In the Chinese mountain province of Guizhou, cave villages are still preserved – their ancestors’ ancestors hid in the mountains from armed raiders, built houses there and arranged everyday life. They stayed in the caves and after China was united under the rule of the Communists.
Zhong, one of the last inhabited caves in China, is connected to the outside world only by a pedestrian mountain trail, along which it takes about an hour to get to the road. However, in the last 20 years this place has lost much in its isolation – all because of the tourists who make their way to the cave to see the settlement with their own eyes.
Local residents wrapped the flow of tourists to their advantage – they produce handicrafts for sale and even rent out rooms in their houses built of wood and bamboo.
Villagers keep cattle – mostly chickens and cows. Children study in boarding school, returning home only on weekends.
Another 18 families decided to stay. According to them, the new houses are too small. In addition, they are afraid of losing access to their land and believe that they, because of their historical connection with the cave, should have the right to independently control their small tourist economy.
The biggest change in the history of the cave was the appearance of electricity, conducted here only in 2002. This issue was decided not by the Chinese government, but by American businessman Frank Beddor Jr. He first visited the cave of Zhong in the early 2000s and returned a few more times, donating tens of thousands of dollars to ease the lives of the villagers.
Young people sometimes leave the village for work, but many eventually return to their families.