Nestled in the mountainous beauty of Guizhou province, is the fascinating Biasha Miao Village. Also known as “Basha Miao”, or “Baisha Miao”, this village has remained largely untouched by modernity. This extraordinary Miao village is home to a group with a long history of gun ownership. The male inhabitants of Biasha Miao Village maintain their rich cultural traditions by openly carrying, making, and using their guns. World renowned as “the last gunslingers in China”, the residents proudly display their traditional ways. With a history spanning over 2,000 years, and tremendous cultural significance, Biasha Miao Village is an attraction that cannot be missed.
- Biasha Miao Village is located in Congjiang County, Guizhou, about 220 km from the city of Kaili.
- Although gun ownership by citizens is prohibited in China, and exception has been made for the inhabitants of Biasha.
- The Miao in the village have a lengthy history of gun ownership, and maintain their rich cultural traditions, which has become a major attraction for visitors.
- The inhabitants of Biasha Miao Village now perform fascinating shows to display their marksmanship, dancing, and traditional music.
History of Biasha Miao Village
According to legend, the ancestors of Biasha Miao Village immigrated from central China some 2,000 years ago. Based on Chinese mythology, the Miao descended from the Jiuli tribe, who were led by the mythical king, Chiyou.
The Miao of Biasha were renowned as fearsome warriors and hunters. They hunted large game such as bear, in the mountainous region surrounding the village.
Based on archeological claims, the Miao were among the first people to settle in present-day China. They are also believed to be one of the first tribes to practice rice farming in ancient times. The Miao primarily settled in the areas now known as Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan, Hubei, Sichuan, and Guangxi provinces. The largest population can be found in Guizhou.
Today, the Miao has a population of roughly 8,940,116, which is larger than most ethnic minorities in China. They are divided into several branches including the Striped Hmong, Black Hmong, and White Hmong, just to name a few.
The population of Biasha Miao Village now numbers around 2,500 people, with about 500 households. The village is comprised of diaojiaolou, which are wooden structures built on stilts. This traditional dwelling is popular amongst the Miao, and other ethnic groups that specifically reside in mountainous regions. They are masterpieces of ingenuity and carpentry. Biasha is famous for its stunning array of diaojiaolou, built in the distinctive Miao-style.
Culture Of Biasha Miao Village
The inhabitants of Biasha Miao Village have a long history with guns. The men of the village were and still are today, renowned for their marksmanship. They still make, carry and use guns to maintain their rich cultural traditions. The Miao proudly sustain their warrior past, dressing in period costumes from the Qing dynasty (1636 to 1912), complete with long rifles and sickles affixed to their belts. The Biasha inhabitants favour the powder shotgun with a range of about 20 meters.
Biasha is one of the most visited villages in the region, and the Miao capitalize on that fact. The inhabitants give folk-custom performances demonstrating various aspects of traditional life in the village, including a welcoming ceremony involving guns. This ancient custom of greeting honored guests, involves several men with long rifles from Biasha Miao Village, meeting visitors outside the village gates. The men then stand in a row, firing three shots of gunpowder (no live ammunition is used) as a means of the welcoming guests.
The men of Biasha Miao Village, attach great importance to their hair, which is considered the embodiment of strength and power. All males in the village wear their hair shaved off all around the head, with remaining hair on the crown of the head coiled up. The Miao of Biasha refer to the hair-coil as “hugun”, and has been passed down for thousands of years. Hair is shaved off with a sickle, rather than using scissors, or clippers.
Amongst the many ancient and compelling customs of the Miao in Biasha, is the worship of trees. The inhabitants have worshipped and planted trees for generations, and many of the ceremonies take place in the surrounding forests. When a baby is born, the Biasha Miao will plant a tree. After the individual grows into adulthood, then later dies, the same tree is cut down and made into a coffin for the person’s remains. Villagers then plant another tree in memory of the departed individual, symbolic of the cycle of life.
- Visitors to Biasha Miao Village must be mindful that it is a functioning village with ancient and unique customs – therefore, be respectful.
- Never attempt to touch the head, or “hugun” of a Biasha Miao, as this is incredibly disrespectful. In ancient times, anyone who dared to attempt this, was often shot.
- If you take photographs of the Biasha Miao, be prepared to give some money in return.