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Wooden architecture of the Dong Minority

2014-04-17 11:00:36



The Dong ethnic group is distributed throughout the juncture of Hunan, Guangxi and Guizhou Provinces. Drum towers (鼓楼 in Chinese) and storm-proof bridges containing many folk customs and cultural features are the main public buildings.

Buildings in Dong villages lack encircling walls and courtyards because there are many families and village-wide activities that are carried out in the open in front of the drum towers at the village center.

Dong drum towers can be divided into two kinds; pagoda types and hall types, with the former accounting for the majority.

According to Dong legend the drum tower was built to look like a cedar tree, and the overall outline really does look like a cedar, and embodies the concept of worshipping big trees. Inside, four big pillars stand erect, and benches between the pillars encircle the central fire-pond. A big drum hangs down from the top of the tower, and is beaten whenever something happens. The pagoda is also found in a hexagonal or square form in addition to the octagonal.

The storm-proof bridge, also called the 'gallery' or 'pavilion' bridge, means building a corridor on the wooden cantilever flat bridge and a bridge tower on the stone bridge pier and bridge abutment. The bridge tower looks very much like a drum tower, but its plane is only in a square or rectangular shape, not a polygonal form.

The Dong national district is crisscrossed by streams, so storm-proof bridges can be found in almost every village, and some have more than one. It not only can keep out wind and rain, but also serves as a gateway to the village, and, all the more, is a place for villagers to rest and discuss matters. On grand occasions, relatives and friends from other villages come for a get-together. The whole village, dressed in their holiday best, assemble on the bridgehead to welcome the guests. They sing songs, propose toasts and dance Lusheng dances, demonstrating strong cultural customs. In selecting a site for a storm-proof bridge, great attention is paid to natural scenery, so that it can both decorate the landscape and enable visitors to enjoy the beautiful surrounding scenery.

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