will see a lot of sub group of Miao women’s head dress is all kinds of buffalo’s horn. Guizhou is an agricultural province, but as its hilly geography, most of farm work is made by labor. During the traveling time of Chinese New Year, most of people will return home, so our arranged performances and their own festivals got most local audience’s attention, which provides more photogenic opportunities.
3 tar Hotel in Zhaoxing (B, L, D)
Day 3: Jan 15, Thursday – Zhaoxing to Rongjiang
Today, we photograph Zhaoxing Dong Ethnic Minorities Village at sweet morning light. Afterwards, we drive to explore and visit another Dong Ethnic Minorities Village. After lunch, we photograph a performance at Basha village – the last gun village in China.
3 star Hotel in Rongjiang (B, L, D)
Day 4: Jan 16, Friday – Rongjiang to Kaili
Today, we drive along Duliu River to experience the Sui people’s life and living environment. This route was selected as one of National Geographic Traveler’s “Tours of a Lifetime”. We have chance to enjoy the backcountry of China, and the valuable and vanishing ethnic minority culture and history. Today, we photograph Long Skirt Miao Performance in Langde or Jidao en route.
Kaili Heaven-sent Dragon Hotel**** (B, L, D)
Day 5: Jan 17, Saturday – Kaili to Guiyang
Today, we drive 40 minutes to Matang Gejia Village, a quiet village inhabited by the Gejia minority, where we will learn about their culture, of which very little is known. The Gejia although classified as Miao are in fact a separate group. Their founder is General Da Sa, probably of Manchu descent. You will see the typical costumes, houses, embroidery and batik making. We photograph the performances and local audience. Afterwards, we visit Qingman Village for this Medium Skirt Miao’s embroidery and performance. In late afternoon, we drive 2.5 hours on highway back to Guiyang.
4 star hotel in Guiyang **** (B, L, D)
Day 6: Jan 18, Sunday – Old Ground Opera Performance to Kunming
Today's program highlights the remaining culture of the old Han (Chinese) ethnic group. The ancestors of these villagers migrated from Jiangxi Province to Guizhou Province in the Ming Dynasty (600 years ago). We will drive for 1.5 hours to reach Liuguan Village. Women here are still dressed in traditional Ming dynasty costumes, and houses remain faithful to the Ming architectural styles. The ancient stone house, lots of legend story and warm-hearted people will leave you an unforgettable experience. We will photograph a local Ground Opera performance, famed for the performers' symbolic masks, the opera in Liuguan dates to 1382, during the Ming Dynasty.
It is said as one of the oldest operas of the world, which is still surviving. Women’s hairstyle is another unique in Old Han People. Ming Dynasty government implied soldier-family management system to govern the whole country. During warring time, the soldiers had to fight in their region. Rest of them, they were farmers. While the men were away, they try to make their wives ugly to keep their loyalty by cutting their hair line very high.
Later we will drive 2.5 hours back to Guiyang Airport and fly to Kunming by 3U8942 (1520/1625) or HU9884 (1535/1640).
"South of the Clouds" is the literal meaning of Yunnan, and stretching from the high Tibetan Plateau down to the subtropical climes bordering Southeast Asia, it is an amazingly diverse place. Located at the crossroads of Tibet, China and Southeast Asia, it is home to a mix of ethnic groups - 25 of China’s 55 ethnic minorities and making up 30% of the province’s population - from Naxi and Tibetan to Dai, Yi, and Hani.
The capital of Yunnan province, the “Spring City” – Kunming, cradled in the foothills of the Himalayas and decorated with diverse flora and fauna – all wrapped up with a culturally rich history. Kunming’s history goes back thousands of years. The city obtained fame during the Ming Dynasty (1364 – 1644 A.D) because of Kunming’s ready supply of metals, the main source for Ming coins. Upon the completion of the Indochina railroad in 1910, Kunming rapidly opened up and became more accessible to the rest of the world, but still remains a nice contrast to the bustling chaos of other Chinese cities.
4 or 5 star hotel in Kunming (B, L, D)
Day 7: Jan 19, Monday – Kunming to Yuanyang
This morning, we drive 7-8 hours south to little know wonderful rice Terrace in Yuanyang, the New UNESCO world heritage site in June 2013.
