Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Dong Villages

Date of Submission: 29/01/2013
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Guizhou Province, Hunan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Ref.: 5813

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Shudong VillageN 26°06′22″, E 108° 55′21″

Dali Village: N 26°02′26″, E 108° 38′21″

Zadang Village: N 26°00′15″, E 108°38′38″

Village:N 25°57′37″, E 108°44′11″

Zengchong Village:N 25°54′55″, E 108°41′36″

Tang’an Village:N 25°54′03″, E 109°12′40″

Xiage Village:N 25°54′11″, E 109°12′07″

Gaoqian Village:N 25°51′18″, E 108°40′31″

Zhanli Village:25°50′38″N, 108°54′39″E

Ma’antun, Pingyan Village:N 25°53′37″, E 109°38′14″

Pingzhai, Pingyan Village:N 25°54′00″, E 109°38′20″

Yanzhai, Pingyan Village:N 25°54′25″, E 109°38′18″

Gaoxiu Village:N 26°09′26″, E 109°42′11″

Gaoyou Village:N 25°59′02″, E 109°52′35″

Gaoshang Village:N 26°01′37″, E 108°41′26″

Kezhong Village:N 26°01′37″, E 108°41′26″

Gaosheng Village:N 26°01′37″, E 108°41′26″

Yanglan Village:N 26°1.9′, E 109°52.4′

Pingtan Village:N 26°1.9′, E 109°52′

Hengling Village:N 26º04′04″, E 109 º43′18″

Yutou Village:N 26°08′19″, E 109°42′22″

Shangbao Village:N26°22′23″, E 110°07′46″

The nominated Dong Villages were located in southwest China, and under jurisdiction of Liping County, Rongjiang County and Congjiang County in Guizhou Province, Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Tongdao Dong Autonomous County and Suining County in Hunan Province.

Residing close to the water is the most important settlement pattern of Dong Villages. The houses are distributed on mountain slopes along rivers

The drum tower and Sasui (famous heroine of Dong Nationality) altar are the most important basic elements of a Dong village. The multi-storey drum tower, the symbol of a Dong village, is usually built in the flat or high grounds of the village center. A square is built in front of the drum tower, and provides a venue for the entire village to come together for meetings, festival celebrations, and other public activities. The typical residences of Dong people are called “Diaojiaolou”, stilt houses built with Chinese fir wood and consisting of three or four floors. They feature a wood column-tie structure, and a tiled roof, and are surrounded by corridors and railings. In some regions, the corridors and the eaves are respectively connected between houses. A large number of Dong Villages have fish ponds digged out in front and at the back of the houses and build a two-storey granary on stilts beside. The fish ponds are used to rear fish and for fire safety, features a waterside village.

The village road network uses public structures including village gate and drum tower as nodal points, the road between the gate and public structures is the artery with secondary paths leading to every household. The roads are mostly paved with stone slabs or embedded with pebbles. In large Dong Villages located beside the river, there is often a gate that leads to the waterside dock. Some village gates are integrated with drum towers, providing quite a magnificent view. Roofed bridges (Fengyuqiao) are often seen above the river. They are supported by stacked layers of wood that extends outward to widen the span and minimize shear force of major beams. On top of the bridge is a wooden-structure shelter with a tiled roof. Sometimes, pavilions are built on both ends of the bridge or at the location of the bridge piers.

On the periphery of the Dong village, one can usually find rows of wooden stands which are called “Heliang”, used to dry the grain. Outside of the village are usually paddy fields, with fish kept in water and featuring the co-existence of rice and fish. Such agricultural and breeding system achieves the ecological balance and can provide adequate and proper nutrition to villagers.

