Dulongjiang (Dulong River) Valley Travel Guide, Yunnan
Dulongjiang, also Dulong River , originates from Tibet, flowing through the northwest corner of Yunnan then into Burma. Its Yunnan section is about 80km long, sandwiched by Mt. Dandanglika on the west and Mt. Gaoligong on the east. Amongst the lofty mountains bordering Tibet and Yunnan is the Dulong River Vallley, at the west slope of the north part of the Gaoligong Shan.
The Dulongjiang Valley is where the 3 ethnic minorities - Dulong(Drung), Nu, Lisu, inhabit for ages. It lures adventurous travelers with its isolated natural beauty, original ethnic cultures and a mystical facial tattoo tradition. A dirt road connects the valley to the nearest town, Gongshan.
To outsiders, the valley is often known as "the Valley of Death". Due to the heavy snowfall,transport to the valley is blocked for more than six months each year.It's definitely an exciting adventure to trek into this isolated and mysterious valley. The closest Tibetan village is more than three days walk with almost no services of any kind. The destination doesn't offer much more comfort than the trial.
Best Time to go - September to October
Getting there & away
Kunming->Liuku or Fugong-> Gongshan-> Kongdang. There are a few options to arrive Gongshan from Kunming.
Kuming -> Liuku:580km, express and sleeper buses leaving from Kunming daily from 8am till 6pm, fare ranging from Y110-160, 13hrs ride. There are also buses from Dali(8hrs) and Baoshan(4hrs) to Liuku.
Kuming -> Fugong: at least one sleeper bus winding all the way to Fugong in the middle of the gorge. The trip is about 710km,14 hours and costs around Y153.
Kunming -> Gongshan: a sleeper bus departing from Kunming Xiyuan Bus Station at 18:00 daily, 830km/ 18hrs/ Y145-160.
Tips: Take the Liuku, Fugong or Gongshan bus either at West Bus Station or Xiyuan Bus Station in Kunming. Sleeper buses with license at these two bus stations always have destinations printed on the top of their front screen.
Liuku<-> Gongshan(200km):4 buses run between along the spectacular gorge.
Fugong <-> Gongshan (111km)
From Fugong, there are regular buses and vans to Gongshan, the next major town north. Most of them are in the morning around 9am. In addition, the Liuku-Gongshan bus passes Fugong around 11am every morning; just wait outside the bus station for them. Ride to Gongshan is about 2 .5 hours costing 20Y.
Buses leave Gongshan for Fugong and Liuku in the morning. Latest buses are scheduled at 11:50 and 13:00. It is reported that the 13:00 bus is often suspended.
Gongshan <-> Kongdang(also Kongmu)
Kongdang, the village seat of Dulongjiang, is the last point vehicles can reach via Kongdang-Gongshan Road in the valley. Transport from Gongshan to Kongdang is mainly vans and jeeps that run when reasonably full. The 96km bumpy dirt road journey takes 6-7hrs.
Trekking in Dulongjiang
- Route A: Kongdang<-> Xiangjiudang<- > Kongdang
This is the easiest north route, a round walk takes about 3 days. Xianjiudang is where leeches attack trekkers. Leg wrapping and salt should be brought to keep leeches away.
- Route B: Kongdang<-> Xiangjiudang<- > Longyuan <-> Dizhengdang <-> Xiongdang
- Route C: Gongshan -> Qiqi（其期）-> Dongshaofang（东哨房）-> Bapo（巴坡）-> Kongdang（孔当）-> Gongshan
- Route D: Gongshan -> Qiqi-> Dongshaofang-> Bapo（巴坡）-> Houmu(3rd village)-> Xianjiudang（献九当）-> Longyuan（龙元）-> Dizhengdang（迪政当）-> Nandai（南代） -> Kongdang-> Gongshan
Accommodation en Route
Very basic lodgings are available at Bapo, Maku and Kongdang for Y15/night, schools or villge-committee offices also provide beds for around Y10-15 per night.
