中洞

Zhongdong - Middle Cave


Useful Information

Location: Gejing Village, Shuitang Town, Getu River, Ziyun County, Guizhou Province.
(25.687212, 106.293911)
Open: no restrictions.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=230 m, W=115 m, H=50 m, A=1,800 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Zhongdong, Gejing Village, Shuitang Town, Getu River, Ziyun County, Guizhou Province, Tel: +86-.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1949 village founded after the 1949 Communist Revolution to escape banditry.
1984 cave school opened to the public.
2007 concrete cistern for drinking water built.
2008 school closed by order of the government.

Description

中洞 (Zhongdong, Middle Cave) is a huge cave portal with an equally huge cave behind. There are three caves, but the upper and lower cave are smaller and uninhabited. Middle Cave is the only inhabited, year-round settlement in China located inside a cave. There are many articles about the cave school on the web, and most say it was located at "Miao village". That's completely wrong, the villag is named Zhongdong or Middle Cave after the cave. The Miao are a people, a chinese minority with their own culture and language. Miao is not the name of the village.

The village is remote, but China is a Peoples Republic and the government should provide education even in remote and poor villages inhabited by minorities. Unfortunately they were rather slow, actually building a school, and the children had no school for years. The Miao finally decided to take the education of their children into their own hands The village was poor, so they built their school into the cave without funds from the government. It was not necessary to build massive walls or a ceiling, the cave provided protection from any kind of weather and had comfortable temperature year round. They just set up chairs and tables and some dividers made of woven bamboo. There were several classrooms and even a sports ground, a place for the children to spend the break and some huts for the teaching material. The school started with eight teachers to teach 186 students in six classes.

This worked pretty well and no bureaucrat had a problem with the fact that the school was still not built. Unfortunately some traveller visited the cave, was hooked, and published the pictures on the web. And soon the cave became quite famous, the Miao were completely ignorant of this development, as they have no internet. But the government became aware of the school, and they were horrified. The Chinese authorities feared that the cave besmirched national prestige. They did not want to give the impression of being a "society of cavemen". As a result the school was closed in 2011. The authorities promised to build a real, modern school for several hundred students in the village. Again. As far as we know it has still not happened [2020]. They actually requested the locals to move away and many of them relocated. They also sent the students away to live and study at a school at the gate of ShowcaveGetu River Caves. They can visit their families only during holiday seasons and now and then on weekends.

Former school headmaster Xi Lin Chun lamented this closing, as it deprived students of unique educational opportunities. The cave offered great acoustics for the choir. The walls were used for geology courses and the bats and lizards for biology. Numerous children even lived in the cave as it was a boarding school for children who lived too far away to walk to the school every day.

Today the cave is still used for living inside by the locals, even if the school is closed. As we mentioned the cave is actually a village. It's not clear how long it exists, some say it was settled after the 1949 Communist Revolution to escape banditry, other say it existed for countless generations. Today some twenty families still live in the cave with chickens, pigs, and cows, and growing corn on the mountain. Water is collected from dripping water in the caves, in 2007 a concrete cistern was built. The Chinese government built concrete flats at the foot of the mountain, but they refused to move there because the flats were not up to standard.

However, life has nevertheless improved in the last years. With growing media attention the site gained tourist attraction and now has a road, linking it to the outside world. There is electricity and the families have TV, although they still use wood for cooking.