In this corner of China where the provinces of Guizhou, Hunan and Guangxi coalesce, those who are heading to the ancient Ming garrison of Longli (隆里) or the Dong village of Zhaoxing (肇兴), will certainly have to transit in Liping (黎平).
From the square in front of the bus station, Liping looks like any another small town in China : loud, dirty and grey. There is however, in this small maze of noise and concrete, a historical street, Qiao street (翘街), that reminds visitors of Liping’s ancient and modern past.
Judging by the look on local’s faces who have to stop to stare and tell teach their children the basic physical differences between Chinese and Westerner, not many foreigners make it there, a sign that you have reached an off-the-beaten path destination.
Qiao Street : from the Ming to Mao
Qiao Street does not only concentrate Ming and Qing era buildings, all separated by firewalls, but also a series of historical buildings that have played a role in the foundation of Communist China.
Well-preserved Ming and Qing architecture
At each end of Qiao street, flights of stone stairs will give you an incredible bird-eye view. Centuries-old buildings mingled with modern grey concrete buildings in the background.
It’s worth exploring the small street-alleys that run perpendicularly to Qiao street because they hide a few courtyard houses which are protected by the local government (there is usually a sign with the mention “Architecture Under Special Preservation”). Locals still live in these protected courtyard houses. If the door is open, step in and ask to visit : beyond the architecture itself, the elaborated window wooden cover with carved dragons, flowers and kirin are mystifying.
A church in remote China
The Fuyin Tang (福音堂) thrones in the middle of the street. Fuyin Tang (which literally means something like ‘The Hall of the Sound of Happiness’) is a church that was built in 1929 by a couple of German missionaries. During the Long March, when the Red Army stopped in Liping, the Fuyin Tang accommodated high-ranking officers.
The church was being renovated when I passed in Liping in March 2014.
Liping the Red
Witness of Liping’s ‘red past’, a number of ancient buildings have red communist star above their door. The ground zero of Liping’s glorious revolutionary past is the site of the Liping’s conference (黎平会议会址) which took place on December 18th, 1934. This conference is considered to be a ‘great turning point in China’s revolution’ (中国革命伟大转折).
The place is free to visit (any site that is directly linked to China’s Communist history is always free) and show where Mao and the other high-ranking Red army officers met and slept.
Almost in front of the site of the Liping’s conference, a museum (entirely in Chinese and also free) explains in detail the Long March. If you are a nerd of China’s pre-1950s Communist history, you should definitely go to the Puxiu Wind and Rain bridge near Tongdao (通道) in Hunan province.
If knowing that the Chinese Red Army stopped in this street in December 1934 is enough for you, keep wandering up and down the stairs for a point of view on Qiao street. This type of historical street is rare enough in contemporary China where many ancient buildings are bulldozed or ‘renovated’ (which implies knocking down the original structure and re-building it).
How to get there
Liping (黎平) is situated in southeast Guizhou province (黔东南). The main reason to head to Liping is to go to the ancient Ming garrison of Longli (隆里) or to the Dong village of Zhaoxing (肇兴) – if you are ready to pay a 100 RMB fee.
There is an airport just 10 km north of the town with daily flights to Guiyang and weekly flights to Guangzhou and Shanghai Pudong.
If you come by bus, there are direct buses to and from Guilin Qintan bus station (桂林琴潭汽车站), Sanjiang, Congjiang, Guiyang and Kaili. There are also a few connection to and from Huaihua (怀化) in Hunan province.
Qiao Street (翘街) is just a 10 – 15 min walk south from the main and only bus station in Liping. Follow Kaitai Street (开泰路) until you reach a compound of ancient-looking building.