Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County

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Gongcheng County

恭城县 · Gunghcwngz Yen
Gunghcwngz Yauzcuz Swciyen
Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County
Skyline of Gongcheng County
Gongcheng is located in Guangxi
Location of the seat in Guangxi
Coordinates: 24°49′55″N 110°49′41″E / 24.832°N 110.828°E / 24.832; 110.828Coordinates: 24°49′55″N 110°49′41″E / 24.832°N 110.828°E / 24.832; 110.828
CountryPeople's Republic of China
Autonomous regionGuangxi
Prefecture-level cityGuilin
Time zoneUTC+8 (China Standard)

Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County (simplified Chinese: 恭城瑶族自治县; traditional Chinese: 恭城瑤族自治縣; pinyin: Gōngchéng Yáozú Zìzhìxiàn) is a county of Guangxi, China. It is under the administration of Guilin city and is spread over a total area of 2,149 km2 (830 sq mi).

The terrain of Gongcheng County is mainly mountainous and hilly, and there are relatively flat small alluvial plains along the Li river. The climate of Gongcheng is subtropical monsoon climate. Summer is hot, humid and long, whereas winters are dry and short. The county also receives adequate light and abundant rainfall. The average annual sunshine is approximately 1413.7 hours, annual rainfall is approximately 1,453.1 mm (57.21 in), annual average humidity is 74%.

Gongcheng has a very picturesque scenery and in fact looks like a beautiful giant orchard. Peach, Persimmons, Plum, Loquat, Mandarin Oranges etc., decorates the unique hills of the region in different seasons throughout the year. During spring season, red and pink peach blossoms are found to be in full bloom and adorns the hills and the gardens. In Autumn, mature ripe Persimmons everywhere attracts a lot of tourists.

Cha river of Gongcheng


In 2016, the total population of Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County stood at 300,000 people and 60% of this figure constitutes of Yao ethnic minority. Gongcheng County is also termed as "China's longevity" as by the end of 2013, the average life expectancy was at 77.09 years old.

According to the statistics of February 2015, the Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County has three main ethnic groups - Yao, Zhuang and Han. Apart from this the other minorities are: Miao, Yi, Li, Dong, Hui, Manchu, Tujia, Buyi, Guans, the Lisu, the Uygur, the Jingpo, the Tu and the Lahu etc., Yao is the largest ethnic minority of Gongcheng and the county is officially known as “Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County”

The Yao minority of Gongcheng[edit]

The Yao are one of the 55 officially recognised ethnic minorities in China and reside in the mountainous terrain of the southwest and south. They are a typical hill tribe in southern China and has a long and splendid culture.

The Yao history: The history of the Yao people, dates back to as far as the 5th century BC. There are about 63 kinds of ways the Yao people call themselves including Men, Mian, Min etc., They have been collectively known as Yao ethnicity after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Records show that since past 2000 years, the Yao people lived in the surrounding mountains of Tibet. They moved constantly as they did not like the dominating Han rulers.

At present, the Yao people of Gongcheng County consist of the following subgroups.

  • Pan Yao 盘瑶 (autonyms: Mian 勉, Longyan 龙岩; also called Pangu Yao 盘古瑶)
  • Pingdi Yao 平地瑶 (autonyms: Muyo 木哟, Bingduoyou 炳多优; exonyms: Bidi 比滴 (Shangong Yao 山公瑶语 exonym), Gan 干 (Guoshan Yao exonym 过山瑶语))
  • Guoshan Yao 过山瑶 (autonyms: Yumian 育棉, Biaoman 标曼, Shimen 史门; also called Guige Lingmuyo 贵格令木哟 by the Pingdi Yao, and Gesuoxi 各索夕 by the Shangong Yao 山公瑶 of Sanjiang Township 三江乡)
  • Sidamin Yao 四大民瑶: migrated from Yongming 永明 (modern-day Jiangyong County 江永, Hunan) during the Qing Dynasty, and consisted of the four Yao groups of Qingxi Yao 清溪瑶, Gudiao Yao 古调瑶, Goulan Yao 勾蓝瑶, and Fuling Yao 扶灵瑶.

