|It is more than 600 kilometres' drive across
mountains and rivers northwestern from Kunming to Lijiang, a secluded and
quiet place in the east section of the Hengduan Mountains. The area around
the ancient town of Lijiang is a wonderful place to escape from the urban
district's government seat, is an old city in beautiful surroundings in
northwest Yunnan. It is situated on a plateau at an elevation of 2,600m and is
impressive because of its scenery and lush vegetation.
|Lijiang Town is
officially called "Dayan Town"-- "Dayan" literally
means a "great inkstab", a graphic description of the town's
location on a piece of rich flatland fed by a river and surrounded by
green mountains. There is no other town in China like Dayan which
incorporates the folkways of so many people and the architectural styles
of both north and south China. Some say that Lijiang is not unique just
because it is unique in too many ways-- how true this is. In
December 1986, the State Council designated the place as a famous ancient
historical and cultural city of a national caliber. In 1997, the UNESCO
put Lijiang on a list of the world's major cultural heritages.
|The air antiquity
assumed by the town testifies to the wisdom of the Naxi people in building
it here, not elsewhere. The town is on flatland about 2,400 meters above
sea level. To its north are Mt. Xiangshan and Mt.Jinhong and to its west,
Mt. Shizi, which effectively shield the town from winter winds. For miles
upon miles, cropland expands to the southeast, where the sunshine is
abundant and the climate, mild, characterized by breezes blown from the
south that cools the summer heat in June and July. It is this area that
the local people have turned into a "granary".
||What is especially
interesting is the way people use water from the Jade Springs. The flow is
diverged into the city through three channels. Taking a stroll in the
town, you find water your constant companion, flowing merrily either in a
stream at your side or in tunnels beneath your foot. To the human race,
water means life. To Dayan town, however, it brings not only life, but
also beauty. Unlike those asphalted roads in big cities which are
straight, streets here wind naturally along streams and around hills. On
the West River in the town, there is a sluice-gate which, when lifted,
allows water to pour into the city for street washing.
The Yulong Mountains are located where the Qinghai-Tibet and Yunnan-Guizhou
plateaus interlock, and together they form the peak of the Yunling Mountains--
the southern-most section of the Himalaya Mountain range. Harboring a string of
marine glaciers, the Yunlong mountain range, with snow accumulated over ages,
extends unbroken for 35 kilometers, forming the "Jade Dragon" dancing
in clouds. Its silvery "scales" shining bright, the "dragon"
has a proudly erect "head" in the far north, while its other parts,
rolling south, look like the back of the "dragon." The southernmost
peak, rising 5,596 meters above sea level, is also known as the "jade
pillar that props up the sky."
|Earthen and wooden
housing structures are most popular. A typical courtyard here resembles
what is found in Beijing-- walled and in neat squares, with the principle
rooms facing south. Unlike the Beijing courtyard which has rooms facing
east and west, spacious corridors line both sides of the Nazi courtyard
which also has an imposing arch over the gateway. Bridges are seen
everywhere, linking streets and lanes.
|| Many were built during the Ming and
Qing period from the 14th to the early 20th centuries which have survived
the wars and earthquakes. For all this, the town is known as the
"Venice of China" or the "Suzhou on the plateau."
|The Children of the
land of flowers, the Naxis are fond of flowers and almost every courtyard
is a garden. Moreover, every Naxi courtyard is built at the side of a
ditch with willow trees growing on both sides. Unwritten but rigorous
rules, called "sanyanjing" or "three-hole wells," are
followed with regard to use of water. Water in the uppermost
"hole" or upper-most section of the ditch is meant exclusively
for drinking; the next lower section is where people wash rice and
vegetables for cooking; and washing of clothes is allowed only in the
lower-most section of the ditch.
||The history of the
town dates back to the South Song period (1127-1279). In 1253, Kublai, in
his expedition to conquer the state of dali, came to what is now Lijiang
after his troops crossed the Jinsha river by using inflated bags of animal
hide. That explains why many names of places in the Naxi languages are
transliterations of "army camps," "drilling grounds,"
etc. for the Mongolian language.
In the early years of
the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), there were about 1,000 families in Lijiang, which
constantly grew in size during the Ming-Qing period. The heart of the Dayan Town
is called "Square Street" - a six "mu" (15 "mu" in
one nectare) business center which serves as a hub of communication to Sichuan
Tibet and other parts of Yunnan.
|In the early years of
the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), there were about 1,000 families in Lijiang,
which constantly grew in size during the Ming-Qing period. The heart of
the Dayan Town is called "Square Street" - a six "mu"
(15 "mu" in one nectare) business center which serves as a hub
of communication to Sichuan Tibet and other parts of Yunnan.
||Since the Qing period,
the town, itself a major producer of handicraft articles, has been the
distribution center for goods produced in northwest Yunnan, hence the word
"gong ben" in the Naxi language which means "a place with
| Tibetans send their woolen textiles and medicinal
herbs here for shipment to other parts of China, and tea and articles for
daily use from Xishuang Banna, Fengqing and Xiaguan of Yunnan are sold to
Tibetan areas via the town.By taking advantage of
its geographic location, the town has served as a center of economic and
cultural exchanges between people of the Tibetan, Han, Bai and Naxi ethnic
groups and, moreover, as a shining example of their solidarity.
people of Naxi, while developing their land of snow-clad mountains and
turbulent rivers since ancient times, have to their credit the "Dong
Ba Culture" seen as one of the world wonders, a culture all-embracing
while unique. It refers to the ancient Naxi culture, which is given the name passed down
by "dongbas". Dongba Culture originated from the Primary Naxi
Religion, and believes in the super natural gods and their rule over the
world. It is polytheism and incorporates Lamaism, Buddhism and Daoism.
