Tourism fires up revitalization of China's "gunner tribe"

(Xinhua) 08:38, January 10, 2024

A boy of Miao ethnic group with peculiar local hairstyle plays at Biasha Village in Congjiang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, Dec. 14, 2023. (Xinhua/Cui Xiaoqiang)

GUIYANG, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- In front of the village gate, Gun Shuixin and more than 10 other men stood on both sides of the road, holding up muskets and pulling the triggers aiming toward the sky. With the crisp gunshot, plumes of white smoke emitted from the muzzle.

Curious tourists standing nearby pulled out cell phones and cameras to capture the memorable moment.

Gun, 73, hails from Biasha Village in Congjiang County, located in southwest China's Guizhou Province.

In a country where possessing guns is illegal for civilians, the scene of gunfire in the landlocked remote village has drawn tourists, with villagers reaping benefits from the tourism industry.

In the Miao ethnic language, Biasha means a place with lush trees and grasses. The village is home to more than 2,800 people.

Known as the "last gunner tribe" in China, Biasha villagers have used guns to hunt and protect themselves for centuries.

Gun acquired his muskets at the age of 15 following the coming-of-age ceremony.

"Now, we only use gunpowder, instead of bullets," said Gun, adding that every musket in the village has been registered with the public security department.

China banned the possession of firearms decades ago, but villagers in Biasha are an exception, although they are no longer allowed to hunt.

For over half a century, guns, as the spiritual totem of local villagers, have served as a tool for cultural demonstration to tourists.

Apart from the gunfire performance, tourists can explore the stilted buildings along the hillside, wooden racks for sunning rice and the peculiar hairstyle of the locals, where only the hair in the center of the head is left in a bun, while the remaining part is shaved.

At a public square in the village, some 100 visitors were waiting for the opening of a folklore performance.

Li Kaikai, who works in the city of Shenzhen, decided to visit the village immediately after she viewed a short video about the village online.

"It only took me half an hour to research the details about my travel plan and buy a train ticket to this place," she said.

Folk performances such as the Miao traditional dance and haircut with a sickle, a custom for the village, are staged for visitors, providing an additional source of income to the villagers serving as amateur performers.

Shi Dajiang, a staffer from the tourism management team, said some 200 villagers have joined two performance teams, earning nearly 100 yuan (14.08 U.S. dollars) per day during the performance days.

"We aim to create more interactive and immersive experiences for our visitors, not just to enhance their understanding of our culture but also to allow more villagers to benefit from the tourism industry," Shi said.

The village shook off poverty in 2016, and in 2023, the per capita disposable income reached 11,400 yuan, 68 percent higher than the level in 2019.

This aerial photo taken on Dec. 14, 2023 shows a view of Biasha Village in Congjiang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Xinhua/Liu Qinbing)

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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