Ethnic Customs & Folklore

The Zhuang (壮族) are China's most numerous ethnic minority and they're indigenous to Guǎngxī. By contrast, the Yao (瑶族) were refugees from Shāndōng province who fled here in dynastic China. The cultures of both are filled with legends and traditions often as vibrant as their garments.

Traditional Dress

Yao women are distinguished by their colourful costumes and long, shiny hair. Mothers wear it in a thick bun over the forehead. Women with hair coiled on top of their heads like a turban are married but childless. Heavy silver earrings and pink tunics are sported by the unmarried, and patterned tunics by older women. Zhuang women, on the other hand, have simple hairdos, and wear plain tunics over wide, often dark-coloured pants.

Customs

The eating of dog meat, sometimes practised in Guǎngxī, stops short of the Yao hearth. This is because Pánhù (盘瓠), the Yao totem, is a mythological dog who was given the hand of the princess by the emperor to reward his bravery. The Yao believe that Pánhù, aka King Pan (盘王), was their first ancestor.

Up until the 1970s, young people of the mountainous Yao and Zhuang found romantic partners by yodelling. If they were in the fields and someone's singing pleased their ears, they sang back. Intermarriage between the two ethnic groups was forbidden by tradition up until the late 1980s. Occasionally a Zhuang man may be permitted to take a Yao wife, but exceptions were never made for the women.

Legend

The viewing point Seven Stars Chase the Moon (七星追月; Qīxīng Zhuī Yuè) – comprising seven terraced knolls developed in the early days – is also known as 'dead man's mound' (死人包; sǐrén bāo). According to one legend, a Yao girl married her Zhuang lover, and secretly set up house here. But her clansmen tracked them down and killed her husband. He was buried on the spot. The widow left the village for many years, then stole back one night to pay respects at her husband's grave. She was discovered and killed by a band of Yao men. As she breathed her last, lightning struck, electrocuting her murderers. No one dared to touch the corpses and they eventually turned into knolls.