Guizhou province

terraced1Guizhou province (pop. 40 million) is located in southwest China, situated between the provinces of Yunan, Hunan, Szechuan, and Guangxi. It is considered the poorest province in China and due to its isolated location, one of its most undeveloped, with a per capita GDP of only $1500.

According to one estimate, 70 percent of the population is illiterate, and a third of the people live in “severe poverty” compared to the rest of China. That said, the villagers are self-sufficient farmers who live off the land and are able to grow and/or make everything they need to survive. Not long ago, one could spend an entire year without seeing cash because nature provided everything that they needed.

Despite its poverty, the region is rich in natural resources with its subtropical humid monsoon climate that makes everything grow abundantly. Ethnic minorities make up 37% of the population.

About 90 percent of the land is covered by mountains, and a third of the villages are inaccessible by road. Historically, the region was viewed as a wild and uninhabitable place and it continues to be difficult to travel today. However, the industriousness of the villagers have enabled them to turn the 12 percent of arable land into terraced fields that are harvested twice a year.

This isolation, however, has allowed ethnic minorities like the Miao people. to live in peace following previous centuries of wars and migration. With little contact with the outside world, it explains why the traditional way of life has remained so well-preserved and home to the most sophisticated groups of folk hand-weavers and hand-embroiderers in China.