The Legend of the Yao People: According to the Yao, in heaven resided “Da Ong (Grandfather) and “Da Gux” (Grandmother), who decided to transform themselves and live on earth. During that time, on earth there existed two kingdoms - one was ruled by King Baeng Hung (good), and the other by King Gao Hung (bad). Ping Hung and Gao Hung hated each other and one day Baeng Hung announced that whoever would bring him the head of Gao Hung, he would give him his third daughter in marriage as well as some land. Da Gux was born as the third daughter of King Baeng Hung with a birthmark on her left leg and Da Ong chose to be born as a five-coloured dragon-dog named Phan Hu. One day Phan Hu decided to show off at King Baeng Hung’s palace and over the time with his talents and speaking ability, he earned the trust and admiration of the Baeng Hung. When the Kings army wanted to attack King Gao Hung, Phan Hu volunteered to fight for the King and said that since he was a dog, Gao Hung and his military probably will not think that he could do any harm to them. King Baeng Hung agreed as he wanted to see what the dog could do. After swimming for 7 days and 7 nights across the Sea, Phan Hu reached Gao Hung’s palace. Gao Hung admired the beautiful talking dog and decided to keep it as his own bodyguard. The dog became Gao Hung's favourite and one day when Gao Hung sent his servants and body guards out for the daily chores, Phan Hu took the opportunity, and bit Gao Hung's head off. He then swam back with the head for King Baeng Hung. As promised, Phan Hu requested to be married to the King Baeng Hung’s third daughter, however the King did not want his daughter to be married to a dragon dog. On the day of the marriage, the King Baeng Hung invited nine women who looked identical to his third daughter and then dressed them up with matching gowns and asked Phan Hu to pick his wife. Phan Hu was not fooled as he knew the birthmark on the left leg of King’s third daughter and picked her. They were married and then moved to an isolated piece of land which was given to them by King Baeng Hung. The couple had 12 children, six sons and six daughters. These six sons and the husbands of the six daughters became patriarchs of the twelve Mien or Yao clans.

The Yao Language: Yao Language is a branch of the Sino-Tibetan Languages, and is more complex as more than half of the local population speak Mian Language and two-fifths of them speak Bunu Language. Some of the people in Guangxi also use Lakkia Language. Generally, Yao language is connected to Chinese and Zhuang Language without its own characters. The language is considered extremely rich in oral literature.

Yao Festivals: Apart from the Spring Festival, Tomb Sweeping Day, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival, Yao ethnicity also has its own unique traditional festivals, such as Panwang Festival, Jichun Festival, Danu Festival, Shuaigetang Festival, Paga Festival.

The Costume of Yao Minority in Gongcheng: The patterns of Yao costume are exquisite and various since the women of Yao community are known to be good at weaving, dyeing, and embroidery. The costumes the men and women carry exquisite Yao embroidery and pattern typical to the Yao’s and they are often worn with a headwear. The Skirt, Shirts and trousers etc., are embroidered with beautiful patterns.

Customs and Traditions: The Yao generally do not marry in other ethnicities and practice monogamy. Sometimes, marriage could be love marriages or arranged by the parents or elders of the family. One of the way of marriage in the Yao community specially in the past was by singing in antiphon specially during the Spring Festival, where the boy and the girl sing to each other in a way of question and answer. The tune of such folk song is simple, but the lyrics are often complex, depending on the depth of sensation. When they have a perfect match, the boy and the girl give each other small pieces of ornaments as a keepsake.

The Yao people also have certain taboos like –avoid stepping on the stove; do not burn paper which has words written on it; avoid wearing white shoes and white hat when you step into the Yao family, as it is the symbol of funeral; avoid sitting on the threshold etc.,

During almost every festival, it’s a tradition among Yao’s to make Babas, which are made with sticky rice, sometimes some local herbs are added, they are either sweet or salty and have sesame or peanut filling. Throughout other festivals most of the main dishes constitute of chicken, duck, fish, pork, tofu, and various kinds of vegetables.

