Hunan Province – Dehang Miao village is located 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 steep cliffs among Karst peaks, terraced fields of wheat and rice, streams crossing to each other, lush forests with ancient trees that make it breathtaking. Dehang 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 like to wear silver ornamental jewels and collarless clothes with embroidery and a pleated skirt whereas men like to 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 silk worms to make their own textiles. The village lies surrounded by 3 streams that flow in the deeps and long canyons around it.
Here you’ll enjoy a wonderful nature, encounter Miao people, buy Miao’s silver ornaments in the main square stalls, taste 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 round wooden arena at then entrance of the village (or in a house meeting room if raining) is somehow interesting 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 old past looking at the well preserved houses, while women are washing clothes, men are ploughing on the fields, elder sitting on their distinctive low Miao stools and chatting with friends, chicken and ducks are paddling in the river and the cattle is eating the fresh grass on the green and lush hill. At the center 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 west 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 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 way for oil extraction, papermaking and rice grinding, then, if u like to experience the nature you can also extract oil, making paper, weaving, and milling rice by yourself. Dehang is not just the encounter with Miao ethnic group but it s also a nice 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 wide stream in a deep canyon surrounded by towering limestone pillars and pinnacles. If you have time, i suggest you to do 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 an amazing viewing platform. Hiking along this trail you’ll pass by the Jade Belt Waterfall, the Dehang second biggest waterfall.
Another cool trail is the 9 Dragons waterfall ( 2.5 km on the same trail of Liusha Waterfall ), with its numerous rocks hopping over the water fall (one has a rope hand rail), steep steps carved in the bank and a wooden ladder leading into foot holes carved into the side of the water fall. 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 over looking the village.
How to get there: i spent only 4 hours in the village and to be honest i regret it because it was worth spending at least 1 night doing more hike trails. Anyways I paid a local guy in Zhangjajiee with its own 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 Zhangjaijee or Fenghuang to Jishou, then a minibus from here (1 hr ride) or ask a local a lift to take you to Dehang.
Where to sleep: there are some nice and basic accommodation along the stream and the price is around 100RMB and they also offer the meals. I suggest u to sleep at Jielong Inn (pic below), a basic accommodation overlooking the stream and next to the bridge.