February 13 Shangrila (Dong Village) Yangshuo, China

I am not sure why this place is called Shangrila. The original Shangrila was an idyllic valley up in the Himalayas, and this isn’t even close to snow-capped peaks. This Shangrila does have the natural beauty of the surrounding area with its small river and large karst peaks in the background. But it is basically a re-created Dong Minority Village. Most Chinese tours include a visit to a site where the local minority group demonstrates crafts, dances, and other skills from their culture. When I went with Jeff to Jiushaigou in August, we got to eat dinner and see a show put on by Zhong Minority members (Tibetans.) This tour, we went to Shangila to learn about the Dong Minority.

Jeff and I have gone on four Chinese tours since I have been coming to China. They are less expensive than English speaking tours arranged for foreigners, and there are more of them offered on a regular basis. This gives us more flexibility in scheduling trips, which we need with Jeff’s work schedule. The down side is that Jeff is usually the only one on the tour who speaks English. So he has to do more translating for me.

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Ann standing near the entrance to Shangila Dong Village

When you visit the Yangshuo Shangrila, your entrance fee includes a short boat trip. You can see the boats behind me in the photo.

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Dong musicians playing traditional music

These Dong musicians played for us while we waited for our boat ride.This boat trip was short, we mostly wound around the village.

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Women doing a traditional dance

These women were doing a traditional dance on a platform in front of a traditional style Dong house.

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Men playing tall pipe instruments

These men are playing a traditional instrument, a very long pipe.

The scenery was very nice and we went through a small karst cave.

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Boat going through a karst cave

I was also interested in the modern Dong villages that were on the other side of the river.

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Modern Dong village

We asked our tour guide why so many of the houses looked “half built”.

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Half finished Dong house

He told us that the people in this area like to frame their houses for two or three stories when they build them. but they don’t usually have the money to finish the upper floors when they build the house. So they just leave it unfinished until later when they have more money. The house in the photo above has the first floor all finished, and not the second floor.

After the boat trip, you can walk around the traditional buildings and see some local people making handicrafts.

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Women sitting around a fire

These women sitting around a fire inside a traditional style Dong house. They were supposed to be singing their traditional songs, but mostly it looked like they were just trying to keep the fire going to stay warm! It was very cold again today, but not raining.

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Dong women weaving on traditional looms

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Some examples of their weaving

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A Dong woman using a traditional spinning wheel

I found it interesting that the men could also be weavers.

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Dong men using more modern cloth looms

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Some shirts made with the cloth they are weaving

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Dong village traditional building with corn and grain hung on it to dry

This building would have been a meeting house for the village, and also used as a place to do work inside in bad weather

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Traditional Dong drum building

This drum building would traditionally be used to summon people to ceremonies and festivals.

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Another traditional Dong building

In this building, they demonstrated a Dong custom. A Dong girl would throw an embroidered silk ball from the second story window into a group of suitors below. The boy that caught it would get to go on a date with the girl.

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Jeff with his silk ball!

Jeff caught one of the silk balls. He said that he had a natural advantage in the crowd of Chinese men, as he was taller than most of them!

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Traditional Dong bridge over the river

This is a photo of a traditional style Dong bridge over the river. They built these bridges of wood, without using any nails. This modern  modern bridge is built using concrete (and maybe also nails.) But it was nicely decorated for the New Year!

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