You Cha – Known as “Oil Tea” in English, the You Cha is famous across the Guangxi province. In Guilin oil tea falls into several varieties: Gongcheng Yao oil tea, Longsheng Dong oil tea and Xing’an oil tea, each having its distinct characteristics. Among all of them, the most famous one is Gongcheng oil tea made by the local Yao community. Tea leaves, ginger, garlic and some other local herbs are combined with oil and together pounded in an iron wok. Later some water is added and the tea is stewed in it. When the tea is being stewed, Yao people use a wooden pole to beat the tea until the aroma of tea fully emanates. – The reason local people call it “Da youcha (‘da’ means beat, ‘youcha’ means oil tea)” has to do with this special way they use when making tea. The tea is then filtered and salt it added to it. This tea is usually served with fried puffed rice, peanuts or soybeans, other seasonings such as chopped green onion etc., are also added to the tea. Oil tea is also served with local snacks and pickles.

Among the locals, the custom is to present the first bowl of oil tea to the senior most member of the family and guests.

Tourist attractions of Gongcheng[edit]

The Temple of Confucius –

The Confucius temple of Gongcheng was built in 1477 (during Ming Dynasty). Confucius is an ancient Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher. The philosophy of Confucius emphasised personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity.

The temple is located in the south of Gongcheng town and is one of the best-preserved building from the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644). It is also one of the four largest Confucius Temples in China, and the largest in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. This temple is also listed as one of the important units of cultural relics under the national protection.

According to the records, the temple was originally located in the north side of the town and in 1447 it was moved to south of Gongcheng. The architecture was too small and simple in the beginning and over the years it was extended and renovated. The temple now covers an area of 1300 square meters.

This temple is built according to the geography of the mountain which lies behind the temple. Here’s the structural characteristics of the mountain. “Cha Jiang” river gracefully coils up across the front gate of the temple. Then in an axis line the Scholar gate, Ling Xing gate, number one Scholar bridge, Da Cheng gate, Da Cheng hall, Ancestral temple, in order of priority. In particular, the sculpture of the Da Cheng Gate is the shape of a flower. The sculpture of the roof is the form of figure. Ling Xing gate was originally the first main entrance; its structure of the gate was built in a very sophisticated manner. Six square pillars lined up and a rock beam connecting them together. Between the upper and the lower beam lies an embedded rock plaque and one can see a lot of lucky patterns inscribed on it, like 2 dragons seizing one pearl, double wind sunrise and other auspicious patterns. Other buildings also have their own characteristics.

Da Cheng gate is the last door of Confucius temple and the appearance resembles an ancient weapon - Halberd. Therefore, people also refer to it as Halberd Gate. There are 3 doors in this gate. The centre door opens only during certain important events otherwise it always remains closed. People use the doors on the either side to enter the temple. There are 108 nails on each door as 108 represents a lucky number in ancient China. The threshold of the Da Cheng gate is taller compared to the others, to remind people that to it is important to show respect before they can see the statue of Confucius.

The Temple of Guan Yu

Wu Temple –

Situated on the right side “The Confucius Temple” at about 50 meters is the “Wu Temple”. This temple was initially built in 1603 and rebuilt in 1720 thereafter it was destroyed during the war in 1854 and was later rebuilt again in 1862. It carries a history of over 400 years. “The Wu Temple” is also known as “The Martial arts temple”. It is a shrine built for the famous and valiant general “Guan Yu” of the Three Kingdoms Period (220 - 280) who was also worshipped as the Sage of Martial Art in ancient China. This is the only place across China where a Confucius temple and a Martial art temple exist together, which the Chinese people consider a miracle. In ancient China, left meant east, which also means YANG (Yang also signifies senior) so “The Confucius temple” was built on the left side, indicating respect to Knowledge. And right meant west, which also means YING (Ying signifies lower) so “The Martial arts temple” was built on the right side suggesting restrain of violence. The temples existing jointly also means the existence of YANG and YING together. Which reflects the complete spirit of the Chinese culture.

