Watchtowers of Qiang Ethnic Group

Watchtowers, stone-piled house, chain bridge, plank roadway (built along perpendicular rock-faces by means of wooden brackets fixed into the cliff) and irrigation works are the most famous structures built by Qiangs.

Watchtower is called “Qionglong” in Qiang language. As early as 2000 years ago, it was recorded in “The Later Han Booko The Commentary of the Southwestern Yi” that “the Ran Man people lived at the foot of hills and they made house by piling stones some of which were over ten Zhangs (a unit of length, 1zhang=3.33meters)”. Watchtowers are built near villages, the height of which is between 10 and 30 meters and they are used for resisting enemies and storing grain and firewood. Watchtowers have 4, 6 or 8 corners. Some are 13-14-storey high. Structuring materials are thin slab stones and yellow mud. The foundation of the wall is 1.35 meters, which is piled with slab stones. The inner side of the wall is vertical to the ground, and the out side inclines from the lower part up. In structuring, the Qiangs don’t draft map, hang line and erect frame to support, and they rely completely on their excellent skills and experience. The structure is solid firm, and can be able to stand wear and tear. The old Ming castle site “Yongping Fort”, which was founded in Yong’an village of the Qiang Township in Beichuan County, Sichuan, has experienced several hundred of years of wind, rain and changes and is still well preserved.

An article written by Dulin and Libinlin, which was published in Sichuan Daily on the 12th July, 2001, reported: in extant old Qiang villages, the Taoping Qiang village in the Li County is the most typical one. History records show that it was founded 111B.C., which has had more than 2000 years of history. The Taoping village has eight entrances, which make a layout of the Eight Trigrams. There are 31 passages, which extend in all directions and connect every family. There are secret holes everywhere for shooting, which were prepared for resisting enemies in the past. Only two stone watchtowers are kept in the village both of which have 9 storeys and are over 30 meters high. Because they were praised by officials from the ESCO of UN, the preparing work for declaring world heritage has started for a period of time.

The Qiangs’ local house is square house with flat roof and is piled up by slab stones, which is square-shaped and usually has 3 storeys with over 3 meters each. The farthest layer below the roof is composed of wooden boards or slab stones which stretch out of the wall and become eaves. Crotches or bamboo branches are covered densely on the boards or slab stones, and yellow mud and droppings of chicken are covered and rammed heavily. The roof is 0.35 meters thick, there are troughs for drawing water through which rain and snow can’t leak in, and the roof makes the house warm in winter and cool in summer. The flat roof is a place for threshing, drying grain, making needlework and for the old and children to play and rest there. There are passing-street buildings (riding buildings) constructed among some buildings for the convenience of contacting.

The mountains are high and the rivers are perilous, so the Qiangs created chain village 1400 years ago for facilitating transportation. Arched gate piled with stones is erected at the two sides, stone base or big wood post is set up inside the gate and bamboo rope as thick as human’s arm is tied on the base or post, which is sometimes composed of tens of ropes. Wooden boards are paved on the bamboo chains, and handrail which is over 1 meter above the surface of the bridge is fixed on the sides of the boards.

There are two kinds of roadway: wooden and stone. Wooden roadway is built in dense forest, which is paved with wood mixed with mud and rocks. Stone roadways are built at the overhanging cliff, which is built by chiseling holes in the cliff and plugging in wooden boards into the holes.

The local stonemasons of the Qiangs often go out to work at slack seasons. The world famous Dujiangyan Project in Guan County, Sichuan which has lasted for 2000 years and is still benefiting the public, contains hard labor and wisdom of the ancient Qiangs.