Dulong Ethnic Minority
The Dulong (also known as Drung) ethnic group is one of the smallest ethnic groups in China. With a total population of about 7000, the Dulongs mainly live in the Dulong River Valley in the Gongshan Dulong and Nu Autonomous County in northwest Yunnan. There are also a small number of them, about 10 percent of the total, distributed in the areas along the Nujiang River in the north of Gongshan County.
Few historical records were found regarding the origin of this ethnic group till today. But relative references show that they were once under the rule of court-appointed Naxi headmen through the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) to the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). They had no uniform name and were called "Qiao" in the Yuan Dynasty and "Qiu" or "Qu" people after the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). With the founding of the PRC in 1949, following consultation with the ethnic group it was decided to agree upon the official name of Dulong ethnic group.
The Dulong people have their own language which belongs to the Tibetan-Burmese group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. They have no written script and traditionally, they made records and transmitted message by means of engraving notches in wood and tying knots. Some Dulongs can speak and write mandarin.
The Dulong people eat twice a day. Their staple food consists of corn, millet and beets. Common vegetables of Dulong people are potatoes, bean pods and some others that they collect, such as bamboo shoots, bamboo leaves and mushrooms. Winter is the peak season for hunting. Meat from wild ox is the main food in winter. Besides, fish found in the Dulong River is another food of the Dulong people.
The Dulongs like to build their houses on the steep mountain slopes and along the river. Those who live in the northern region always build wooden houses and those in the southern region prefer bamboo ones.
The Dulong houses are often two storeys with the second floor for living quarters, while the ground floor is used for storage and livestocks. The members from one family always live in the same large house. Each hearth in the house symbolizes one little family unit. Once a man marries, a new hearth will be set up in the large house. The married sons, instead of separating from their parents, will settle down in the house built for them beside the large house.
Women of the Dulong ethnic group normally wear black and white striped gunny or cotton clothes and the men wear a pair of short trousers. The Dulong people, male and female, wear their hair down to their eyebrows in front and down to their shoulders behind. Both women and men like to have their upper chest wrapped with a long piece of gunny from the left armpit to the right shoulder, leaving the left shoulder uncovered.
Men prefer wearing a crossbow and a hunting knife on the waist, which make them appear to be bold and brave. Women love to wear garments with coloured chain necklaces.
The Dulong women used to tattoo their faces in the past. When a girl reached the age of 12 or 13, she had her face tattooed. Dulong women living in different areas had tattoos of different designs and on different parts of the face. Most of the women in the lower reaches of the Dulong River had tattoos of vertical lines only on the left and right of the philtrum, which look like a man's beard. Today, the facial tattoo can only be found with Dulong women.
The Dulongs are animists and believed that all living creatures have souls. Believing evil spirits exist everywhere and can bring calamities to people, they often hold various rites to expel evil sprit at all costs. Now, some Dulong people are believers of Christianity.
Burying is the practice except in cases of death from serious disease when the corpses were cremated or disposed of in the rivers. Friends and relatives of the dead will attend the funeral with grain and wine to offer their condolences. On the day of burial, all people in the village will stop working to mourn for the dead. If the deceased were elderly, a shaman would conduct a sacrificial ceremony before the dead was buried.
Kaquewa Festival is the only New Year Festival of the Dulong ethnic group. It is held during the eleventh and twelfth lunar months. The exact date varies with the location and the duration of the celebration often lasts as long as the food does.
The most exciting activity during the festival is killing and sacrificing an ox. At the beginning of the ceremony, a sacrificial ox will be fastened onto the sacrificial pole by the presider. Then women will put a newly-woven carpet onto the back of the ox, hang a string of beads on its horns and say to the God of Hunting: "We present this ox to you and hope you will bestow us many, many animals". Everybody dances around it. A young man whose parents are both alive will be elected to kill the ox with a spear. The ox will be roasted after being killed and distributed to all who present at the festivities. The celebration usually lasts overnight.