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Monday 16 May, 2005

Breakfast was not so prompt today – as our morning call was ‘on-time’ rather than ‘early’.

We went out of Rongjiang along the river past the previous day’s Dong village of San Bao and started to climb up out of the valley. The scenery was magnificent as we climbed up and there were some flooded terraces below us and tightly clustered houses in Dong villages. The new road to the Dong village that we were to visit – Da Li village, Zai Ma township - see on map, Rongjiang county – was quite narrow, windy and steep. We climbed almost to the top of the ridge of mountains before dropping down to the village, about 25 km from Rongjiang, which was tightly clustered at the base of a high valley with a stream running through it.

The village has five covered bridges with the oldest being from the Qing dynasty. The bridges are known as ‘flower bridges’ as they fan out like a flower. There are 100 households of over 1,000 people. The drum tower of the village was being rebuilt after having been destroyed by fire. The village has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful of the Dong villages.

We were greeted by a group of women dressed in their festival costume (similar to that worn in San Bao the day before). They were waiting for us at the end of one of the covered bridges from where, to our left as we crossed, we could see the oldest (Qing) bridge. The women sang a song of welcome and we were offered a drink of alcohol and some spicy fish. (I managed to avoid the latter!) I took photos of the Qing bridge. We made our way through the village to the Qing bridge and went across it into the oldest house in the village which had a central enclosed courtyard going up several stories to the roof. The women gathered here and started to sing songs and three or four were working on stitching in-soles for shoes and one was working on a knee braid loom to create supplementary warp-faced braid. I managed later to buy a similar loom. After the girls had sung, a group of men gathered behind us and sang and then joined the women for a song – which was excellent. The Dong singing is very powerful.

After the singing some of our group went to see some weaving but I stayed behind and bought a lovely two-piece baby hat which I had seen being examined by one of the singers. It has a square of hand woven cloth with black-work embroidery which is worn over the head and then an embroidered open ‘crown’ is fitted over this square.

I then went up to where the new Drum tower was being constructed. Some villagers had laid out textiles for us to buy. I bought an oldish embroidered baby carrier. I bought a pieces of weaving in various colours which the old lady indicated was for the bottom of something worn on the legs – possibly trousers or leg wrappers. I bought an older head cloth from an old man and a newer and cleaner one from a woman. I wanted a braid loom as did Gina. The local guide and the head man of the village sent out for some looms for us and several came back. We paid the asking price without any bargaining. On the way out of the village I saw the woman who had been demonstrating weaving earlier to the others in a house near the covered bridge at the entrance to the village. Generally the people in Da Li village were very welcoming and friendly despite the new road having opened up the village to tourists. It was a very enjoyable visit.

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this page last updated 2 January, 2004