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Guilin-Li River & Guizhou Ethnic Minority Cultures Photo Tour

The best Chinese landscape and culture photography in one trip

Oct 8 – 20, 2019

In this amazing journey, we are visiting two of the best photography destinations in China at best season.


Guilin is known for its unique Karst sceneries along the winding Li river. The landscapes along the river look like a Chinese scroll painting come to life, with its conical limestone karsts, mist-shrouded mountain peaks, terraced rice paddies, grazing water buffalo and fishing villages seemingly frozen in time. The iconic cormorant fisherman is another must-shoot over there.


Guizhou province is known for its ethnic minority groups and their unique cultures, it is demographically one of China's most diverse provinces. Minority groups account for more than 37% of the population and they include Miao, Yao, Yi, Qiang, Dong, Zhuang, Bouyei, Bai, Tujia, Gelao and Sui. All these peoples together create splendid and unique cultures on their ancestral land. The gorgeous folk arts and crafts, distinct architecture and colorful festivity rituals/performances make it a wonderland for photographers around the world.


When traveling in Guizhou, we will experience their simple and historical cultures, appreciate the unique architectural styles and try their exotic and colorful costumes, etc. For example, we will go to Miao Villages with stilt-houses and colorful traditional clothes; Photographing China’s last gunners' tribe; Photographing unique traditional crafts like making papers and birdcages; Visiting Dong villages to photograph Dong-style drum towers and vocal/dance performances, etc.

When: Oct 8 - 20, 2019
Where: Guangxi and Guizhou provinces, China
Cost: US$3,995 based on double occupancy (US$350 single extra)
Group size: 10 maximum
Category: Photography Tour
Tour Leaders & Photography Instructors: William Yu
Language spoken: English 

Tour URL:


Tour Highlights: 

  • Photographing the sunrise, sunset over the amazing Karst landscape and Li river in Guilin. 

  • Capturing the environment portraits of cormorant fisherman over Li river.

  • Photographing China's last gunner tribe.

  • Visiting Miao and Dong ethnic villages with vocal/dance performances.

  • Shooting the unique traditional crafts: Hand-making papers and birdcages.

The cost of this tour is USD3,995, it includes:

  • 11 nights of accommodation(Oct 9 - 19) in hotels with double occupancy. (Single occupany USD350 extra). 

  • Transportation: Our group has dedicated buses and drivers.

  • Entrance fees of scenic areas, parks.

  • Local tour guide and Model fees.

The cost does NOT include:

  • International Airfare to/from China.

  • Meals except breakfasts included with hotels.

  • Hotel at Guilin on Oct 8.

  • Gratuities to local guide and driver.


Physical demand: Moderate 

We travel and photograph in the mountainous regions, will climb on paved (500-700 stairs, 200 feet height from bottom to top) trails to top of the hill in 3 days to photograph sunrise and sunset scene. Basic physical strength, mobility and walking endurance are needed. Porters are available for one site.

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: Oct 8  Meet and Greet in the city of Guilin (KWL), Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China.

Our photo tour group will meet and greet 7pm at appointed hotel in Guilin (KWL), to kick start this exciting journey.


Day 2: Oct 9  Guilin – Yangshuo

In the morning, Our bus will pick us and drive to the scenic town of Yangshuo, photographing farmers with water buffalo in the morning, and cormorant fisherman in the late afternoon.

Overnight at Yangshuo, Guilin, Guangxi province.


Day 3: Oct 10. Yangshuo – Xianggong Mountain

Photographing beautiful reflections at sunrise, then travel to Xianggong Mountain. Sunset shoot at Cuiping Mountain.

Overnight at Xiangong Mountain, Guilin, Guangxi province


Day 4 - 5: Oct 11-12.  Two full days of photography at Xianggong Mountain area.

At this season, photographers are attracted to Xianggong Mountain by the light and shadow, sea of clouds, reflections in the river and amazing morning glow at sunrise. We will spend 2 full days in the area, chasing the light.

Overnight at Xiangong Mountain, Guilin, Guangxi province.


Day 6: Oct 13   Travel to ethnic Dong village of Zhaoxing, Guizhou province.

After breakfast, we will take 3 hr bus ride to Dong ethnic village of Zhaoxing. It is one of the largest Dong villages in Guizhou, has over 800 households and more than 4,000 inhabitants. It lies in a basin surrounded by mountains and has one small river passing through. The serried stilted houses are all built of Chinese fir with tile roofs. We will spent the day photographing in the village.

Overnight in Zhaoxing, Guizhou province.


