There is a distinctive group of Han Chinese called the Tunpu people in Anshun, and they still follow the cultural customs from the Ming Dynasty in terms of language, costume, residential buildings and recreational activities. Their lives are considered to be living fossils of the ancient Ming Dynasty.
The Tunpu culture originated from the southern expedition of the troops of Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. After the troops conquered southern China, Zhu ordered the troops to station there and farm the wastelands in order to stabilize southern China. He also forcefully moved craftsmen, civilians and criminal officials from central China, Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangxi and Jiangsu to Anshun of Guizhou. Those who were both soldiers and civilians continued to absorb the advanced local modes of production while adhering to their respective cultural customs. As time passed by, a distinctive type of Han Chinese culture came into being and is now known as the Tunpu culture. The Tunpu culture not only retains the cultural characteristics of their forefathers but also has its local features associated with long-term military and farming activities. The Tunpu people have not assimilated their languages into the languages of surrounding areas over a period of several hundred years. The current costumes of Tunpu women retain the characteristics of the Han Chinese costumes in the regions south of the Yangtze River during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Tunpu food is easy to store and is preserved for a long time, and is suitable to be used for long-term expeditions. The religious belief of the Tunpu people is identical to the polytheistic beliefs of the Han Chinese. The festive-lantern opera still has the similar flavors of the melodies in the regions south of the Yangtze River. The primitive and rough Di Opera can vividly show battle scenes and is known as a “living fossil of drama.” The unique Tunpu residential buildings in Anshun, mainly made of stone and wood, are not only elegant and beautiful, but also have strong characteristics of defense.
As the most representative area of Tunpu culture in Anshun, the Yunfeng Tunpu Scenic Area is mainly comprised of the villages of Yunshan, Benzhai and Leitun in Qiyanqiao Town, Xixiu District. The scenic area is 21 kilometers east of Anshun City and covers an area of 22.5 square kilometers. Experts said the Ming walls, watchtowers, lanes, residential buildings and old castles in Yunshan and Benzhai villages are well-preserved and have high academic and tourism values. A stone tablet unearthed in Qiyanqiao Town in 2002 recorded the donations to temples made by Fu Youde and Mu Ying, leaders of the southern expedition army, and confirmed the conclusions of experts. Qiyanqiao Town was recognized by the China Records Headquarters as the “Best-preserved and Most Intact Cultural Village Cluster of the Ming Dynasty” in 2002. The best-preserved ancient Tunpu building complexes in Yunshan and Benzhai villages were listed by the State Council into the fifth batch of major cultural heritage sites under state-level protection in 2001. During the same year, Anshun was approved as a municipal-level Tunpu cultural and scenic spot. Yunshan and Benzhai villages have applied to the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development for the recognition as a national historical and cultural village.
The local residential buildings were “siheyuan” or courtyard houses, and had both the characteristics of that in the regions south of the Yangtze River and the layout of that in eastern China. Its most typical feature was its fully enclosed layout. A residential siheyuan is comprised of the main house, side houses and a “八” shaped entrance with large stones on both sides and decorations at the top side. The main house is high and majestic with lucky patterns on wooden window lattices and doors. The adjoining side houses are on the two sides of the main house and the frontal building is known as the opposite house. The main house, side houses, the entrance and the opposite house form an enclosed siheyuan with a courtyard in the center.
There are many military elements in the stone Tunpu buildings and the lanes within a Tunpu village are inter-connected in a crisscross pattern and are linked with streets leading to the center of the village, forming a comprehensive defensive system. Numerous small windows in the walls near the lanes can function as not only as normal windows but also loopholes. The low stone gate is so powerful in military defense that one man can hold the pass against even 10,000 enemies. All of the facts reflect the architectural ideas of the ancient people to meet wartime needs and to station troops. There are still many crenels and barbettes left in Tunpu villages.