Historic Architecture of the Dong People, China

Restoring ancient buildings and revitalizing traditional crafts in Guizhou Province

Global Heritage Fund

Mountains of Guizhou Province, China by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Welcome to Guizhou Province

In southwest China, landlocked Guizhou Province is home to mountainous terrain, rural villages, and minority communities. 


Dali Dong Village in Guizhou Province, China by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Remote Dali Village is accessible only by a narrow mountain road. Visitors wind through forests to access this isolated settlement, home to the ethnic Dong minority.

Farming in Dali Dong Village by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Dong villages such as Dali are traditionally built in remote areas. Settlements are self-sufficient, with Dong men and women growing their own food and maintaining cultural traditions handed down through the centuries.


Drumtower in Dali Dong Village by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Dali is a particularly well-preserved Dong village, distinguished by its covered bridges and iconic drum tower (pictured at center). As in other Dong villages, Dali's drum tower is an important hub for community gatherings and festivities.

Washing Textiles in Dali Dong Village, Guizhou Province, China by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Yet in recent decades, Dali had few opportunities for economic development. The village experienced an outflow of its population as younger generations left to pursue employment in China's booming cities.


Residence in Dali Dong Village by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Without youth to learn traditional building techniques and crafts from older generations, local buildings fell into disrepair. Dali's historic fabric, including traditional architecture and crafts, were in danger of vanishing forever.


Dali Dong Village by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

The unique cultural heritage of Dali Village needed rapid action. In 2013, local residents and partners began collaborations to revitalize crafts and save traditional building knowledge.

Community in Dali Dong Village, Guizhou Province, China by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Together with local authorities and government officials, Global Heritage Fund supported the completion of a master conservation plan, field survey and site documentation, and restoration of iconic Dali landmarks such as the drum tower.

Bridge in Dali Dong Village, Guizhou Province, China by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Efforts in Dali have also focused on preserving key built elements in the cultural landscape, including covered bridges, barns, wells, ponds, and water and road systems. 
 

Roof in Dali Dong Village by Zhang SidingGlobal Heritage Fund

Modern materials such as metal sheeting roofing and glazed tiles have been replaced by clay roof tiles and timber facing. These efforts protect the local vernacular architecture and natural settings, while also encouraging sustainable building practices.

Construction in Dali Dong Village by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Unique among heritage conservation projects in China, the initiative is empowering not only local organizations but also young Chinese stakeholders to assume collective responsibility for their cultural heritage and its protection.

Construction in Dali Dong Village by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Other local efforts focused on building a new community center. The community constructed the center together using time-tested materials and techniques based on Dong architecture.

Farming in Dali Dong Village by Zhang LiGlobal Heritage Fund

Today, Dali is on better footing. Its traditional practices even helped residents survive the recent outbreak of COVID-19. During months of isolation, local men and women relied on ancestral skills to provide daily necessities, including growing and foraging food in the same manner that their forefathers practiced for generations.

Textiles in Dali Dong Village by Zhang SidingGlobal Heritage Fund

Dali is now also home to a new women’s textile co-operative, providing sorely-needed new opportunities for local women to support themselves and their families. 


Discover More

Learn More About Dali Village
Explore the Ancestral Textile Crafts of Dali's Dong People

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Partners

Guizhou Administration of Cultural Heritage (GACH)
Guizhou Provincial Research Center of Cultural Heritage Protection (GRCCHP)
Rongjiang County People’s Government
Youcheng China Social Entrepreneur Foundation
Dali Village Committee
Atlas Studio
Xcape Studio
Helin Art in Community
Shephard's Family Textile Cooperative
Peking University

Credits: Story

Global Heritage Fund

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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