Next on the itinerary was a visit to the Tujia Folk Custom Park (土家风情园-土司城), where it showcases the Tujia ethnic village in Zhangjiajie, in terms of architecture, food, agriculture, dance, songs, customs, military art etc. The Tujia City used to be a place of authority for its King.
There were a couple of warm Tujia ladies wearing the ethnic costumes welcoming guests at the entrance with their folk songs, while we were “checked-in” 1 by 1 with our tickets (saw that it costs RMB 120, about S$24.30). Many visitors on that day, so we were told to follow a particular park tour guide (阿妹) closely as she would be bringing us around the park.
In the Yongding district (永定区) of Zhangjiajie, the Peng family (彭式) is the third most common family surname in Zhangjiajie, but the richest compared to the top 2 most common surnames: Zhang and Xiang. In order to display their status, the Pengs decided to build the tallest stilt-house (diaojiaolou, 吊脚楼) – 48m, 12 storeys high without using a single nail and only used wooden cork (木栓) to hold the structure! This building is considered as a “miracle” in the construction history of such houses in the Tujia ethnic group, so on 22 September 2002, it was awarded the Guinness World Record for being the biggest, tallest and most beautiful stilt-house in China.
Pardon me for the blur photo, as the tour guide that led us walked quite fast so I did not have enough time to take a good photo in the rainy weather with 1 hand holding the umbrella. 😦 This house has a beautiful name in Chinese – 九重天世袭堂, I am not really sure how to do a good translation of this (and I did not find satisfactory translation online too :P), but it means something like “seventh heaven hereditary hall”. We toured the whole building level by level, climbing all the way up to the 12th storey (of course no escalator here haha). I shall show you photos of the more interesting stuff seen on the different storeys:
On the 11th storey is the usual “tourist trap” where they sell the Tujia specialties such as silver accessories and souvenirs… Then the highest storey was a place for tired visitors to take a seat and rest. Shortly after, we were ushered out of the building and to a presentation of the benefits of the local wild Luo Han Guo (罗汉果, scientific name: siraitia grosvenorii) as well as free tasting of the herbal drink. Luo Han Guo is good for soothing sore throats and I often get better by brewing the fruit, so ya, I succumbed to temptation and bought 1 box back home. 😛
This Tujia Folk Custom Park aka Tusi City is a great concept, but I feel they made it a bit too touristy and commercialised by putting in all the shopping and “compulsory” herbal drink tasting cum presentation. The entrance fee seems a bit steep for a tour that lasted about 1 hour, including all the “sales talk”. 😦 Furthermore, if only there were fewer groups going round at the same time, we would not have to fight hard to listen to what our guide was saying. With so many guides talking at the same time around the same area, it was hard to concentrate and focus on just 1 voice to gain a better understanding of the Tujia ethnic group.