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An outpost makes inroads

By Xu Lin ( China Daily )

Updated: 2018-06-25

Yunfeng Tunpu's ancient fortified villages were built to protect against incursions but today make for great excursions. Xu Lin explores the settlements.

The Yunfeng Tunpu Culture Tourism Area is an ancient military outpost that today attracts armies of tourists.

Nearly 540,000 travelers visited the cluster of eight ancient tunpu villages about 20 kilometers outside of Guizhou province's Anshun city in 2016. Tunpu were military outposts where soldiers guarded the region and cultivated the land.

Each of the villages nestled inside a stone wall has watchtowers. The settlements were designed to not only ward off attacks individually but also to support one another in times of need.

The first Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) emperor Zhu Yuanzhang defeated the last Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) troops in today's Yunnan province to unify the country. He then stationed a huge force in Anshun - a strategic military position - to ensure regional peace. The garrison grew grain and also engaged in trade.

Villagers are the descendents of ethnic Han soldiers originally from south of the Yangtze River, including Jiangsu and Anhui provinces.

Their dialect, attire, diet and customs have changed little over the centuries.

Benzhai village is one of the best-preserved settlements.

Elderly women wear their hair in buns beneath headscarves and silver adornments. They wear blue dresses with large sleeves and intricate patterns on the collars and cuffs.

The village's arched gate was closed at night in the past. A small emergency exit, only large enough for one person to pass through at a time, has since been sealed with bricks.

Benzhai is densely packed with interconnected courtyards and houses with attics, and nine watchtowers with slots for shooting arrows at enemies below.

The settlement of 2,000 inhabitants is essentially designed for ancient urban warfare.

One alley hosts an old opium shop. Buyers would stand in the street and the vender would hand purchases over a counter. There was a hole in the wall behind where the buyer would stand, through which an armed person would supposedly use weapons to force the buyer to pay if they refused.

Nearby Yunshan village is built in a valley.

It was not only a defense outpost but also a trade hub for military supplies.

Today, the tourism area attracts young artists from near and far, who paint its views.

An Anshun University instructor surnamed Zhou says he brings his students to the area to paint for about two weeks every year.

"We come for the spectacular architecture and local customs. It's not crowded with visitors. We enjoy the tranquility."

Benzhai's Party chief, Mei De'an, says the challenge is to attract more tourists who stay longer.

Yunfeng Tunpu is a national AAAA site. (AAAAA is the highest ranking.)

"Infrastructure, service and management are vital. That's what we're working on," he says.

Mei initiated protection of the ancient houses in the 1980s, despite some locals' objections.

The government there built a new village for inhabitants in 2007, and many people moved into modern homes.

Mei says people can use modern methods like art to showcase local customs.

For instance, tourists can weave cloth using traditional methods and buy the finished products, he says.

"Vacant buildings can be renovated into homestays," he says.

"And one day, we hope to see people patrolling around in armor to show our military heritage."

Beijing Shanhai Tourism Co Ltd deputy general manager Jia Ke says: "It's important to promote the site's uniqueness."

He adds that Yunfeng Tunpu is located near other popular sites. So the company is planning to develop itineraries that include the villages and such celebrated attractions as the Huangguoshu Waterfall.

The company is building a commercial area named 1381 Town next to the settlements, with boutique hotels, restaurants and stores.

Indeed, Yunfeng Tunpu's ancient military outposts seem set to be besieged by even larger legions of modern visitors in the years to come.

Contact the writer at xulin@chinadaily.com.cn

 An outpost makes inroads

An outpost makes inroads

An outpost makes inroads

Top and above right: Yunshan village in Guizhou province’s Anshun is a wellpreserved military outpost that attracts tourists and young artists with its unique architecture and local customs. Above left and center: A young woman and a child paint wood masks for Dixi Opera performances. Dixi Opera, called a “living fossil of Chinese operas”, is a traditional opera from the eight ancient fortified villages in Anshun. Photos By Xu Lin / China Daily And Yuan Qinshu / For China Daily

(China Daily 06/25/2018 page22)

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