Ethnic village of Guangxi | The cluster of Dong hamlets of Chengyang

In the Land of the Dong

Located north of the rice terraces of Longji (龙脊梯田) near Longsheng (龙胜) and the Guilin (桂林) / Yangshuo (阳朔) region in Guangxi province, Chengyang (程阳) is an ethnic villages of China that is worth a detour. The main attraction of the area : this Wind and Rain  bridge (风雨桥), the Yongji Bridge (永济桥).

If you are traveling in the region of Guilin/Yangshuo and are also planning to pay the Longsheng rice terrace a visit, I recommend you allow yourself an extra few days on your trip and head north. I promise that the sight of this Wind and Rain bridge and the Dong villages behind it will not let you down.

Chengyang (程阳) is a Dong village located just four hours by bus north of Guilin. Chengyang region is cluster of eight villages of the Dong ethnic minority (侗族), on the northern tip of Guangxi province, within hours from the Dong villages of southeastern Guizhou and the Dong Cultural Corridor of Tongdao (通道) in southwestern Hunan province.

Wind and Rain Bridges (风雨桥) 

In the Land of the Dong

Most of the Dong ethnic minority people live between Guizhou, Guangxi and Hunan. They are famous for their carpentry skills embodied by their Wind and Rain Bridges and drum towers.

The most picturesque and most famous of Chengyang’s Wind and Rain bridges is the Yongji bridge (永济桥).
Built in 1912, it is 65 meters long and has two platform on each side. It is a three-span bridge that rests on stone piers. The upper structure of the bridge and the five pavilions are entirely made of wood while the roof is made of tiles.

Guo Moruo (1892 – 1978), a Chinese author and poet, fell in love with the bridge at first sight. Chances are that you will too. Like I did.

In the Land of the Dong

Yongji bridge is the main gateway to Ma’an (马安寨) and the other villages. Around 10 AM and until late afternoon, it is the territory of women who come and sell embroidery and batik to tourists.

Beyond the village of Ma’an, there are two other Wind and Rain bridges: Helong (合龙桥) and Puji (普济桥). They are not as impressive as Yongji bridge, but they are nonetheless worth a hike through the villages.

When you cross Helong bridge, an old man with glasses and a few teeth will point at an English sign with his cane. The sign explains that the bridge is very old and need to be repaired. Of course, you are kindly asked to contribute financially. No matter how generous you are, your name and contribution will be carved in stone forever.

Drum towers (鼓楼)

In the Land of the Dong

Southeast Guizhou, north Guangxi and southwest Hunan concentrate two main ethnic groups, the Miao (苗族) and the Dong (侗族). Miao and Dong share two architectural features : the two to three-story wooden houses and the Wind and Rain bridges.

Dong people have added drum towers (鼓楼) that differentiate them from the Miao. Each village has its own drum tower.

Drum towers (鼓楼) used to be places where village elders gathered and discussed the affairs of the village and where customary law was implemented. Today, Dong drum towers remains places of gathering for old people, mostly men.

Performances

Performance by Dong people in Chengyang, Guangxi

Performance by Dong people in Chengyang, Guangxi

There are daily performances in Yan and Ping villages at 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM. Just follow the signs in the village. It seems that these shows that feature traditional Dong singing and dancing are designed for the groups of Chinese tourists who tour the villages during daytime and head back to Sanjiang at the end of the afternoon.

Hiking in the paddy fields

In the Land of the Dong

Chengyang is quite big and there are many opportunities to get out of the village and hike in the paddy fields. You can even try and hike up the hills to get a view on the valley and the bridges.

Where to stay

Even though it is a must-go scenic spot for Chinese tourist groups, Chengyang is still pretty quiet at night. There are a few comfortable options for you if you want to stay overnight.

Right after the bridge, you will see Yang’s guesthouse. You can’t miss it because Mr Yang wrote in blue on the wall of his three-story guesthouse : “Recommended by Lonely Planet”.

If you walk left, behind Yang’s guesthouse, still in Ma’an village, there are a couple of options. One of them is the Longfeng Hostel, which has rooms for 60 and 80 RMB. I wanted to go to the Shanjian Guesthouse (山间客栈) which is situated on top of a hill (keep walking and you’ll find a flight of stairs and sign near the Helong Bridge), but they were fully booked (you can call these numbers to book : 13481996420 / 15347762620).

There is another recently renovated guesthouse in Yan Village: Dong Fields and Garden Inn (侗家田园客栈). Pass by the Helong bridge (do not cross) and keep walking straight ahead and take the first street on your right. You’ll find Mr. Yang’s guesthouse just after the drum tower, before the Wanshou bridge (万寿桥). You can call Mr Yan to book a room with bathroom for 80 RMB (15077282836).

In the Land of the Dong

How to get there

There are no direct buses to Chengyang. You will have to change in Sanjiang (三江). In Guangxi, Sanjiang is connected to Liuzhou, Nanning, Guilin, Longsheng; in Guizhou, to Liping, Congjiang (there is a bus every hour to Congjiang and the trip last 3 hours). If you are headed or coming from Hunan, Tongdao will be your best option (2 hours).

Sanjiang is connected to the expanding high-speed train system. This remote town of Guangxi province is now easily accessible from Guangzhou, Guilin or Guiyang. Read my article about the high-speed train itinerary across the four provinces of Hunan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Guangdong.

Sanjiang has two bus stations : Hexi (河西) and Hedong (河东). To get to Chengyang, you have to take a bus from Hexi bus station. Buses leave in the morning only, but don’t worry, there are mini-vans going to Chengyang by the bus station. They leave when there are full and it will cost you 8 RMB/person.

From Sanjiang, it takes 30 to 45 minutes to the gate, where you will have to pay the entrance fee of 60 RMB.

