China #7: Grand Chengyang Bridge in Sanjiang (三江程阳风雨桥)
Sights: Chengyang Bridge Scenic Spot (程阳桥风景名胜区)
Region: Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, Liuzhou Prefecture, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Chengyang Bridge (程阳桥) is a famous landmark of Chengyang in Sanjiang County of Liuzhou. Its wind & rain bridge (风雨桥) is one of the largest and best-preserved covered bridges in China. Wind & rain bridges are common structures in Dong villages with rivers.
Chengyang consists of a total of 8 villages of the Dong ethnic minority (程阳侗族八寨). Ma'an Village (马鞍寨) is the closest to Chengyang Bridge and the entrance of the scenic area. Four other villages are closer to Ma'an Village while the other three are some distances away. The closer four villages are Yan Village (岩寨), Ping Village (平寨), Dong Village (as in "East" Village, 东寨) and Da Village (or "Big" Village, 大寨). The further ones are Jichang Village (吉昌寨), Pingtan Village (平坦寨) and Pingpu Village (平铺寨).
Getting From Longji Rice Terraces to Chengyang
From Longji Rice Terraces, I took a local bus from Jinkeng Terrace to Longsheng Bus Station (龙胜汽车站) and switched to a bus bounded for Sanjiang River West Bus Station (三江河西客运站). At the bus station, I took a local bus to Chengyang 18Km away.
Note that intercity bus from Guilin City will stop at Sanjiang River East Bus Station (三江河东客运站) instead. Cross the river to Sanjiang River West Bus Station and board the local bus for Chengyang.
Where I Stayed
There was no youth hostel in Chengyang, so I put up at Long Feng Inn (龙凤旅馆) in Ma'an Village. It was in a traditional Dong wooden house — and a great opportunity to do a home stay in a Dong people's home and try their cooking.
Since it was off-season, I simply walked into the inn and ask for a bed — but they had rooms only. So, I got a room to myself at a very low rate. I stayed for two nights.
Wind & Rain Bridges
The main wind & rain bridge of Chengyang is also known as Yongji Bridge (永济桥), or Panlong Bridge (盘龙桥), and is one of the largest wind & rain covered bridges in China. As its fame reaches far and wide, it became known as the Chengyang Bridge (程阳桥).
When I arrived at Chengyang Bridge Scenic Spot, the very first sight was the symbolic bridge itself, just behind the ticketing booth.
The bridge is about 64 metres in length, 3.5 metres wide and has 5 pavilions.
During the day, the Dong people would sell their handicrafts to travellers inside the big bridge.
There are other wind & rain bridges in Chengyang that connect the villages. Both Helong Bridge (合龙桥) and Puji Bridge (普济桥) are similar in architectural style to Yongji Bridge but shorter and with two pavilions each. Helong Bridge connects Ma'an Village to Ping Village while Puji Bridge (photo below) connects Yan Village to Dong (East) Village.
There are other types of covered bridges too in Chengyang but having different designs. Based on the map on the back of the ticket, there should be another 6 covered bridges in all the 8 villages — not including the 3 mentioned above.
Wide View of Chengyang
A hike to a hilltop was highly recommended by the friendly local folks in Ma'an Village, so I took a walk up the gentle-slope hill to get a wide view of Chengyang and the surroundings. It was a hike that no travellers would regret!
There were two pavilions on the hill for checking out Chengyang below.
Let's zoom in closer. That is Chengyang Bridge to the left and Ma'an Village on the right. Yan Village is in the top-right corner. The houses were mostly constructed with woods — due to possibilities of fire hazards, newer buildings were using bricks for some parts of the houses. The green fields in the middle were vegetables.
Panning to the right is Ma'an Village again with fields of golden wheat. The other 4 villages that are the closest to Ma'an Village can also be seen in the photo. Da Village was the furthest in the photo.
Walking back from the hills, I took some photos of the scenery outside Ma'an Village, especially the paddies.
The rice stalks in a paddy field (below). Look at how fat the rice were.
A traditional water mill of the Dong people that carried water from the river to the fields.
And a fisherman on a mini "boat" using an inflated rubber tyre.
I was in Chengyang for 1.5 days and managed to explore the five close-by villages, going as far as Da Village.
The Dong people washed their clothes and hairs in this river. Washing of vegetables and meat were done in other parts of the river or in other distributaries.
An alley between two concrete-and-wood buildings in Da Village, which was slightly more modern then the other villages.
The marketplace where meat, clothes, fruits and other wares were sold alongside one another.
Another important buildings in Dong villages are the Drum Towers (鼓楼). Each village in Chengyang has a drum tower and they are used for important communications between the 8 villages — especially during emergencies.
In 2012, the villages of Ma'an, Yan, Dong and Da had similar architectural design for their drum towers except Ping Village (below). But it was later upgraded to the same design as the others.
Performance & Wine Ceremony
I was told that a performance, by the Dong people, would be held at a certain time in the day at the stage near the Drum Tower of Ma'an Village, so I went to watch from the side — I actually missed half the performance the previous day.
Towards the end of the performance, the Dong ladies would approach the spectators and make them drink wine from cups in their hands.
I got too close to the stage area and was "caught" by a Dong lady and had to bottom-up a cup of wine too. After drinking, I had to tip her — I was informed of the "formality" beforehand. This was actually what they earned for their performances.
After 2 nights in Chengyang, I set off for Nanning. There was no direct train from Sanjiang County to Nanning in 2012, so I did a big detour back to Guilin and boarded an overnight train to Nanning. Anyway, there are high-speed trains between Sanjiang and Nanning these days.
To sum it up further, I spent a day in Nanning without doing much and continued to Kunming in Yunnan Province. This ended my 3-weeks journey in Guangxi and began my even longer journey in Yunnan.
Next stop in Yunnan: