Miao Ethinic Group - Minority Villages
Increasing attention has been given to historically and culturally significant traditional villages in China in the past five years. Two key themes have been protection and usage. Rural tourism has been recognized as a key approach to rural development and poverty alleviation.
Our first exposure to this new development was when we arrived at Zhaoxing and were confronted with an entrance gate to the village and an accompanying fee. While this was jarring at first it began to make sense when we saw the amount of infrastructure improvement that would not be possible without outside investment. I made it a point to look further into this aspect of rural development.
Everyone has contributed to the construction and protection of villages, and Everyone should benefit from it ....Langde Core Priciple
Langde Minority Village
Langde village (Population 134 families and 540 residents - 2016) is made up of upper and lower parts. We visited Upper Langde Minority Village which in 1987 turned to community-based tourism development. Langde had been selected as one of Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture’s first seven ethnic tourist villages.
The village established a Tourism Reception Team (TRT) which consisted of approximately 20 members selected by the village committee. The team members served on a rotational basis and are given specific duties in tourism development, such as dealing with external travel agents, organizing cultural and dance performances, training and maintenance.
Originally entrance to the village was free but this led to some disputes involving the dance performances, individual visitors and various tour groups. By establishing an entrance fee, the cost of the performances was born by all visitors. Performances were better organized and held at regular times.
While participants in tourism were few at the beginning, the elected village committee pressed on and encouraged participation. As the village become more famous, the increasing number of visitors and the incentive of higher incomes drew more villagers to participate in the dances, handicraft work, and operation of guesthouses, known as nongjiale.
One of the major tourist attractions is the welcoming ceremony and the Miao ethnic dance. In order to create an ethnic atmosphere and encourage local villagers’ participation, the TRT has initiated a scheme referred to by some tourism and ethnology scholars as the ‘work-point system’.
The distribution of the participatory dance-related income is based on the work-points each family earns. Participants earn varying work-points in accordance with their duties, roles, and costumes.
Despite proposals by the county government to have external developers finance developments, villagers have so far rejected these proposals. Xijiang Thousand Household Miao Village which is located 12 miles away has accepted outside investment and while it’s profits have surpassed that of Langde it has suffered a loss of local control.
In Langde, locals participate not only in terms of employment in the tourism industry but also in decision-making. In terms of employment, every resident has the opportunity to participate in performances via a work-point system, local women produce and sell their own handicrafts at performances, and all nongjiale guesthouses are owned by locals. Because locals participate directly, tourism revenue goes directly to the locals. In addition, the decision-making powers that villagers possess give a sense of ownership and allows them to shape the future of their village in a way that best benefits them.
In both Xijiang and Upper Langde, a schedule has been developed in attempting to balance tourism receptions and their responsibilities to tend to their farmland. Villagers tend to their farmlands before receiving tourists and return to their farmlands after finishing their tourism receptions. The exact mix between tourism and agricultural income is left to the villager.