There are 16 comments

  1. Ben

    Recently visited Chengyang. Arrived on a Monday afternoon (a week before 5/1 holiday) and pleased to discover that the villages were devoid of tourists – but indeed they showed up the next morning. Booked a room in advance but there is certainly no shortage of lodging or guesthouses and it appears many new ones are being built. Took the high speed train from Guilin to the new Sanjiang station, which is in the middle of nowhere and a good 10km from the actual town of Sanjiang. From the HSR station there are buses to Sanjiang. It was raining so we paid a driver who approached us to take us directly to Chengyang for RMB100. Probably could have haggled the price down. The same driver also drove us 2.5 hours from Chengyang to the Longji rice terraces for RMB 300. Restaurants in the villages of Chengyang on the main village streets all have inflated tourist prices. However there was one restaurant in Ma’an Village called Fulinmen 福临门餐厅 just a couple minutes walk from the main Yongji bridge. More reasonable prices and was run by an incredibly friendly woman. Spent a few hours hiking the rice terraces above Ping tan village 平坦寨 which also has a nice drum tower. All in all Chengyang proved to be highly worthwhile to visit.

    1. Sofia

      Hi Ben,
      Thank you for sharing this info. It will be of great help when I go there later this year. Actually, I have one day to spare and cannot make up my mind if I should go to Chengyang or to Zhaoxing. Can anyone recommend which one is better for a day trip?

      Many thanks,
      Sofia

      1. Sofia

        Thanks for replying 🙂 I am planning to leave Yangshuo in the morning and arrive in Guiyang by bullet train late in the evening, and would like to see something interesting on the way, so option 1 is to stop in Sanjiang and visit Chenyang or option 2 is to stop in Congjiang and visit Zhaoxing. I think either of these plans are managable? Would really appreciate the pros and cons of these two options. Thanks for a super inspiring site, which as helped me a lot already!

        Sofia

      2. Gaetan

        Hi Sofia. Your best option is to go to Chengyang. Zhaoxing is too far away from Congjiang (it takes one hour from the new train station to Congjiang and there are not many buses from Congjiang to Zhaoxing and the last bus from Zhaoxing leaves around noon). From Sanjiang, there are enough mini-van to take you to Chengyang, just be careful with bus frequencies. Buses from Chengyang back to Sanjiang tend to be scarce in the late afternoon.

      3. Sofia

        Yes I’m actually leaning towards Chengyang. Just like you said, I read that both Zhaoxing and the train station are far away from Congjiang, but only about 15 min drive away from eachother, so I assumed it would be easy to get a taxi straight there from the train station, but maybe this isn’t possible? Would you say that Chengyang is more worth seeing in general?

        Thanks a lot for advising me on this!
        Sofia

      4. Gaetan

        Hi Sofia,
        it takes more than 15 min drive between Congjiang and Zhaoxing.
        Chengyang is definitely the best option for you, the bridge is beautiful.

      5. Gaetan

        Ok, I see what you mean now.
        I still would go to Chengyang. Entry fee is less expensive than in Zhaoxing, and Zhaoxing’s Wind and Rain Bridges are far less impressive than the one in Chengyang.

      6. Gaetan

        No problem … Once you visited Chengyang, please feel free to comment and send any updates about transportation, prices, … that would be much appreciated. Happy travels!

  2. Thomas Gierth

    If you are on the road to Ping Pu. just stop a small van and go to the next village called Guandong, it´s okay there to walk around for 1 hour.
    Go back to Chengyang by van, price is 3 kuai.
    If you have some time in Chengyang, take the long way to Ji Chang.
    Arrive at the drum tower, take the way to the left, up to the mountain (always walk beside the small river).
    On the top of the mountain, you have a nice view to the mountains and can go down to Ping Tan (always aware to have the small river on your side).
    It´s a nice walk and you can see some nice places outside of the villages.
    And if you arrive in Sanjiang at Hedong bus station, go right till you reach the bridge, go over it and follow the street up the hill.
    After 20m you´ll find Hexi bus station on the right.
    If there´s no bus anymore, just take a van (I´ve paid 6 Yuan for the ride).
    After you cross the bridge, don´t go up the hill, turn right and you´ll see them.
    And if you need an ATM in Sanjiang….. when you arrive at the bridge, don´t cross it, go up the street on the oppisite and on the top go left.
    After a local bank, you´ll find ABC to use interntl. cards.

  3. Steve Griffith

    well worth spending a day walking round the eight hamlets that make up Chengyang or you can hire a bike. note if coming from Tongdao get off before the Yongji bridge and walk in on one of the other bridges that way you avoid the entrance fee. Incudently I have no problem paying the locals for the other two bridges as the money goes directly to their upkeep.
    Chengyang is best in the evening where you will be lulled to sleep by frogs in the paddy fields.
    I stayed at the the new places just past the Huilong bridge nice name 聚游楼客栈 ,travellers gathering place. You can eat with the family for extra and look at the Helong bridge from the veranda .
    It maybe just me but I run a mile from any place that advertises itself as recommended by lonely planet.
    There is a lot of road building at the moment , March 15 and journey to Sanjiang is bad. Tongdao is in the middle of the dreaded high rise building boom I stayed at a grotty place near the bus station. there are direct buses to Qianyang only 2 hours away

  4. pbrasser

    2014 June, the performances take only place when there are tourist buses around, so if you want to see them try to be there in the weekend or holiday period, if you have the opportunity take the trip direction Tongdao, as described in one of Gaetan blog”s heaven for anyone who prefer to enjoy wind and rain bridges of sheer beauty or simplicity, villages you can stroll around, without going to a barrage of sales people. allocate at least a day for this

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