Dongba shaman, which means "wise man", is a witch doctor,
scholar, craftsman as well as an artist. Dongbas are disseminators of the
||The Dongba scriptures
are a series of more than 20,000 books written in Naxi pictographs with
more than 2000 hieroglyphs, a form of writing invented by the Naxi people
more than a thousand years ago. It is reputed as the encyclopedia of the
ancient times of the Naxi Nationality.
Scroll Painting" and the "Art of Dongba Painting" are invaluable
treasures in the ethnic gallery. Since the early 1960s, some 20,000 volumes of
Dongba documents have been collected and preserved. So far, l,500 volumes have
been translated by the Dongba Research Center in Dayan. An important source of
history, language, social and religious customs of the Naxi people, and some of
them have been published. And in recent years more and more domestic and foreign
scholars have come to Dayan to do research work on Dongba culture.
||Ancient Naxi music is an interesting of the
blending of the blending of the Han and Naxi cultures. Their music can be
categorised into two parts: White Sand Refined Tunes, ancient Naxi folk
music created 700 years ago, and Dongjing Tunes, a blend of Naxi music and
Han music, introduced during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Some Han tunes
vanished from the Central Plains have been preserved by the Naxis and are
now serving as the "living fossils of ancient Chinese music".
There are many veteran folk musicians in Dayan
Town and the Ancient Naxi Music Band has been set up. One of the most famous
folk musicians is Mr. Xuan Ke. Mr. Xuan organized a group and gives performance
in the town.
||As for the
scenic spots in Lijiang, besides the so-called “Square Market” in
Dayan Town, many other places are worth visiting. The nearest place is
Black Dragon Pool, the Yuquan (Jade Spring) Park at the foot of the
Xiangshan Mountain north of the city of Lijiang derives its name from the
pool, which is as sparkling as jade and as clear as spring water. The
entire park, tucked away in the shades of swaying willow trees, is covered
with green grass. Under the Shuocui Bridge a waterfall creates a constant
roar as it cascades down the stream.
|Fifteen kilometres from the ancient city of Lijiang stands the Yulong
Xueshan (Snow Mountain in the image of a Jade - Carved Dragon), a modern
maritime glacier in the southernmost of northern latitudes. Shanzidou, the
main peak of the mountain, looks like a gigantic dragon, clad in white
snow all the year round at an altitude of 5,596 metres above sea level.
Access to the top of the mountain is provided by a cableway from the foot
of the mountain to Yunshanping ( Dragon Spruce Meadow ). Two cableways for
skiers are under construction.
||Shigu (Stone Drum ) is a town of the Lijiang Naxi Autonomous County which
is situated 70 kilometres from the seat of Lijiang County. It is where the
Yangtze River, following a northwest course, plunges head - on into a high
and cragged cliff, takes a sharp U-turn - believed to be the river's first
bend as it flows on - and changes its course in a northeast direction.
||Hutiao ( tiger leaping ) Gorge Extending for 15 kilometres from the Yulong
Xueshan Mountain in Lijiang to the Haba Xueshan Mountain in Zhongdian.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is one the longest, deepest and narrowest gorges in
the world. According to local
legend, the gorge acquired its name because at its narrowest point, a mere
30 meters wide, a tiger leaped over its swirling waters.
|The Lugu Lake is set in a dense forest between the Ninglang Yi Autonomous
County of Yunnan Province and Yanyuan County of Sichuan Province and 300
kilometres from Dayan Town of Liliang. The environment around the lake is well preserved where the air is fresh,
the water pollution-free, and the scenery incredibly delightful. The shore
of the lake is home to the Musuo people, a branch of the ethnic Naxi group
who retain the vestiges of a matriarchal society.
|Apart from its mesmerising scenery, the exotic
folklore of the local people lends the lake a mysterious air. The lake's
shores re home to the ethnic Mosuo people, who are still living under
matriarchy. A typical Mosuo family is composed of a dozen or so
individuals, all descendants of one ancestral mother. Each family is led
by the grandmother of the oldest generation, and a capable female member,
who also controls the family purse, runs daily life. The uncles are in
charge of production and also take care of the children born by the
females out of their "visiting marriage".
||The marriage of the Mosuo people is uniquely
romantic. A man and a woman may get to know each other through work or
during festivals or rural fairs. When they become intimate, the man will
visit the woman and stay for the night, but leaves the next morning,
making sure that nobody sees him. The Mosuo people, though, do not regard
this relationship, as marriage. If the woman gets pregnant through this
relationship, the future child belongs to her and the child has no idea
that the father is.
This unique marriage system gives rise to unique
traditions among the Mosuos. All members share the possessions in the family;
family property is inherited along the maternal line. When the matriarch grows
too old to manage the family, she will choose a wise, capable, amicable, and
sociable female member from among the sisters as her successor. The Mosuos take
great pride in bearing a daughter; a daughterless family means the lineage is in
danger, and girl has to be adopted. This "visiting marriage" system
prompted scholars to term the Mosuo people the "last domain of the
matriarchy society in the world". A visit to the Lugu Lake convinces one
that the "women's kingdom" described in the Chinese classic Journey to
the West is not a far-fetched tale but a solid reality.
Back to Top