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Fort Besieged (Paywalled)

In the “red tourism” capital of Zunyi, a ruined castle offers a glimpse of a breakaway part of history

My hotelier seemed baffled. It wasn’t that his small hotel had attracted a foreign tourist over Chinese New Year (“I have many people coming to my place,” he boasted). His surprise was the reason for my visit—the UNESCO World Heritage Site nearby.

Zunyi, a small city in northern Guizhou province, earned this status in 2015 for what remains of Hailongtun (海龙屯 or “Sea Dragon Castle”), an unusual fortress built in the 13th century by a local chief of possibly mixed Han, Miao, and Gelao ethnicity. Yet most visitors to this remote area are drawn to its relatively recent Communist history. “Every single one of my guests visits the Zunyi Conference site,” reckoned the flustered hotel owner, referring to the location of a crucial 1935 party meeting. “Only 10 percent make the excursion to Hailongtun.”

Then again, I was the only guest that night—meaning he was 90 percent wrong. I’d flown in over a spectacle of Spring Festival fireworks to land at a former People’s Liberation Army Air Force base almost 40 kilometers outside Zunyi, where the cab drivers easily outnumbered passengers.

The ancient fortress was only accessible through one path

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Fort Besieged (Paywalled) is a story from our issue, “Funny Business.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.

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Aladin Farré is the founder and host of Middle Earth Podcast and a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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