The intangible cultural heritage of Dong Villages is also remarkable and unique. The “Grand Song” of Dong Nationality has been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The Dong Medicine and the living and production traditions, the autonomous administration of the villagers, the marriage and courtship customs, the funerary customs, music and drama, traditional costumes, weaving skills, etc. have all been well preserved.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The nominated Dong Villages are located in six counties of three provinces (autonomous regions), and consist of 20 villages, covering the settlements where Dong cultural traditions have been well preserved. The nominated Dong Villages vary in their distribution regions, eco-environments, clans and branches, village landscapes, cultural characteristics, etc., which organically constitute a complete cultural value system of Dong Villages, which is distinct from other village cultural landscapes or agricultural landscapes domestically and abroad. Dong Villages are the representative of the cultural landscape of Chinese ethnic minority villages, and their Outstanding Universal Value are described as below:

Firstly, Dong Villages are a perfect integration of humanity and nature, and they reflect the Dong peoples’ principle of adapting themselves to nature for survival and development. The Dong Villages are not only an organically evolving landscape, but also a continuing landscape. It has retained its positive social role in the contemporary society connecting with traditional lifestyle, and is a testimony to the evolution and development history of the Dong Nationality.

Secondly, in the context of Dong cultural traditions, Dong people have created various architectural systems with distinct vernacular characteristics. The unique drum towers and the roofed bridges have been preserved for generations. The drum tower is an important type of wooden structure in the Far East. Dong Villages are a classic model of vernacular architecture heritage.

Thirdly, Dong Villages have preserved a wealth of cultural information thanks to its large number, wide distribution, and multiple clans. It is an integration of Dong tangible and intangible cultural heritages, an epitome of Dong social conditions including languages, festivals, song and dance, crafts, cuisine, customs, spiritual beliefs, social systems, etc., and is a living example of cultural anthropology.

Criterion (iii): The Dong Villages contain historical information of Dong people’s origin, migration and lifestyle in the region. It is a major database with large quantity of historical and cultural information and a concentrated reflection of Dong Nationality’s history and culture. These historical cultures still exist and continue to evolve after more than thousand years and bear a living testimony to an ethnic minority’s cultural tradition which is rapidly disappearing. It is also an important part of the world’s diversified culture.

Criterion (iv): The traditional architecture of Dong Villages, especially those for public use such as the drum towers and the roofed bridges, intensively reflect the traditional Dong construction skills and the cultural landscape in the Dong settlements. The ingenious combination of the single public structure and vernacular houses in Dong Villages represents the harmonious co-existence of the village and its natural environment. The architectural elements and landscape features have been adapted and promoted in settlements of Dong people and in other nationalities’ settlements, which became an outstanding example of regional architectural culture.

Criterion (v): The Dong Villages are a representative of a traditional human settlement lifestyle featuring Dong people’s adaption to nature and harmonious co-existence with the environment, and also an outstanding example of Dong people’s sustainable utilization of land and resources in the past nearly one thousand years. They are a manifestation of Dong people’s wisdom generated during the long-term production and living, and precious heritage of traditional agricultural civilization in the mountainous area. With the violent and rapid transformations brought about by modernization, urbanization and globalization, these Dong Villages have become one of rare “cultural solitary islands” retaining the age-old traditions.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity


The nominated Dong Villages have all undergone hundreds of years’ development at their original locations, their spatial locations are relatively stable and the eco-environments have been well preserved. The development and expansion of the villages, dependent on the macro natural settings, has continuously maintained the authenticity of the location and environment. The public structures and vernacular houses are all built with timber and tree barks harvested from surrounding forests, employ traditional construction techniques and design, and are of classic Dong architectural form and style, thus having preserved the authenticity of materials and substance, design and form, traditions and techniques. Significant heritage elements including the Sasui altar, drum tower, public square, vernacular houses, granaries, roads, etc., are still in use and the authenticity of use and function has been well preserved.

