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Find Asia’s Last Cave-Dwelling Tribe in Zhongdong Miao Village

Guizhou’s ragged karst topography nurtures the most breathtaking Karst peaks, caves, underground rivers, waterfalls and ethnic villages. Amid the luxuriant forests, serene valleys and even inaccessible caves, countless ethnic villages take root and bewitch the adventurers as kaleidoscopes of architecture, festivals, traditions and ethnic lifestyles. In Ziyun County, Anshun City, Guizhou, there hides Zhongdong Miao Village in the waist of a hill elevated at 1800m. Around 70 villagers from 18 households call this place home, and they are labeled as the last cave-dwelling tribe in Asia. This incredible and secluded habitat controversially summarized as heaven or hell, is occupied by these “barbarians” during the past centuries. If you want to witness it through your own perspective, better hurry up in case they disappear sooner or later.
zhongdong miao village

Seen from afar, Zhongdong Miao Village resembles a giant eye of the hill, while the dense bamboo groove functions as the eyelash. However, it is more difficult than you can imagine accessing it. A serpentine stone trail winds up its way to this village, in some section, it is so steep that you need to go on all fours. One hour’s hiking will bring you in front of this cave spanning 115m-wide, 50m-tall and 215m-deep.
zhongdong miao village

Standing in front of the cave, you will be rewarded with intoxicating panoramic view: the undulating forests stretch to the horizon and are interspersed with giant trees and grotesque peaks. Contrast sharply to the fantastic Karst landscape outside is the extremely primitive, harsh and “uncivilized” life inside. None of these houses have a roof. Sheltered by the mighty dome of the cave, these dilapidated residences are badly illuminated and poorly furnitured. To take in enough sunshine, light and fresh air, most of the houses squeeze along the entry of the cave. Benches, beds and dining tables are the prominent decorations. TV and washing machines are still considered luxuries. One peculiar thing here is that each house is marked with a door number and separated by bamboo fences. Considering the moderate size and good neighbor relationships, both are more a token than a necessity.
zhongdong miao village
Zhongdong Cave School

This cave shelters not only Miao villagers, livestock but also a school, the only one of its kind in the world. During its heydays, over 200 students studied here. Now, with all the students transferred to a better school, these classrooms, together with basketball field and tennis (Ping Pong) tables, are left deserted. Stretch your legs by playing for a little while here, if you still have the energy. For rock climbing funs, this cave is an ideal site. Above the dome of the cave, there is a 3m-high stalactite taking after a frog with open mouth. Water infilteres from the crackles of rocks will drip down into the mouth of this frog and form a pool. Both villagers and livestock feed on water from it.
zhongdong miao villagezhongdong miao village
zhongdong miao villagezhongdong miao village

Rambling around, you can hear the occasional cow mowing which resonate within the cave like a helicopter. Villagers weave the fabrics, grind the rice, cultivate rice and raise pigs or cows. Each week, they will buy necessities in the market which is 15km away, on foot. For men, the pastime is drinking home-made rice wine while women will do the weaving and gossip.
zhongdong miao villagezhongdong miao village

In 2003, Hurank Bode, an American, visited Zhongdong Miao Village. Overwhelmed by their plight, he denoted over 100,000RMB to build the electricity wire for them. Since then, nights in this cave is not engulfed by darkness anymore. To improve these villagers’ life, he dropped by three times later and gave each family the needy funds to purchase livestock. The peculiar life in Zhongdong Miao Village was documented and broadcasted in TV. After seeing the documentation, a girl named Wang Dongling volunteered to be a teacher here for one year. Thanks to her, Zhongodng Miao Village receives more attention and the fate of these students, are going to be changed. In 2010, Zhongdong School was shut down and all the students are transferred to a school nearby. To relocate these villagers, Guizhou local government built some houses 500m away at the foot of the mountain. Getting used to life in the dark and wild, these “stubborn” cave dwellers returned their original habitat in no time, explaining the concrete house are unsafe to stay in. Whether it is true or not, you can pack up to discover by yourself...
zhongdong miao villagezhongdong miao village
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