Off the beaten path: Xijiang. The Flower Miao tribe

Sunday 18 April 2010
I told Steve excitedly that we HAVE to visit Xijiang, a village of the Flower Miao tribe surrounded by mountains and shrouded in mist. From Kaili, we got on an old rickety bus with a rusty and detachable steering wheel (!!) to the village of Xijiang. Miao is a term used by the Chinese to describe a non-Han ethnic minority group. Within it, there are many subsets like the Flower Miao, Black Miao and Long Horned Miao to name a few.

The minute we arrived, we were whisked off by a Chinese official. We later discovered that every Miao village is governed by Chinese officials. He was so courteous and polite that we were almost conned into surrendering our passports in return for money aka bribe.

Xijiang, the biggest Flower Miao village

We found a farmer's house up on a hill which was a registered tourist accommodation. For NZD 2/£0.94 per person, we got a room and 3 cooked meals. Steve could barely sleep all night stating that there was a weird noise coming from the room next door. In the morning, I asked the farmer's wife about it. She cheerfully told me it was the family pig which wasn't due for the chopping block yet. Meanwhile, the farmer was spluttering and in a state of apoplexy at the sight of Steve using the entire contents of a bucket to wash himself. Apparently, to get two buckets of water, he had to trek 1.5 hours down the hill to a well and back up again. In other words, they re-use the water for the entire day. By now, Steve was counting down the days to "civilization" (Hong Kong) and was losing weight rapidly.

Our hostess

During our lunch, a fly fell into a bowl of soup  and promptly did a back stroke. That was the last straw for Steve. He got up and left the table. I was still somewhat fascinated by the farmer's wife's chopstick "kung fu" skill. She'd whipped out her chopsticks, caught the fly and threw it over her back, all within a matter of seconds. For lunch, she served us a delicacy - little birds cooked in a stew.

Since we were paying customers, she was able to afford eggs. They hardly ever ate eggs as they needed to rear the chicks to support themselves. When we suggested she had them instead, she refused so I dumped the entire plate of scrambled egg into her bowl. With tears in her eyes, she thanked us and savored every morsel. I couldn't imagine what it had been like for my grandparents, fresh off the boat from China and toiling the land in their new country for survival. There was little food during and after the World War 2 that my father's family survived on sweet potatoes. To this day, he absolutely detests them.

Our hosts' two daughters went off to Guangzhou two years before in search of work. This village has no running water nor electricity. I can see this was fast become a recurring theme in all the villages I'd visited. Many of these villages had trouble finding good teachers. As a result, many had poor or little education and were barely literate. Only the younger generation were able to speak passable Mandarin. As for our hosts' daughters, they haven't heard from them ever since they left the village. These girls couldn't come home unless they've made enough money to pay for transportation.

Xijiang-Flower Miao girl1A
Our hosts' niece in traditional costume. The outfit and jewelry are passed down from mother to daughter.

Xijiang-Hua Miao ladies2
At the market.

Xijiang-flower lady

Xijiang washing hair
Their hair salon

Xijiang Carrying babies
Most of the ladies wear flowers in their hair. They call themselves Hua Miao (Flower Miao)

Xijiang off to market
Carrying piglets to the market

Xijiang-baby boy
A toddler

Xijiang-men playing cards
Playing cards to pass the time


  1. Really enjoyed these great photos !!!
    Your experience of being up close and personal with these far-fetched tribal group ,in my opinion without a doubt enriches your horizon .

  2. Thanks, Mi! Want to come along on an adventure to Vietnam with me?? Huh? Huh?



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