Hunting has been virtually banned to protect wildlife, locals said. Villagers are also prohibited from firing guns outside of performances.
“We’re not even allowed to buy gunpowder on the market, so we have to secretly buy it,” said one young villager who asked not to be named.
Ning Jingwu (寧敬武), a film director who spent more than a year in the village, said: “The government allows them to keep guns, but is very scared about gun production.”
However, an illicit trade survives — in Guiyang City just 300km from Biasha; police this month seized 15,000 guns from an “illegal ring.”
“People come from outside the village to sell guns, but the locals won’t admit it,” Ning said.
“Now the gun has turned into a tool for performances, which we think is kind of sad,” he said.
In Biasha’s stone-paved village square, opposite a tourist hotel labeled “The Gunner Inn,” five-year-olds pose with plastic replica rifles, while visitors pay to fire shots into the air.
Wearing a brand-new backpack, 27-year-old Tan Ying, a Han Chinese, came to Biasha with a sightseeing group.
“They used to have guns to fight us Han, but now I feel they are more or less the same as us,” she said.
Sitting on a grassy knoll, 37-year-old gunner Guan Nila said: “Our country is peaceful now so we don’t need to use guns.”
“If I wanted to fight, I would just hit you, and not use any weapons,” he said.