Culture and Agriculture in Guilin: The Long-Hair Village and Longji Rice Terraces

After a lovely stay in Chengdu, I flew south to Guilin, declared an autonomous region in China for its high concentration of ethnic minority groups.

flightThe flight with China Southern Airlines cost 100 USD, journeying 700 miles in a short 1.5 hours.
panda souvenirs at the Chengdu airport

Upon arrival, I found Guilin to be very cold and damp, with moss-covered trees and a thick layer of fog lingering in the air.


While in Guilin, I stayed at Ming Palace International Hostel, which offered budget dorms at 5 USD, and tours to visit the region’s minority groups.

lovely common area with small fire-pits under each table to keep your toesies nice and warm 😛

I decided to book a tour of the Huangluo Village, to see the Long-Hair People and the Longji Terraced Fields.  
IMG_8901My tour guide Suzy picked me up at 8:30 AM, and we began the 2.5 hour journey to the Longji Scenic Spot.
DSC_1608There were two Swedish students on tour with me, taking a gap year before medical school, traveling around Southeast Asia, China and South Africa. DSC_1617As we drove toward the terraced fields, our surroundings became more remote – dense pine forestsendless hills, and the nothing to be heard but the soothing sound of a flowing river.  Absolute bliss! 😀DSC_1610When we finally arrived, we purchased our tickets, and entered the Longji Old Village.  DSC_1611Total Cost: 45 USD, which included entrance to this village, plus transportation from Guilin, entrance to the rice terraces, lunch, and English guide.

The Huangluo Yao Village- Long Hair Community

From our guide we learned this long hair ethnic community consists of over 80 families, living in the Longji Terraced Fields.DSC_1615As a symbol of luck, these women cut their hair only once in life, at 16 years of age, when they start looking for a husband. hairWomen here display one of three hair styles, depending on their status. 

  1. Single women cover their hair in black cloth (removed only after their wedding).
  2. Married women without children have a normal twist, called a “snail hairstyle.”
  3. Married women with children have a “dragon hairstyle,” where a ball of hair hangs on their forehead, symbolic of a child.
dragon hairstyle

In recent years, these long-flowing locks have gained them international fame, and as such, the long hair women have put together an entertaining show, to educate people on their culture using song and danceDSC_1627They began the show by demonstrating the process of courting in their village.

men were picked from the audience to show how the women choose their mate

From this, we learned that women show interest and affection by pinching a man’s butt, while men do this by tapping a woman’s foot. 😛
Likewise, men choose their wife based on three criteria:

  1. Big butt (better chance of fertility)
  2. Big feet (better for hiking in the mountains)
  3. Big voice (better for communication in the mountains)

The search for a ’round rump’ reminded me of Sir Mix Alot’s, “Baby Got Back.” 😛dfdfbeckyAnyway, the only thing they look for that’s small is a woman’s hands, since they make a living here selling woven fabrics and textilesDSC_1614Later, we watched as they washed and styled their long hair into a perfectly wrapped bun.hair3Throughout the entire show, I felt the pride in their voices, and found the songs intoxicating, with each beating of the drum.dancTheir woven fabrics were visually stunning, and reminiscent of the colorful patterns I’d seen in Mexico.DSC_1639

Overall, I found the show to be very educational, and a nice way for their community to preserve tradition and generate income for their families.

Here’s a short video I made from their performance. 🙂

Afterwards, we ate a local lunch of yams, snap peas with bacon, eggplant with hoisin sauce, and, of course, lots of rice.oodThey even served longji tea, which is cultivated in this region.DSC_1658After lunch, we drove from the Huangluo Yao Village to the Jinkeng Red Yao Terraced Fields. 61e411516b3d432ca3b34430

Jinkeng Red Yao Fields – Longji Rice Terraces

These immense rice terraces span 16,000 acres, cascading over 2,500 feet, down to the foothills of each mountain.DSC_1680To get to the top, we rode a cable car, which offered a pleasant panorama of the terraced fields. DSC_1666DSC_1696DSC_1675

panorama of the terraces

At the top of the terraces is Tiantouzai Village, where the air is crisp, and covered in a murky fog. DSC_1686

mountain dogs

When surveying the land below, one can see the vibrant green of the terraces colliding with the deep brown of the earth, creating a scaffold of colors. Absolutely stunning! 😀
DSC_1695DSC_1670To appreciate the full beauty of the terraces, we walked a stone path to the bottom, which took roughly one hour.
IMG_8905I noticed that, although it’s the dry season, the rice paddies still held a decent amount of water, a crucial part of rice cultivationDSC_1697This also meant the stone path was quite muddy and slippery, but phenomenal views made the walk well worth it! 😀IMG_8902At the base of the mountain, we entered the local village of Dazhai, known across the nation for their agricultural ingenuity and bountiful harvest. 

DSC_1684DSC_1705The village was filled with ramshackle cabinsgrazing chickens and a serene trickling stream. DSC_1712DSC_1714DSC_1709

We ended the tour by making our way back to Guilin, sleeping like babies after all that fresh air. 😀

When I returned to Guilin, well-rested, I took a stroll along the gorgeous promenade, one of the highlights of the city. 😀

Sun and Moon Pagoda

DSC_1724DSC_1728Well, that wraps up my time in Guilin. 😀

It was short, but sweet, and next up I floated on a bamboo raft down the Li River, landing in the backpacker haven of Yangshuo. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂

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