The authenticity of the Dong language, festivals, song and dance, medicine, crafts and other intangible heritages has been well preserved in all the nominated Dong Villages, which make the Dong village culture distinct from those of the local and surrounding Han, Miao, Zhuang and other nationalities. The social life and organizational operation of the village have largely inherited the traditional village management mode which has a history of hundreds of years, thus having preserved the authenticity of its traditional system. The aborigines of Dong Villages have retained traditions of nature worship for mountains, rivers and trees, and the ancestor worship for Sasui (famous heroine of Dong Nationality) and ancestors of “major branches”. All these manifest the authenticity of Dong people’s spirit and emotion. It is especially important to emphasize that the core of the authenticity of Dong Villages as a classic model of living heritage lies in the indigenous people and their community, and this element is the carrier of the above three aspects of authenticity. The indigenous people and their community have maintained the authenticity of the extant tangible and intangible heritages of Dong Villages, and they will continue to pass on the authenticity in the future.


Firstly, the nominated Dong Villages have maintained their own development law that has been continued for hundreds of years, without major influences from external environment and more powerful cultures. Therefore, the integrity of the development process of Dong Villages has been well preserved.

Secondly, all the nominated Dong Villages are comprehensively comprised of necessary elements of traditional Dong Villages, including vernacular architecture, the agricultural fields, and the surrounding eco-environment, and other spatial elements, which are able to completely represent the Outstanding Universal Value of Dong Villages.
Lastly, the nominated Dong Villages are a complex cultural property integrating tangible and intangible heritages and natural environment, i.e. cultural landscape. The Dong people who have lived in the villages for generations are the main medium for inheritance of the Dong culture, and completely manifest the historical evolution, interactive relationship and dynamic system of Dong culture.

Comparison with other similar properties

1 Compared with Chinese village cultural landscapes that have been inscribed on the World Heritage List or Tentative List

Dong Villages clearly reflect the cultural characteristics of Dong Nationality in China. Compared with other minority villages in China, such as the Miao, Tibetan and Qiang villages, they all represent different cultural subjects and contain different cultural significances. Compared with other village cultural landscapes, Dong Villages are different from the ancient villages in South Anhui that reflect traditional Han socio-economic structure, and also from Hani Terraces in Yunnan which reflect the rice agricultural landscape. Compared with the village landscapes in South China, Dong Villages are  similar to Fujian Tulou and Kaiping Diaolou buildings in their dependence on  the architecture, but bear richer cultural traditions and intangible cultures.

2 Compared with other representative village cultural landscapes in East Asia

Three Asian villages or agricultural landscapes have been inscribed on the World Heritage List so far, namely: the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in Japan, and the Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong. Unlike the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras which becomes fragile due to social and economic changes, the Dong Villages have maintained their vitality. In terms of building materials and  architectural forms, Dong Villages also have characteristics that differ from the  above mentioned historic villages of Japan and Korea. The architectural types of Dong Nationality are more diverse, and their vernacular houses feature more forms.

3 Compared with the typical villages or agricultural landscape of Europe and Western Asia

The European villages or agricultural landscapes that have been inscribed on the World Heritage List are: Holašovice Historical Village Reservation in Czech Republic, Church Village of Gammelstad in Luleå in Sweden, Villages withFortified Churches in Transylvania of Romania, Old Village of Hollókő and its Surroundings in Hungary, as well as Ancient Villages of Northern Syria in Western Asia. Compared with these villages, Dong Villages are an outstanding representative of the living culture among the ethnic minority villages in China. They have different cultural subject (Dong people), architectural form (from the exterior to the material) and building functions (not emphasize defensive purpose), reflect different eras (hundreds of years of evolution to date), and feature different cultural focuses (not religious). More importantly, the Dong Villages are not only characterized by its large quantity, distinctive landscape features, and wide area of core protected zones, but also more broad, profound and vivid cultural content.

In summary, the nominated Dong Villages as an organic entity, in comparison with typical villages or agricultural landscapes domestically and abroad, demonstrates unique cultural value: it  has rich outstanding tangible and intangible cultural contents, and has typical characteristics of living heritage. In the current days when modern industrial civilization has spread globally, Dong Villages of China as a living fossil of agricultural civilization and ethnic minorities’ and of traditional settlement cultures, possess outstanding cultural and anthropological values.