The Miao ethnic village of Langde (郎德) is cluster of three hamlets, nestled between forested mountains, rice paddy fields and rivers over which Wind and Rain Bridges (风雨桥) are stretching.
Located just 40 minutes by bus south of Kaili 凯里, the sad concrete town that acts as a regional transportation hub, Langde was definitely an interesting and laid-back village. Note that Kaili 凯里 is now easily accessible via the high-speed train line from Guizhou’s capital of Guiyang. Therefore, a visit of Langde 郎德 and other villages around Kaili can easily be integrated into your itinerary.
With the developing tourism industry in the region (southeastern Guizhou has built its reputation among foreign and domestic travellers for its ethnic villages), the village of Langde sees a substantial amount of tourists, specially during the Chinese holidays, and the Miao traditional festivals.
The Home of Yang Dalu
The story goes that the village was founded more than 600 years ago during the early years of the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644). Langde become famous, because it was the hometown of a man named Yang Dalu, a local hero who resisted against the encroachment of Han people and fomented a rebellion against the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911).
The name of Yang Dalu was eventually given to a Wind and Rain Bridge (风雨桥) and his home was eventually transformed into a museum (which was unfortunately closed when I visited).
Besides the name of Yang Dalu, there is nothing that reminds us of the ethnic tensions that rose between Miao and Han people and Langde was even named “Chinese Folk Art Village” by the Ministry of Culture in 1997 and has been protected as such ever since.
At the entrance of Langde lower village (郎德下寨), there is a stone inscription that attests of the passage of the torch relay for the Beijing 2008 Olympic games. Rest assured, Langde has more to offer to you than the thrill of knowing the Olympic torch run through the village.
Wind and Rain Bridge (风雨桥)
That’s in Langde that I discovered the beautiful Wind and Rain Bridges (风雨桥) which are a type of wooden covered bridges which combine verandas, Chinese pavilion, tiled-roofs. The entire structure rests on stone piers, although contemporary Wind and Rain Bridges rest on concrete.
The first Wind and Rain bridge is situated by the bus stop of the lower village and is the Yang Dalu (杨大陆) bridge, which, it seems, has become the rendez-vous point to meet the local women who come with woven baskets full of embroideries to sell to the few tourists. The original structure was destroyed during a flood and was rebuilt in 2005.
There are others Wind and Rain Bridges near the village. You will see one of the them from the bus on the way to the lower villages. If like me, you are mystified by the beauty of these structures, you’ll want to cross the Yang Dalu bridge and go for a short hike in the rice paddy fields.
You can either take the lower path along the river which passes by an old waterwheel or climb the stairs. In the distance you will see two more Wind and Rain Bridges that stretch across the river.
Stepping into rural ethnic China
A sign at the entrance of the gate of the lower village explains the importance of the gates in Miao villages. Each Miao village has a gate that marks the entrance.
Beyond the gate, you will find two to three-stories high houses entirely made of wood. On your way up , on the cobblestone stairs and narrow streets, chicken are running mad and you will hear (and smell) the pigs. The stairs will take you high up on the village where you can get a viewpoint on the bridge and the paddy fields.
Do step aside if a villager is taking his buffalo to the field and scream at you : “让开！让开！ 危险咯！(Give way! Give way! It’s dangerous!).
Where to stay
I did not stay in Langde. I did not suspect there would be any guesthouses in the village. How wrong I was!
There are indeed a few options in traditional Miao houses. Cheap and basic, they will give you the occasion to experience life in a rural setting, far from the noise of Kaili. You will also get to eat traditional Miao food and see the stars at night.
Accommodations in Langde are the ‘homestay’ type (they are usually called nongjiale 农家乐) and guarantee a family atmosphere. There are several ‘nongjiale‘ in the village.
How to get there
The new fastest way to get to Kaili 凯里 is by high-speed train from Guiyang or Changsha. Read my post about high-speed rail lines in the southwest.
There is one bus every hour from Kaili 凯里 main bus station (30 minutes past of every hour), also called Ximahe (洗马河客运站). It takes around 30 to 40 minutes to get to Langde and costs 9 RMB. The bus will stop in an improvised parking lot in front of the Yang Dalu Wind and Rain Bridge of the lower village.
Buses heading back to Kaili leave from that same spot every hour (twenty minutes past of every hour). If you don’t want to wait for the bus, you can walk towards the main entrance.
Also, there are a few other Miao villages that you can visit on your back to Kaili like Nanhua Miao village (南花苗寨). Just get off the bus and cross the bridge. You will have to wait for the bus on the side of the road.