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Nikolay Korzhov | 12 Feb 2014 15:36 GMT
Guangxi, China - About 400 ethnic Yao live in Huangluo village, a mountainous and remote place that was nearly unreachable until 2002 - when China's government launched a "tourism reform" programme.
Yao women are well known for their colourful traditional dresses decorated with bright embroidery. They use wooden looms to weave their clothes, and it can take up to three months to finish a traditional costume.
Growing their dark hair long is a tradition here, with some women's locks almost two metres in length. Yao girls cut their hair only once in their lives between the ages of 16 and 18. It's difficult to trace the origins of the practice, but women here say long hair is the symbol of long life and prosperity. Unmarried women can't show their hair in public, so they cover their heads with a black turban.
Pan Dexiu becomes shy when asked about her age, saying it is "inappropriate" to pose such questions to single girls. Pan hosts a daily show that Yao women perform for tourists at the village. Women sing traditional Yao songs and dance to the music that entertains as well as explains the history of their people.
Today, there are about 2.6 million ethnic Yao living in China's southern provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, and Guangdong. Their living conditions have changed greatly after the tourism reform brought development and attracted visitors from around the world.
Yao women often wear traditional clothes of bright red colours, decorated with embroidery, along with silver earrings and necklaces.
Andrey Kovalenko/Al Jazeera
Yao people have unique cultural characteristics - from the tradition for women to wear long hair to lengths of almost two metres to spiritual beliefs passed through generations by word of mouth.
Older generations of the community mostly speak the Yao dialect, and many don(***)t understand Mandarin.
Along with songs and dances, the show performed at the village tells the story of the Yao people and their history that spans hundreds of years.
Despite performances not drawing huge crowds, they serve the purpose of educating visitors about the customs of indigenous people.
Women use fermented rice water to wash their hair, saying the technique makes follicles soft and lustrous.
Long hair is a symbol of long life and prosperity for the Yao.
After the age of 60, women here are not supposed to wear bright colours, so they exchange their red and pink jackets for black clothing.
It takes up to three months to make the whole traditional costume using wooden looms.
Women sell their skillfully handcrafted jackets, scarves and bags.
The village is located amid the picturesque Longji terraced rice fields, over which hangs a thick fog in the wintertime.
Pork, home grown rice, corn and peppers are daily staples in Yao cuisine.
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