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Qiang Villages

Qiang Villages

By Ellen Morris
 
TP 201807 Global 03
 
      鎴戝浗骞呭憳杈介様锛屽皯鏁版皯鏃忎紬澶氾紝鍏朵腑缇屾棌鏄汉鏁拌緝澶氱殑涓鏀傜緦鈥濓紝鍘熸槸鍙や唬浜轰滑瀵瑰眳浣忓湪绁栧浗瑗块儴娓哥墽閮ㄨ惤鐨勪竴涓硾绉帮紝鍚庨殢鐫缇屾棌浜洪愭笎褰㈡垚鑷繁鐨勯儴钀戒笌鏂囧寲锛屼究浠ヨ嚜韬矞鏄庣殑鐗硅壊褰㈡垚浜嗙嫭鐗圭殑姘戞棌銆傚洓宸濋樋鍧濊棌鏃忕緦鏃忚嚜娌诲窞鏄垜鍥藉敮涓鐨勭緦鏃忎汉姘戣仛灞呯殑鑷不宸烇紝鍦ㄨ繖鐗囧瓡鑲插嚭涔濆娌熴佸洓濮戝灞辩殑缇庝附鐢诲涔嬪湴锛屼竴搴у骇鍙ゆ湸鍏搁泤鐨勭緦瀵ㄧ姽濡備竴棰楅瀹濈煶鐐圭紑鍏堕棿銆
 
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TP 201807 Global 01
 
A multiethnic kaleidoscope, Sichuan is home to 55 ethnic groups. Amid the spectacular mountains in the western part of the province and on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau live the Qiang people, who speak a language which belongs to the group of Tibeto-Burman languages. A 3-hour drive from Chengdu can lead one to their fortress villages built out of mud and stone in the mountainous Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. 
 
Surviving with the Qiang people for thousands of years are their unique architecture and way of life. Located 180km northwest from Chengdu, the tourist-friendly Taoping Qiang Village in Li County is a showcase of Qiang people鈥檚 cultural heritage. Built in 111BC, this undisturbed fortress village survived the disastrous earthquake in 2008 and has retained its authenticity till today. It boasts of some of the best-preserved watchtowers, with two standing 30 metres high. They remain a distinctive feature of the Qiang-style architecture. Together with the humble stone houses they form a unique architectural complex, nicknamed the 鈥淎ncient Oriental Fortress鈥.
 
TP 201807 Global 02
 
Strolling through the village feels like navigating up and down the maze, as there are 31 interconnected alleyways leading to each household. The village is also supported by its complex underground water network, another marvelous work of the Qiang people. The subterranean channels run beneath each street and house to ensure water supply. Villagers can remove the slate covers to draw water from the wells. The alleyways, groundwater network, watchtowers and interlinked houses combine to form a comprehensive defense system that demonstrates the wisdom and unity of the Qiang people. 
 
Complementing their architectural wonder is their rich culture. The village is filled with traditional music played by local villagers wearing ethnic costumes which feature headwear, vests, belts and embroidered gowns. They sing and dance in a circle and open their homes to curious visitors. The Qiang women show off their marvelous embroidery, while the knife-carrying Qiang men share their barley wine. This is a lively village ablaze with colours and joy, where ceremonies are held to pray for good harvests and to worship nature, such as the Walking around the Mountain Festival held on lunar June 1st and the Qiang New Year Festival on lunar October 1st. 
 
TP 201807 Global 04
While Taoping Qiang Village might seem too bustling with its flourishing tourism, the idyllic Luobozhai Village, known as the 鈥淩adish Village鈥 and 15km from Wenchuan County, offers an instant change of atmosphere to those who wish to glimpse the ordinary Qiang lifestyle. 
 
Sitting at an altitude of 2,000 metres, it requires a 15-minute drive up hill to arrive at the gate of Luobozhai Village that says 鈥淟ost Capital of the Ancient Qiang King鈥. Set against the backdrop of the mountains, this fortress village resembles Peru鈥檚 Machu Picchu, which makes it no surprise when it is dubbed the 鈥淢arket on the Clouds鈥. It is by far the largest and oldest Qiang village built in yellow mud, with a long history that is said to be dating back to 4,500 years ago. 
 
Though most of the village was shaken to the ground during the devastating earthquake in 2008, the Qiang language and traditions survived amid the rubbles and dust, and are vividly observed as the local villagers seldom interact with the outside world. Fortunately the village later received aid and underwent reconstruction to preserve its original state. 
 
TP 201807 Global 05
At the village square is an iconic Qiang-style tower with a goat鈥檚 head at the top. Goat is their totem and plays an important role in their religion and life. In the village watchtowers protrude through clouds, while the yellow mud houses that are linked to each other merge organically with the greenish brown terraces on the hill. Between the curvy alleyways and houses are farms where the Qiang people grow vegetables and staple foods such as millet, barley and wheat. Farmers wearing a head scarf and traditional gowns occasionally pass by with a bamboo basket on their back. The village is pleasantly quiet, without too much going on. The destruction might have stopped a lot of visitors from coming, but the villagers find themselves in tranquility and peace compared to the Taoping Village that is often crowded with tourists. 
 
Both villages can make an interesting day trip from Chengdu for those who are keen to explore beyond the Han culture. Taoping Village can be visited through an arranged tour and admission fee is RMB60, while Loubozai Village is best visited on your own. Lodging is available in both villages if one wishes to stay the night. Adventurous travelers will be rewarded with an authentic Qiang experience that goes beyond their imagination of Sichuan, whose rich diversity surprises many. 
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