Costumes and Countryside in Xijiang, China [Super-Takumar 28mm f3.5]

china miao xijiang village bridge

Images shot with the classic Super-Takumar 28mm f3.5

Xijiang – the largest Miao minority village in the world.

Not my words. How could I have even measured them all?

Still, claiming to be the largest of anything in the world is always a selling point. Or is used as one, at least. Low-hanging fruit aimed squarely at the easily impressed. You have to give people more credit than that, though.

This One Thousand Household Miao Village – again, not my words – was kinda busy during my visit, but I doubt many of my co-Xijiangers were drawn there because it’s the largest Miao village IN THE WORLD.

Not when they could have been drawn by pictures that just make the place look so pretty.

It’s the lush mountains and the babbling river and the local costume and the picture postcard bridges and the wooden homes, isn’t it?

Let’s go to Xijiang, man. Let’s go.

What and where is Xijiang Miao village?

A brief lesson should you need one.

China’s population is made up of 56 ethnic groups. Over 91% of folk are Han. 55 minorities share the other 8.5% or so. Population-wise, the Miao are in the top 10.

Lesson over.

Sitting in China’s relatively poor southern province of Guizhou, around 80km from the city of Kaili, Xijiang Miao Minority village is what the name and tagline suggests.

A village home to many, many, many Miao families. It is, after all, the largest Miao village in the world.

And every picture you see makes it look unspoilt and traditional and peaceful and #authentic.

chinese rural village view

Getting to Xijiang isn’t difficult.

High-speed train yourself to Kaili. Once there, say yes to the first Chinese bloke with a car who says he’ll take you to the village.

An hour later, you arrive. And you see there’s a 100RMB entrance fee.

So you pay it.

You’ve come this far. You want the lush mountains and the babbling river and the picture postcard bridges and the wooden homes already. You want the peace and the authenticity.

You reach the gate. You go in.

And you think what the hell is this?

xijiang village chinese tourist street

Arriving in Xijiang village

A reality check should you need one.

You’re not a pioneer. If Xijiang wasn’t a tourist hotspot you probably wouldn’t have heard of it. And every tourist high street in China looks the same.

Reality check over. Get past it. Literally. Keep walking.

That street is part of Xijiang, but Xijiang is much more than that street.

Walk through the crowds, ignore the souvenirs, and head for the hills. Because that’s where you’ll be staying.

Countless guest houses. Some shiny, some rickety. All welcoming. Shop around. Put your bags down. And go see what you came to see.

The lush mountains and the babbling river and local costume and the picture postcard bridges and the wooden homes.

Because that’s all still there.

Xijiang village and its people

Buildings in Xijiang come in three flavours. Old, new, and unfinished.

People come in two. Locals and visitors.

Everything else comes in one. Basic. Practical. Same as it ever was.

china xijiang miao village bridge

china miao minority village

china village roof

rural china constuction

china rural village dog

china village rural children

chinese tourists cameras

chinese tourist selfie stick

classic red chinese motorbike

china village caged bird

rural china village corn

china rural satellite dish

Shooting portraits in Xijiang Miao village

I went to Xijiang Miao village having just read an eBook about travel photography.

You can read a review of that eBook here.

One of the things I’d learnt from reading the book was shooting environmental portraits. That means including your subject’s typical surroundings to tell more of a story.

With this fresh in my mind, I was keen to try it out in Xijiang. Candid street shots can tell wonderful stories too, but asking to take a portrait gives a completely different feel to a photograph.

It connects me, the photographer, to the subject, which in turn connects the subject to you, the viewer.

For context, the following shots are of:

  • the daughter of the family who owned our guesthouse doing English homework
  • a lady cooking in a house we passed
  • a lady working in a riverside noodle shop
  • two local girls hanging out in traditional dress
  • a young boy eating lunch in the sun
  • a lady selling local rice wine in her shop
  • a lady coming home from working in the fields

chinese rural girl english homework

rural chinese cooking lady

miao lady noodle shop

miao minority girls china

young boy rural china

bai jiu shop china

chinese lady miao minority

Xijiang Miao village rice fields

Rice fields.

Good for growing rice. Also good for getting away from the crowds.

It wasn’t the time of year for spectacular photographs of abundant and sweeping paddies as far as the eye can see.

They were kind of bare.

Bare and dog and horse.

chinese rural village

chinese rural village dog

rice harvest rural china

china rural village horse

rural chinese farmer hat

Traditional Miao costume in Xijiang village

Visiting a minority village like Xijiang means seeing the local culture for yourself.

Ponder the architecture. Marvel at the song and dance.

Or, just head to the riverside to see tourists grinning for selfies in the traditional dress.

When you talk about Chinese customs and culture and tradition in a place like Xijiang, these kind of photos are firmly on the modern list.

xijiang river tourists costume

chinese miao minority costume selfie

xijiang village river costume tourists

china rural river costume

chinese tourists costume photography

miao minority costume chinese ladies

miao costume hire xijiang china

miao minority child costume

miao minority costume mannequin head

Final thoughts on Xijiang Miao minority village

Not a hidden gem. More tourists than locals.

Firmly on the beaten path. Good for photography.

Is it even primarily a residential village anymore? Who knows.

Enjoyed my two days there and am glad I went.

Wouldn’t go back because there’s no need.

Should you go? If you get chance, I’d say yes.

Just brush up on your travel photography skills beforehand.

Peace out.

miao minority costume chinese girl

… p.s. if you enjoyed this post on Xijiang Miao minority village and think others will too, why not share or pin it?

Sitting in China's southern Guizhou province, Xijiang minority village is a popular spot to take in some local Miao culture, and to enjoy the relative peace and fresh air. With traditional wooden homes built on the hillsides, picture postcard bridges, a river flowing gently through the valley, and plenty of residents and tourists happy to pose, it makes for a highly photogenic trip. Want to see exactly how this looks when shot with a vintage camera lens? Then come on in and take a look.

written by
Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

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