Danuohei, the stone village of the Sani minority

ethnic china

Danuohei, the stone village of the Sani minority

Danuohei Village – (大糯黑村) is a Sani minority village.

The Sani minority, actually a branch of the Yi, lives in the whole area around the Stone Forest until reaching Puzhehei, where one can also visit some beautiful villages.  In the area of Shilin one of the most charismatic villages, and at the same time one of the best communicated, is that of Danuohei, located just one kilometer from the road that goes to Luxi, 34 kilometers from the Stone Forest.

Almost all the village preserves the traditional stone Sani constructions, as well as a great number of centenary trees. The use of stone is what most attracts attention in Danuohei, whose structure and style is reminiscent of similar constructions on the other side of the world. In fact, it is one of the pilot ecological villages for ethnic cultural tourism. In addition, in 2020, it was selected as the second batch of key villages nationwide for rural tourism, and at the end of the same year it received the title of «Sixth National Village of Arts». But don’t let anyone be scared, up to now there are few tourists around.


Locals say that Danuohei Village has a history of over 600 years and is one of the best preserved villages of the Yi culture in Yunnan Province. It used to be a stop on the old caravan route from Luxi to the provincial capital, Kunming. In the midst of the violence of the past centuries, the villagers built stone walls to maintain their safety, leaving 4 gates and 5 artillery towers. Local residents also used stone to build houses and roads, creating a unique «stone village». The village is surrounded by mountains and rivers, making it a picturesque village in the middle of a pleasant landscape.

Many women still wear their traditional clothes there. Like many other villages in Yunnan, Danuohei has a lake, Monkey Lake, located at the entrance to the village. It is precisely this lake that gives the village its name, as in their language it is called «nuohei». The lake creates wonderful landscapes, with the houses and trees of the village reflected in its waters. Almost all the inhabitants are Sani, and many of them preserve their traditional customs and beliefs, especially in the Mixi or spirits that live in the forests.

The roads of the village climb gently up the slope of the hill, showing the traveler some especially beautiful rural landscapes, among them the towers that serve to dry the tobacco, and some local mansions.

The Tiger Gate of the Spirit Forest

The most sacred place in Danuohei village is the Forest of Spirits, the place where the local people claim to live the Mixi spirits of the forest[i].  At the entrance of the forest, a surprising gate has been built in the shape of a Tiger’s Mouth[ii]. The symbolism is clear, to enter the sacred place one must be devoured by the tiger. To be devoured by the tiger means to overcome death, to reach enlightenment.

Xiaonuohei Village

Across the road from Luxi is Xiaonuohei (小糯黑) village, also inhabited by the Sani minority. It is a more common village, and therefore less visited, a little less attractive, but with numerous old houses and a slightly more natural atmosphere. There they celebrate the festival of the cow on October 15 of the lunar calendar.

Practical information:

Travellers can get there by bus from Kunming to Luxi or from Shilin to Luxi. At the crossroads there is a new hotel. In the village itself there are also some families who provide accommodation.

[i] The Sani branch of the Yi minority was one of the first to be studied in Yunnan. Those interested in knowing more about them can read some of the works of Father Paul Vial, such as «Les Lolos», Shanghai, 1898.

[ii] The symbolism of the tiger is complex to describe in a guide. Interested can go deeper into the symbolism of the tiger in my book El tigre en China: imagen y símbolo (Miraguano Ediciones. Madrid, 2010).

Cite this article as: Ceinos-Arcones, Pedro, "Danuohei, the stone village of the Sani minority," in Ethnic China, 3 enero 2021, https://ethnic-china.com/danuohei-the-stone-village-of-the-sani-minority/.


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