Tunpu--Ming Era Village Fortress

The last active Ming villages of China can be found today in the Anshun area of Guizhou. The ancient castle villages were built during 14 century for military use. A mysterious tribe known as "Tunpu People" has survived here for hundreds of years, who live in a real kingdom of stone--the cobbled roads, stone houses, stone tiles, stone gates, stone city walls and stone watchtowers

The ancestors of the "Tunpu People" were troops of the Ming Dynasty from the middle and lower reaches of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River who were sent to Anshun some 600 years ago. Over the centuries, the garrison forces turned the neighbourhood into farmland, grew crops, and constructed villages of stone houses for their own needs and use.

Step back in time by visiting ancient bridge and time-honored houses. Walk into a real kingdom of stone.

For tourists, Tunpu presents a time-travel experience. Tunpu people continue to lead a life almost the same as their ancestors 600 years ago. As you come closer, you may easily mistaken the dwellers for ethnic minorities, as they wear traditional costumes, usually long robes of blue with loose sleeves, and cuffs embroidered with laces for the womenfolk, and have special hairstyles. In fact, they are an ancient clan of Han Chinese, the ethnic majority of China today. Secluded from the outside world, Tunpu people have strictly maintained their customs and proudly preserved the traditions of the Ming era.

Many of women in Tunpu make cothes themselves by weaving cloth and sewing. They are also good at making embroidered shoes, which is their own way to beautify their feet. The sole is made of cloth; the vamp is slightly up-urved; and the upper is embroidered with colorful patterns of flowers, fishes, birds, and insects. Two long white ribbons along the upper brims make a puttee around the leg from ankle to leg. You may pick some as unique souvenirs back home.

Take a cup of tea and have a rest in a teahouse in Tianlong village. Local women are doing embroidering on hand-made cloth shoes.

Tianlong Tunpu

Among such stone castles, Tianlong Tunpu, 72 kilometers west of Guiyang, is the best-preserved one. Since the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), Tianlong had been an important military fortress, guarding a major gateway to the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan. So the first emperor of Ming dynasty stationed troops for both defense and land reclamation.

Today, over 5000 people in 1,250 households, continue to live in Tianlong Tunpu. Being the descendents of the imperial Ming Dynasty garrison troops, Tunpu people have maintained their traditional customs and way of life from the Ming Dynasty, in a kind of "lost world" environment.

The military elements in the design of Tianlong are readily apparent. At the time, stone was the toughest material readily available.

The shoes wore by the villagers are all made by thel women themseves. Hand-made exquisite cloth shoes are special souvenirs for tourists.

With high walls and narrow lanes, the village is a labyrinth for any first-time visitor, offering residents a distinct advantage in any in-village fighting. Tunpu people build their houses not only for living but also for defense. The houses are made of solid stones, with black tile roof s and white walls - the typical southern housing style. Shooting holes are found at all sides of the buildings, and sentry towers are scattered in the villages.

Entering the lanes of the village, you will see barracks. The mountains around the Tianlong tunpu are almost an archive of historical buildings. Ancient ramparts and the castle-style Wulong Temple are all national cultural relics. A Ming-era factory where soldiers produced weapons is in the rear of the mountain. Beacon towers, battlements and sentry posts dot the landscape.

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