The Dong minority is also very well-known for its drum towers, probably even more so than its fengyu qiao (wind rain bridges). Every village must have at least one of these structures. Rising above each village, it serves multiple functions. It’s a community centre, a meeting place, a town hall, a fire alarm and all-purpose emergency service.
Each of them is unique, a variation on a theme. Count the number of tiers and observe the carvings and you’ll notice that each drum tower is completely different from its cousins in the neighbourhood.
Each is so much a centre of village life that shops open only in the vicinity of a drum tower. Here, they even build a small basketball court in front of the tower. It’s since been converted to a good space for drying rice.
It was lovely to watch how grandparents congregated in the drum towers with their grandchildren. The sandwich generation was away working the fields, or in recent times, had already moved to the cities for work, leaving their children in the care of the elders.
This place was almost like a childcare centre, until we realised that the caretakers weren’t really the grandparents.
It sure looked like the grandparents ran the show, but it was really the TV that got everyone in here.