Hiking trails in the old Dehang village through lush nature and karst peaks
Dehang Miao village lies in Aizhai Township which is about 20km away from Jishou City, capital of Xiangxi Tujia & Miao Autonomous Prefecture, in Hunan Province.
Dehang that means “beautiful valley” in Miao language sits below cliffs among Karst peaks, terraced fields of wheat and rice, streams crossing to each other, lush forests with ancient trees that make it breathtaking.
This tiny village is one of those places that you hope exists to find peace and relax, but probably assume doesn’t. The village hosts around 100 families still maintaining traditional ways of life and most of their old buildings are well preserved.
Miao Women wear silver ornamental jewels and collarless clothes with embroidery and a pleated skirt whereas men wear leg-wrappings trousers and a kind of Chinese-style short jacket with buttons down on the front.
The Miao people are named for their unique clothing and like to raise silkworms to make their textiles. The village lies surrounded by 3 streams that flow in the deeps and long canyons around it.
Here you’ll enjoy beautiful nature, encounter Miao people, buy Miao’s silver ornaments in the main square stalls, taste the local food of the vendors scattered all over the place selling barbecue fish, bugs, freshwater crabs on skewers and also attend a traditional dance.
This performance (included in the entrance ticket) that take place in a circular wooden arena at the entrance of the village (or in a house meeting room if raining) is somehow exciting and represents a commodification of ethnic groups customs, but it is not available every day (it depends on the number of tourists in the village).
Walking through the small Dehang village, most of all built along the streams, you’ll feel to be in the ancient past.
The houses are well-preserved, women are washing clothes, men are ploughing on the fields, elders are sitting on their distinctive low Miao stools and chatting with friends, chicken and ducks are paddling in the river, and the cattle are eating the fresh grass on the green and lush hill.
At the centre of the settlement, you’ll find the Jielong Bridge, a semi-circular stone arch bridge built in 1933.
Going on upstream (passing the Jielong bridge) in the western part of Dehang for 1 hour, through the gorge surrounded by a beautiful scenic area called 9 Dragons Canyon, you’ll get to the Liusha Waterfall (here the path continues in a loop around behind the waterfall).
With its 216 meters, the waterfall can be noticed from a far distance. The water plummets from the high mountain and then turns into pieces of water screen at the bottom.
Here in the village, the local Miao people use the traditional method for oil extraction, papermaking and rice grinding. Therefore, if you like to experience nature, you can also extract oil, making paper, weaving, and milling rice by yourself.
Dehang is not just an encounter with the Miao ethnic group, but it is also an excellent place for hiking. Although there’s nothing so challenging to do in the area, there are five hike trails around the village and its extraordinary karst setting, beside a broad stream in a deep canyon surrounded by towering limestone pillars and pinnacles.
If you have time, I suggest to make the Liusha Waterfall trail (2 hrs to complete), the Tienwen Platform trail (2.30 – 3 hrs to complete), mostly flat along gorgeous terraced fields with Karst peaks on background until you get towards its end where you will have to climb a flight of steps to a fantastic viewing platform.
Hiking on this trail, you’ll pass by the Jade Belt Waterfall, the Dehang second biggest waterfall.
Another beautiful trail is the 9 Dragons waterfall (2.5 km on the same path of Liusha Waterfall), with its many rocks hopping over the waterfall (one has a rope handrail), steep steps carved in the bank and a wooden ladder leading into foot holes cut into the side of the waterfall.
Last but not least the the Anzhai ancient village trail, a 4 km long stone path following the river through rice paddies until you reach the village (from here take a minibus or pay a local for a lift to go back to Dehang ), and the Pangu Peak trail, a 700m climb up an outcrop overlooking the village.
Need to Know
1) When to go
The climate of Hunan is generally subtropical. The winter months are cold with an average between 4 ºC-7℃. The monsoon period is from April to June and July and August are hot and wet too. The best period is October-November when the temperature is good and the rains lighter. I visited Hunan in October. The sky was often cloudy, but I seldom bumped into short showers.
2) How to get there
I spent only 4 hours in the town and to be honest I regret it because it was worth spending at least 1 night making more hike trails. Anyways I paid a local in Zhangjiajie with its car to get to Fenghuang, and during the way, I stopped here and in Furong Town. Using local transports, you have to take a bus from Zhangjiajie or Fenghuang to Jishou, then a minibus from here (1 hr ride-30km) or ask a local a lift to take you to Dehang. You can also catch the train from Zhangjiajie or Changsha getting off at Jishou station. Check the schedule and fares on trip.com
3) Where to sleep
There are some friendly and basic accommodations along the stream. The price is around 100RMB, and they also offer meals. I suggest sleeping at Jielong Inn, a basic accommodation overlooking the stream and next to the bridge. Alternatively, you can sleep in Jishou.
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