Ailao Mountain is located in the southeast of Yunnan province, and it is 150 km to Vietnam border. Hani and Yi people spent hundreds of years to cultivate 10,000 hectares rice terrace along the mountain slope. Some of slope has more than hundreds of layers of terrace. Every late October to next March, the terrace is full of water. The good morning and afternoon light turns the watery terrace into magic blue, red, silver and golden. Also, February is a good month for the mist and clouds sea. The milky mist flows in the wind, provides endless changes for rice terrace pictures. Late February probably the white cherry flower and peach flower will blossoms. In Late 1980s, the beautiful Yuanyang was getting known to outside world. A French photographer’s sunset rice terrace award-winning picture was regarded as one of seven world nature landscape discoveries of that year. However, as the remote location and the mountain roads, Yuanyang still remains Hani and Yi people’s original lifestyle, and it is one of best kept beautiful places in China. Yuanyang is photographers’ heaven and familiar to serious photographers, but still strange to a lot of Chinese tourists. It is really the art of land, the sculpture of land, and the real artiest is Hani people! As a saying among the intrepid travelers: If you are intrepid traveler and missed Yuanyang, Yuanyang will pity you. If you are photographer and missed Yuanyang, the God will pity you.
Like a lot of other ethnic minorities, Hani people also love silver. Women use silver coin as the costume knots. Every pieces of rice terrace is too small for any machine, Hani and Yi people keep the most primitive agriculture way. Buffalo and mule are their best helpers. Although there are more modern high buildings in the villages today, they still use the thatch roof like their traditional thatch houses.
On the 14th day of the first lunar month (Day 10 of our trip), Yi people will worship the dragon and ancestors, then have a banquet for the entire village and their visiting relatives. During the Chinese New Year month, most of young people return home, so the banquet is most crowded moment for the village. Every year, 30 male volunteers from 30 families will help to make the biggest village banquet.
From the 1500 meter-elevation town 27 km up to the 1900 meter-elevation Duoyishu (and another 12 km beyond), there are more than 10 easy-access shooting spots along the road for us making the gorgeous pictures. Longshuba is 5 km close to the town and full of algae to turn the watery terrace into red. Qingkou, the unique Hani village with thatch-roof houses was surrounded by rice terraces. Bada (includes Quanfuzhuang, Malizhai and Luomadian) is the hugest terrace area with 1,000 hectares. The hundreds of layers of rice terrace along the slope from the 2000 meter-elevation mountaintop down to Mali Ricer valley. Shengcun County is the markets places and a nice sunrise spot for rice terrace. Duoyishu is the most beautiful sunrise spot. As the three sides were surrounded by mountains, the clouds sea will pour into the deep valley at sunrise. Laohuzhui (Tiger Mouth) is a classic sunset photographing spot, the high shooting platform provides an Aerial-view photograph.
Yuanyang Terrace Hotel *** or Yuanyang Water & Could Guesthouse (B, L, D)
Day 8-10: Jan 20 - 22, Tuesday - Thursday – Yuanyang Rice Terrace
During following four days, we photograph the gorgeous Rice Terrace at the best morning and afternoon light. We also will photograph the local markets and local ethnic minorities.
Yuanyang Terrace Hotel *** or Yuanyang Water & Could Guesthouse (B, L, D)
Day 11: Jan 23, Friday – Yuanyang to Jianshui
After the last morning shooting session, we drive 3.5 hours back to Jianshui to check in the famous Zhu Family Garden’s boutique courtyard room. In the afternoon, we walk around the Jianshui Old Town and the Zhu Family Garden.
Jianshui Family Garden Boutique Hotel or same standard hotel (B, L, D)
Day 12: Jan 24, Saturday – Jianshui to Kunming to Shanghai
We drive 3.5 hours on highway to Kunming Airport and fly back to Shanghai by MU 5817 (1510/1815) or FM 9454 (1550/1845). We will have a farewell dinner tonight.
Shanghai Pudong Airport Ramada Hotel **** (B, L, D)
Day 13: Jan 25, Sunday – Depart for home
Depart for airport by airport shuttle bus and fly home (B).
Tour fee includes