Day 7: Oct 14   Full day shooting around Zhaoxing Dong Village

In the morning, we go to TangAn Dong village to shoot its staired terraces. Then come back and freely roaming through Zhaoxing Dong villages, finding your subects of interest to photograph, whether it's architectural, environmental portraits, street photography, etc. Enjoy the performance of Dong ethnic dancing and singing.

Overnight in Zhaoxing, Guizhou province.


Day 8: Oct 15  Xiaohuang Dong Village: The birthplace of Dong polyphonic choir singing.

We will visit an old Dong village off the beaten path in the morning, where having plenty of environmental portrait/street photography opportunities.

Dong ethnic minority, who are renowned for their polyphonic choir singing called Kgal Laox in their own language. Xiaohuang village is the birthplace of this unique musical art. We will be entertained with their performance at the drum tower in the afternoon.

Overnight at the city of Congjiang.


Day 9: Oct 16  

Morning: Basha Miao Village | The last tribe of gunners

Lying on the southern border Guizhou, Basha village is famed for being China 's last tribe of gunners. This primitive miao village is hidden away in a forest and filled with stilted wooden houses by the river. 

Basha village is home to over 1,000 residents living in more than 400 households. Their ancestors were frontline troops who charged through forests and fought the bears there -- all to guard the land where they lived. Through hundreds of years, they have been guarding their homeland. Still today the men in Basha preserve their musketeer heritage, which makes Basha the only tribe that can legally carry guns in China. A strong sense of precaution inherited from their ancestors keeps this village isolated from the outside world. The villagers lead a self-sufficient life in the hilly areas and retain the dressing and living customs hundreds of years ago. 

The villagers in Basha worship trees, especially maples, as gods. They believe the buns on their heads represent trees, while the purple clothes they wear represent bark. (The color is a special bluish purple. Biasha people usually add egg whites into the indigo when dying the coarse cloth, making it shiny and waterproof.) In Basha, a tree is planted whenever a baby is born. Often it will be cut down to make the coffin when the person eventually dies. Cutting down ancient trees is forbidden in the village. 

Basha men are also famous for their unique hairstyles. Like the men in the Qing dynasty, Basha men wear their long hair in braids. They attach great importance to their hair bun, which they believe is a symbol of masculinity, as well as an emblem of power. This is a hairstyle that 's existed for thousands of years. 

Young boys have to take part in a shaving ceremony between the ages of seven and fifteen. The tribe leader wets a sickle with the water used to boil eggs, and shaves off all of the boy's hair except for the central part, which is coiled into a bun. The blade caresses the scalp, and patches of hair fall to the ground. This shave is done without any shaving cream, or even a rinse. Boys get their first haircuts as a rite of passage, and then are given a hunting rifle at the age of 15 as a sign that they've become adults.

Afternoon: Kala Village | The village of Birdcages

The village of Miao ethnic group is famous in the province for its skill at making exquisite bird cages, which are sold worldwide.  Roughly 125 of all the 151 households with excellent birdcage-weaving skills, work in the weaving business, with a yearly output of 100,000 birdcages.

Overnight in the town of Wanda.


Day 10: Oct 17   

Morning: Traditional paper-making in Shiqiao Miao Village

Shiqiao Miao Village with about 100 households inhabited in a mountain valley still keep the tradition of hand-made paper. Along with the modern technology, changing demand of consumers, there are only about 40 families with a population of less than 100 people left in the village who maintain making paper through the ancient traditional approach. Shiqiao Miao Village’s hand-made paper is renowned for its outstanding flexibility, splendid color, as well we unmatched absorbency which make it a precious treasure valued by painters and calligraphers in China. Shiqiao paper can be classified into two categories: white paper and colorful paper. Raw materials used in making Shiqiao paper are barks from an indigenous tree named Goupima (mulberry) and making process is much delicate with over ten procedures which is eco-friendly. With the increasing awareness of protecting culture, the Shiqiao Miao Village’s paper has been inscribed on the list of National Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Afternoon: The Gejia Village of Matang

The Gejia is an ethnic group in guizhou, officially classified as a part of the Miao, but have separate status. The village of Matang is exclusively inhabited by these people. There are over 400 inhabitants in this village. The total Gejia population is approximately 50,000.

Gejia, according to legend, are the direct descendants of Houyi, a legendary hero who was said to shoot the nine scorching suns in order to salvage his people. They are noted for their war-like nature. Their costumes are indications of such warfare passion. The women are specialised in embroideries and batik. Their handicraft style dates back to the Qin dynasty (221–207 BCE), the first dynasty of a unified China.

The dress code of the women has a cultural symbol, particularly signifying the warfare of their ancestors. The head dress is a representation of the Sun and the arrow. Their shoulders and back are covered with thick wools like shawls that represent shield. They cover their legs with leggings as leg guards. The clothes are made in white and red patterns, and decorated with silver ornaments.

