Biasha Miao Village Keeps the Legend Alive
    2012-05-22 13:53:37         Web Editor: Liu Yuanhui

This photo, taken on May 14th, is a bird's-eye view of the Basha village of the Miao ethnic group in Congjiang county, southwest China's Guizhou Province. The customs of the Miao people here date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. [Photo: Mei]

Hidden deep in the mountains of southwest China's Guizhou Province's southern border region, there is an ancient village called Biasha. It is a well-preserved Miao ethnic village, where the Miao villagers still live in their wooden cottages, practice centuries-old customs and have their own unique beliefs. But changes are indeed looming at this tranquil and picturesque hamlet.

Seeing nearly 500 households in Biasha village, visitors are thrilled by the stunning scenery that unfolds, layers of wooden cottages in the mist of a lush forest. The Miao locals' unique traditional clothing, hairstyles and ancient traditions have changed little over the generations. Brittany visits from Canada.
"I think it is very, very beautiful and amazing....The neon colors, the really bright colors. We've been to other villagers. Theirs stand out. Really interesting, But it's really high up in the mountains. Apparently, this is one of the top ten places to see in China. I've heard about that. Of course, their outfits are different. Their hair is a bit different. The men wear different clothes as well."

This Biasha Miao village is quite different from other Miao groups in terms of clothing and daily life, and Biasha people are a Miao branch that has been left relatively unaffected by modern civilization. Even in modern times, they still lead very traditional lives. (Related Video: The Tree Tribe)
Gun Shuige, 24-year-old, is the Biasha culture recorder and the only high school graduate here. He gave up his schooling after graduation and found a job in Guangzhou. But after a year, he couldn't adapt well to modern life, so he returned to the village.

Carrying a sickle at his side and a shotgun on his shoulder and with his hair twisted and coiled atop his head, he was proud to introduce visitors to time-honored Miao customs.

Gun Shuige is a Biasha culture recorder. Gun Shuige, carries a sickle at his side and a shotgun on his shoulder, a remnant of his people's title of "The Last Gunmen Tribe of the Miao Ethnic Group". [Photo: Mei]

"Whenever a child is born, we plant several trees for that child. Those trees grow together with the children. Then their parents pick the strongest one as their children's "life tree". If the children get sick before the age of 15, their parents will pay homage to the "life tree" for good health." Gun also says that the tree is cut down and made into a coffin when the person dies.

On important occasions and traditional festivals, villagers burn incense under large ancient trees to pray for health and happiness.

This mysterious custom has been passed on for thousands of years in this tranquil and picturesque hamlet, isolated from the outside world. However, villagers got the chance to learn more about the outside world when transportation improved in the early 1980s.

"Everything changed ever since National Highway 321 was put to use. Before that, we were basically cut off from the outside world. But after that, more and more cars and visitors were coming to us. When the villagers saw a car for the first time, they mistook it for some unknown monster and ran away from it. When they saw visitors dressed up very differently from them, they got very scared and even avoided looking at them. "

But as time went by, residents gradually got used to the running cars and Biasha Village has witnessed great changes over the past few decades. A television set can be found in every household, and a school has been built. In the past, Basha people didn't understand Mandarin Chinese, let alone speak it, but nowadays, almost all the people can understand it.

While the village life has improved greatly, many young men in their 20s are lured by the life in big cities and their customs gradually fall away when they explore the modern world. Gun Lawang, 62, has two sons working in big cities.

"Now, when the young people come back after working outside the village, they have changed their dress style, but they still keep their ethnic costumes at home. My two sons wear urban-style clothes when they are working outside the village. But they will change back into their traditional clothes when they come back home."

The elderly prefer village life, but the young people are happy to adapt to the modern world. According to their culture recorder Gun Shuige, some of the traditional customs are being lost, and this is what encouraged him to go back to his hometown.

"I want to inspire more and more people to learn about our own culture. Of course, we have to learn from the outside world, like how to use mobile phones and computers. But we must preserve what exclusively belongs to us, our lifestyle and our songs. I hope more people in Basha will do something to keep our culture alive while seeking development."

For this goal, Gun tries to collect material, consults the seniors and teaches the younger villagers to help maintain the traditional Miao lifestyle and keep the legend alive to retain its original flavor.

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