As mist rolls over the mountains of southeast Guizhou province, the sound of gunfire shakes the settled calm and jars the villagers awake. Yet this is no ordinary Chinese village; this is Basha, one of the last strongholds of Miao culture and the only place in China where citizens can legally own, carry, and regularly fire guns. This tradition dates all the way back to when the villagers’ ancestors had to defend themselves from bears, wolves, and marauding bandits. Isolated as they are, nestled within the lush hills that are characteristic of the province, it’s a tradition they’ve managed to maintain relatively unhindered.
The boys of Basha will receive their first rifle when they turn fifteen years of age, as a sign that they have finally become men. In a ceremony that probably violates all kinds of health and safety regulations, the boy’s head is shaved using only water and a sickle. Only the hair at the centre is kept, which is then coiled into a bun as a symbol of masculinity and power. From then on, it is their duty to protect the villagers, find a suitable wife, and become the deadliest shots in all of Guizhou.
In spite of their gun-toting ways, nowadays the villagers are incredibly friendly and welcome any visitor eager to learn about their unique customs. As you pass the sacred maple trees and hear the gentle piping of the lusheng, a wind instrument favoured by the Miao people, you feel as though you’ve been transported to a world forgotten by time. And as you enter the village, only to be greeted by a group of men wielding rifles and a cannon, you’re swiftly reminded why modernity, though not quite as magical, has its advantages!
As a travel agency, we at TanSuo specialise in tours off the beaten track and focus not only on the beauty but the historical and cultural importance of sites throughout Asia. If you’d like to read more about Basha, or any of the other obscure travel destinations that can be found throughout China, please visit our website here.