About Guan Yu: Guan Yu was a general serving under the warlord Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han dynasty. He played a significant role in the events that led to the collapse of the dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han – founded by Liu Bei – in the Three Kingdoms period. He is one of the best known Chinese historical figures throughout East Asia. Guan Yu is respected as an embodiment of loyalty, bravery, benevolence and righteousness. The elevation of Guan Yu's status to that of a deity took place during the Ming dynasty. In Chinese folk religion, Guan Yu is widely referred to as "Emperor Guan", while his Taoist title is "Holy Emperor Lord Guan". He is a deity worshipped in Chinese folk religion, popular Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism, and small shrines to him are almost ubiquitous in traditional Chinese shops and restaurants. He is still worshipped by many people in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong and other places with Chinese influence such as Vietnam, South Korea and Japan.

The Temple’s structural characteristics - The Wu Temple covers an area of 1033 square meters. The temple has an old stage, a rain pavilion, a principal hall, a back hall and a memorial archway. There are only two side doors in the temple and no front doors, the reason behind it is not to let the aura of the outside affect the aura of the inside. On top of each door are Chinese inscriptions, stating – “Love your country and be loyal to your king. Do your best to help people”

The backdrop of the Temple has beautiful mountains and from a far one could see the head of the temple, shaped like a horn facing the sky. Most of the temple’s sculptures which are in the forms of Dragon, Phoenix, Bird and Fish are made up of clay and wood all very vivid. However, it is the horn which glistens every time the sun shines upon it that manages to draw the attention of the people.

Inside the temple there is a stylobate, made up of rock. Beautiful sculptures of flower and people adorn the surface of the rock. Four pillars on the top of the stylobate carry a heavy headpiece. During certain special festivals, local people perform on the stylobate like – dancing, singing or Opera. One can also find two men standing next to their two horses inside. It is believed that these two horses belonged to Guan Yu and another soldier named Jiang Wei. There are also statues of two different Gods – the one on the left is believed to bring luck and the one on the right keeps people safe.

The carvings in the temple are from different ages of history which is worth the time and study for history enthusiasts. The clay sculpture in the beam are traditional craftwork. The principal hall called “Xie Tian Gong” houses the statues of Guan Yu and his soldiers, who were believed to be very loyal to him. The patterns of flowers in the window are also quite marvellous. There are also two memorial archways – the Stone memorial archway and the Wooden memorial archway.

Zhuowei Temple

This temple is situated at about 800 meters from the “Wu Temple” commemorates “Zhuo Wei”, who served as an official in 999 AD. Zhuo Wei cared for the people which led him to do a lot of welfare in his hometown. He petitioned the tax breaks, and reset land tax to develop wisdom, advocated the establishment of schools, education of children and for an upright, honest and dedicated clean government.

To honour him the local people raised money and build a shrine for him. This temple was built in 1478 and later rebuilt again in 1723 and spreads over an area of 1600 square meters. The Temple has a stage, a hall, a dorm and a gate. The brackets of the gate are very unique in addition to playing a decorative role it also has a special function. The bracket which looks like a honeycomb can use the air current to make a certain kind of noise. This noise acts as a natural resistant to birds and flies and prevents them from nesting there. This is considered a very rare style of Chinese architecture.

Furthermore, enchanting is eaves of the external wall, thousands of timbers linked together in a series, bearing the heaviness of the roof equally and trying to stretch outside at the same time. A magnificent and rare architecture of the Qing dynasty. This temple is a valuable example for people interested in studying ancient Chinese architecture.

Hongyan Village

Hongyan was once considered a poor village, however recently it has gained a lot of popularity among local tourists. The village is known as the 'model village' for new socialism. The village has beautiful landscapes, rows of flaming persimmon trees, the wind-rain bridge of the Yao people, and a lot of local delicacies. Tourists also like to take a ride across the river in the bamboo rafts, or leisurely stroll around the village and taste local specialties. During Autumn, when the Persimmons are ready to be harvested, the village looks spectacular and receives a lot of tourists.

There is no direct bus from Gongcheng Station to Hongyan Village, however one can easily taxi or a minivan to the village at CNY 20 (approx.,).