One of the oldest cities in an ancient country, Liuzhou dates back more than 2100 years to its foundation in 111BC as the settlement of Tanzhong. Later known as Longcheng – Dragon City – after the river Long which curls around the city like a dragon, it acquired its current name, which translates as ‘the place of the willow trees’ in 1736.
Now the second largest city in the Guangxi region, Liuzhou is home to a myriad of different ethnic minorities which means there is plenty to experience both in the bustling centre itself and the beautiful surrounding countryside of rolling hills, forbidding peaks and mysterious caves. With plenty of hotels near Liuzhou, travellers will be spoilt for choice as they explore this historic city.
San Yue San
After the Han majority group, the largest minority group in Liuzhou is the Zhuang, descendants of the ancient Baiyue people from southern China. The Zhuang annual celebration – San Yue San – falls on the third day of the third lunar month of the Chinese calendar and attracts tens of thousands of visitors from both China and abroad with everyone very welcome.
The event is marked with traditional folks singing and dancing with participants dressed in traditional and brightly coloured costumes. The older generation will bring coloured rice and eggs to give as gifts.
Yao Folk Dances
Nearly as ancient as Liuzhou itself, the Yao minority traces back 2000 years and as well as China, are found in Vietnam. The Yao are recognisable by their colourful clothing, often decorated with silver and the black or red headscarves worn by both the men and women.
Over these thousands of years, the Yao have evolved complex and fascinating folk dances which record their local traditions. There are 18 key Yao dances involving complex melodies, choreography and props and include the Turtle Catching Dance, the Fairy Dance, the Horse Dance and the Hunting Dance. These can be seen on the 16th day of the tenth month in the Chinese calendar.
Miao Folk Dances
Not to be outdone, the Miao people have their own colourful traditions and costumes. Famed for their handicrafts such as batik, embroidery, brocade and jewellery, Miao traditional dress is bright and eye-catching. They celebrate with several festivals of dance and music throughout the year with the most famous and complex performance being the Lusheng or Reed Pipe dance. However, Miao traditional hospitality means that visitors to their villages will be stopped in the streets and welcomed with songs and offerings of food and drink.
A complex society, the Dong people celebrate nearly two dozen festivals throughout the year. Famed for their singing, the traditional Dong choir music has been listed by UNESCO as a unique cultural heritage. Their traditional dress combines embroidery, brocade and silver pieces to stunning effect.
However it is for their carpentry skills that the Dong are most famous for, with their villages providing spectacular showpieces. As well as the traditional stilt houses, the Dong build ‘Drum Towers’ which as their name suggests, are circular family homes rising up three or four levels. Larger towers are built for village meetings. The Dong also build beautiful covered bridges, known as ‘Wind and Rain’ bridges.
One last curious tradition in Liuzhou are coffins. An ancient Chinese poem names the city as a good place to die. This is less morbid than it sounds as the area was famed for the quality of its coffins, crafted from the local sandalwood. Today this tradition is represented by the miniature versions sold as good luck charms.
When Jessica went around the world, she stopped off in numerous wonderful places that many people just wouldn’t think of going. She hopes to share the local joys of the less travelled locations to ensure people can plan a better trip away