The official name for this area of Chongqing is ‘Pengshui Self-Governing Prefecture of the Miao and Tujia Ethnic Minorities彭水苗族土家族自治县.’
China is home to 56 native ethnic groups, many of whom continue to live in their homelands according to their traditional customs.
Some do leave for the major cities, and though they may have certain unique features in their appearance if you look hard enough, you might only tell they are not Han Chinese by studying the ethnicity details on their ID card.
Most of the non Han Chinese ethnic groups gave their own highly distinctive cultures, from language, costume, traditions, arts, and mentality.
Since they mostly inhabit areas outside of the metropolitan areas, a large source of income naturally stems from domestic tourism, where city dwellers can drive out to visit and experience their way of life, spending money on entrance fees, souvenirs and events within purpose built complexes.
During my road trip holiday to Xishuangbanna, we visited the local Dai Ethnic Minority Park, and experienced their Water Splashing Festival they hold each for tourists in a square by the Mekong River.
There doesn’t seem to be much inter-marriage between native ethnic groups in China, but there are cases, such as with young Dai Minority ladies, where they may agree to men taking a few as brides in return for a huge dowry.
Chiyou Jiuli Town 蚩尤九黎城
Pengshui County is home to large numbers of Miao and Tujia minorities, but this highly eye catching attraction a short drive out of the main city is run by the Miao.
The name of Chiyou蚩尤 refers to a common ancestral hero to a number of tribes, including the Miao and Qiang minorities, and is credited with defending them against the encroachment of former emperors by forming a military alliance, as well as enriching their cultural sophistry in terms of agriculture, building, arts and sciences.
Once inside, the attraction itself has similar architecture you can find in other old style, except that many of the buildings are set into the natural surroundings, such as climbing up to the top of hills floor by floor, offering you great views of the scenery on all sides.
You can spend a whole exploring all the buildings, exhibits, squares, streets, as well as watching the minority performances they show for the public.
In our case, however, we were limited to a morning, as preparations for our powerboat race began in the afternoon.
It also happened there was a major performance event organised that morning, which limited our access to many of the buildings through the sheer size of the crowds. In the central square, hundreds if not thousands of Miao minority men and women of all ages crowded together in full costume, seemingly undeterred by the extremely unseasonal climes for early May.
Under pouring rain, we slipped through the main square and explored the quieter areas behind. We found a turtle the owner claimed was a thousand years old, and offered us a blessing by guiding our hand over its shell with a bronze coin in our palm. Straight after, we went inside and had another fortune told by a man from Emei峨眉 in Sichuan, who certainly talked the talk and walked the walk. Interestingly, there were many parallels to what the fortune teller outside Luohan Temple in Jiefangbei told us on asking our birthdays and studying our palm lines.
Around the back streets, there were more typical souvenir and food stalls, and we sheltered here vainly hoping the rain might relent.
Once the event finished towards noon, the crowds thronged en masse through the back streets and towards the exit. The unfortunate effect was that it took us around forty minutes to exit the car park in order to make the less than ten minute drive back to the Party Cadre Hotel.
On a visit to Pengshui, a trip to Chiyou Jiuli Town is definitely worthwhile, and makes for an enjoyable morning or afternoon at least. The mountain backdrop is stunning, and even if it rains, I love how low clouds enshroud the lush mountaintops everywhere you look.
My final note will be a suggestion for improvement. On quiet days, there is no issue, but whenever crowds of tourists come to visit, the ticket office needs a more orderly and efficient way to handle high numbers of visitors for the quite steep entrance fees. Also, the amply large carpark has too few and narrow exits, with impatient drivers vying to reach the main road cause a free for all deadlock far too easily.