The village of Shi Quan Miao

The village of Shi Quan Miao is located in the central area of the Apengjiang national park of humid zones. This village has a population of approximately 500 inhabitants, distributed among 108 families housed in more than 70 traditional wooden dwellings. The village is closely surrounded by old massive trees, terraced rice fields and bamboo forests. At present, this site is the largest village of the Miao minority listed in the province of Chongqing. In addition, many ancient tombs are scattered in the village and a large, 40 meter-wide water reservoir is located at the rear of the village.

Already well prepared to accommodate tourists, this village offers a homogeneous set of typical Miao dwellings. U-shaped, the classic dwelling is organized around a central space occupied by the room of the ancestors, which usually contains an altar, writings evoking the qualities and flaws of the deceased, a coffin in waiting and a rice-beating mill. This space is usually enclosed by beautifully made wooden trellises. On either side of this central space are arranged the day living rooms (a place where people can warm themselves on a wooden platform, with a central fire in a metal basin and benches against the walls) and night spaces (a bedroom containing several beds). The end-spans comprise on one side a kitchen, and on the other service areas. A covered gallery, slightly raised in relation to a central courtyard, connects all the rooms. The hollow section of the U opens onto the landscape. The name of the village stems from some rocky outcrops that can be found in the courtyards where grain is spread out to dry, as well as in some of the living spaces.

A beautiful layout of paths is arranged throughout the village, which is crossed by one stream and bordered by another. Quite a few new constructions have appeared in the village: built in wood, their frameworks are first built and covered, then left exposed to the winds for two years so they can dry completely before the finishing work can proceed.

Points for consideration :

When exploring the village and meeting its local authorities, we noted how strongly aware they are of the importance of this heritage. The powerful symbolism in the siting and construction of the buildings, their high architectural and typological quality, the distribution connecting them, the beauty of the natural environment are all assets they wish to promote.

While what is openly stated is apparently to invest in tourism, the fundamental question is how to preserve the cultural and human heritage in the face of a growing number of tourists. In this respect, the impressive array of docking areas and accommodations recently built where boats depart for the Gorges is symptomatic of the political will to develop the economy of the region by diversifying it.

In the village itself, the built heritage is of great homogeneity; it therefore is essential to conduct a comprehensive typological and architectural survey. This study should also cover the interstitial spaces between the houses, which are strongly affected by the unevenness of the land, and where paths and stairs are managed with great skill.