When in Qingyuan, Explore This 1,000-Year-Old Ethnic Village

By Tristin Zhang, February 15, 2019

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Daytripper is a regular column that aims to help people get the most out of their PRD experience by proposing fun excursions that can be made in a single day to explore the local culture and nature of the region.

It’s 7am on a misty morning in rural Qingyuan when we’re awoken by roosters crowing and dogs barking. With the mercury hovering at around 5 degrees Celsius, it’s difficult to drag ourselves from our cozy bed and harder yet to venture outside the warm confines of our cozy rental cottage. With a cup of hot English tea in hand, we make our way outside onto the cabin’s tiny patio to gaze at the mysterious and visually stunning karst peaks that surround the mountainside settlement of Nangang Yao Village.   

nangang-yao-village-1.jpgImage by Tristin Zhang/That's

The Yao people have been dwelling in the mountains of northern Guangdong for over 1,000 years, having first inhabited the area during the Song Dynasty, which ruled the Middle Kingdom from 960 to 1,279. Throughout the Yao’s history, they have fought against the suppressive armies of Chinese monarchs, using the mountains as key vantage points. 

nangang-yao-village-2.jpgImage by Tristin Zhang/That's

We venture out into the village, climbing moss-covered staircases and wandering along stone-paved lanes past hawkers selling smoked pork, duck and chicken. Mules saunter around, packed with bags of sand and cement, and we can easily visualize what the day-to-day grind here looked like before the area became a AAAA tourist attraction back in 2004.

nangang-yao-village-4.jpgImage by Tristin Zhang/That's

In more recent times, the mountainside village’s brick and wooden homes have been transformed into basic hotels by enterprising locals, most of whom live at the foot of the mountain. It’s recommended to book a room in advance if you decide to visit during the holidays.

nangang-yao-village-3.jpgImage by Tristin Zhang/That's

Restaurants serve up delectable dishes with homegrown vegetables and meat, and gift shops offer dainties from the mountains – mushrooms, chrysanthemums, ginger and more, as well as satchels boasting Yao ethnic patterns.  

Image by Tristin Zhang/That's

At 10am and 4pm, the village is brought to life by ethnic dance and drum performances, entertainment for tourists. It all takes place on a square near the village entrance, and is followed by the broadcasting of Cantopop tunes. This, for some visitors, succeeds in ruining the village’s distinct ambiance. 

Image by Tristin Zhang/That's

An ancient temple overlooks the village, enshrining Pangu, a Chinese mythological figure who is believed to be the protector of the Yao people. Local festivities transpire on the third day of March, the fourth day of April and the seventh day of July, according to a local restaurant owner. Go during marriage or burial ceremonies, and you’ll also find the village bustling with activity. 

Image by Tristin Zhang/That's

Nangang Yao Village is located 27 kilometers southwest of Liannan county in Qingyuan, and is not easy to access by public transportation. As a tourist attraction, it charges visitors RMB98 for entry to the site. 

How to get there:

From Guangzhou: Take a coach (about 4-4.5 hours) from Tianhe Coach Terminal (8.25am; RMB105), Luochongwei Bus Terminal (7.15am, 7.45am, 9am; RMB95) or Guangzhou Provincial Coach Terminal (8.10am; RMB90) to Liannan county. From there, take a Didi (RMB90) to Nangang Yao Village (南岗千年瑶寨). For the return trip, it’s recom- mended to take a bus from Liannan Coach Terminal (9am, 9.20am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 2.45pm; RMB80) back to Guangzhou. Ask your hostel to help you contact a driver, who will take you to the foot of the mountain where you can catch a bus (40 minutes) to Liannan county.

From Shenzhen: Take a coach at Futian Coach Terminal (7.40am; RMB176) to Liannan county. From there, take a Didi to the village (RMB90). 

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[Cover image by Tristin Zhang/That's]

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