Overnight in the city of Kaili


Day 11:  Oct 18  The ancient city of Zhenyuan

Located on eastern part of Guizhou Province, Zhenyuan has long been an ancient town of the Miao people. Its long history endows the town with many rich and generous cultural relics. The town covers only an area of 3.1 square kilometers (about 1.2 square miles) but greets you with more than 160 scenic spots including caves, palaces, pavilions, temples and rivers with their unique architecture, exquisite engravings and marvelous natural landscape. Among them are the famous Wuyang River Scenic Area and elegant ancient complex in the the Black Dragon Cave (Qinglong Cave) - beckoning sights not to be missed by any visitor to eastern Guizhou. The wonderful evening city lights and reflections are also our perfect photograpy subject.

Overnight at the cIty of Zhenyuan, Guizhou province.

Zhenyuan, Guizhou, China

Day 12: Oct 19  Langde Miao Village

Around 500 villagers in ten families, the Langde Miao Village is considered small. As members of the Miao Ethnic Minority, they adopt common habits and customes. Entering the village, visitors would find themselves literarily immersed in works of art. 

Welcoming Ceremony: You find it amidst hills and bound by waters. On arriving at the entrance you could behold some beautifully dressed girls blocking your path. It's a welcome party and guests are allowed in after drinking their twelve courses of way-blocking wines -- a most ceremonious etiquette. Here, people are wearing colorful festival dress. Women wear gorgeous and complex silver jewelry, and some young ladies adorn silver horned coronal on their heads; men robe themselves in blue-black, with chuddar of the same color covered their heads. Each man carries a Lusheng (a bamboo-made music instrument) and stands in line to play the Lusheng pipe music.

At the square in the center of the village, the singing and dancing performace begin after the welcome ceremony. I'm sure you will enjoy a lot.

Overnight in the provincial capital of Guiyang, Guizhou province.​


Day 13: Oct 20  Departure

​Today is the day of farewell and departure out of Guiyang airport(KWE), the end of this amazing trip.

NOTE: We reserve the right to adjust/alter the itinerary on location, adapting to local weather, light conditions, or sudden local event/situation to better manage time and/or photo opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions:


What will we cover technically for photography?

The main focus of this tour to open up your mind's eye, keenly identify photographic opportunities and make creative decisions, then properly execute it in terms of exposure and composition. The process will cover all elements of design: line, shape, form, texture, pattern and color, as well as techniques like long exposure, selecting lenses, using of graduated neutral density filter and polarizing filter, etc. During the breaks, we will review post-processing workflows, techniques using photoshop, lightroom and some third party plug-ins. 

I will give instructions/recommendations on every photography opportunities. Questions are always welcome and encouraged. We will have group review every couple of days during downtime or at the evening.

What to bring for this trip?

  • Your camera, tripod, lenses covering the range of wide angle through telephoto(15mm through 400mm), filters including polarizer, graduated neutral density, neutral density. 

  • Be sure to obtain China Visa from your local Chinese embassy or consulate. Most foreign citizens are required to obtain Visa before traveling to China.

How do I sign up and pay for this tour?

A deposit of $300 is required for this workshop to hold your spot, you can pay by Visa, Mastercard or PayPal via or send a check (U.S. residents only). The balance is due June 30, 2019. All participants must sign William Yu Photography Workshops/Tours Liability Waiver Form before the tour starts.

How many participants do you allow?

Workshop size is limited to 11 attendees, which ensures that every attendee will get full attention. We need minimum of 8 attendees to make the trip. We will let you know whether it's a go or not by June 30, 2019, allowing plenty of time for participants to book the flight to Guilin(KWL) and return flight from Guiyang(KWE).

What photographic skill level is required to benefit from this tour? 

Any people who has a basic understanding of exposure all the way to the advanced amateur and professional who is in search of a fresh perspective! 

What is your refund or cancellation policy? 

No refunds will be given for delays or cancellations due to inclement weather, (which interestingly, can result in some of the most some amazing shots!), either before or during the tour. If the tour is cancelled by the organizer, we will notify you immediately and you will be issued full refund. We are not responsible for any additional costs you may incur due to any delays or cancellations. Here is the policy of refund due to cancellation:

  • Before July 1, 2019, full refund of deposit minus USD50 fee.

  • After July 1, 2019. No refund of deposit.

  • July 1 - Aug 1, 2019: 75% of full amount will be refunded.

  • Aug 1 - Sep 1, 2019: 50% of full amount will be refunded.

  • After Sep 1, 2019: No Refund.

I have some questions, how do I learn more? 

Please send email to

Tour Map:

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