Lijiang, Yunnan: City of the Naxi

City square of Lijiang Old City, Yuunan, China (2012)

City square of Lijiang Old City, Yuunan, China (2012)

Attraction List:

  • • Black Dragon Pool (August 12)
    • Old Town Lijiang
    (August 12)
    • Naxi Dongba Cultural Museum
    (August 13)
    • Baisha Village and murals
    (August 13)
    • Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and yak meadow
    (August 12-13)
    • Suke Ancient Town
    (August 13)

The car made its way into the northwest plain of Yunnan province. Lijiang the ancient city—home to the Naxi people—sprawled across the plain is flanked by a snowy monolith known as the Jade Dragon (Yulong) Snow Mountain. The mountain range comprises of 13 peaks that symbolize the 13 swords used by the Jade Dragon to fight a notorious fiend in a well-known legend.

Black Dragon Pool, Lijiang, Yuunan, China (2012)

Black Dragon Pool, Lijiang, Yuunan, China (2012)

In Lijiang, there are many scenic parks nearby the city to take strolls. One famous park is the Black Dragon Pool, where pagodas flank on both sides of a calm stream. Undoubtedly, a place meant for relaxing.

Strolling along the streets of Lijiang, Yuunan, China (2012)

Strolling along the streets of Lijiang, Yuunan, China (2012)

Walking along the maze-like streets of the old city Lijiang, one can see stone carvings depicting the Naxi people’s lifestyle and culture outside the main square. A stall sat in the center of the square selling bell charms with two wooden signs depicting pictographs called Dongba characters.

Each pictograph represented a wish whether it is for family harmony, career, love, or a good birth. It is said that if the bells fall off of the charm, then your wish is granted. As for me, I purchased one for a good career and family.

Dongba charms (2012)

Dongba charms (2012)

The city seemed abuzz with an upcoming local celebration called the “Torch Festival” that takes place in August. Wooden torches were being set up in the big squares. When dark falls, the torches are lit and the local people dance and celebrate, bringing in fortune and good luck. Our guide, Susan, told us that tonight the torches would be lit—a sight that we looked forward to.

The Naxi people gather and are ready to burst into dance for the Torch Festival that usually takes place in August

The Naxi people gather and are ready to burst into dance for the Torch Festival that usually takes place in August

We continued our way past well-preserved Chinese buildings housing modern and local shops and restaurants. We stopped at a tea house to try a selection of local teas, including Puer tea and red tea. The hostess was friendly and educated us on how to tell the difference between the Puer teas—one made from the tips of oak leaves and the regular one. We explored the city some more before having dinner in an outdoor restaurant near the restaurant district.

Tea tasting in Lijiang

Tea tasting in Lijiang

After dinner, we enjoyed the nightlife of the city and joined in the dancing.

Dongba characters at the Dongba Cultural Museum

Dongba characters at the Dongba Cultural Museum

The following day we visited the Xaxi Dongba Cultural Museum, which houses valuable information about the writing system and rituals of the Naxi people.

The Dongba priest wrote for me a phrase from Confucius' Analects:

The Dongba priest wrote for me a phrase from Confucius’ Analects: “When you revisit past teachings, you will learn something new.”

According to tradition, this knowledge and rituals are passed down only to the male generation—either taught by a father or grandfather versed in Dongba culture or through 30 years of study to become a shaman/priest. The Dongba characters are very similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs in that they are relatable to aspects of life. I was lucky to have the resident shaman write me a phrase in Dongba characters as a souvenir.

Next we visited the Baisha village to see murals depicting both Buddhism and Taoism scenes. Noticeably, murals depicted symbols form both Buddhism and Taoism, representing the harmonious relationship of the religions in Lijiang.

Yak Meadow near the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yuunan, China

Yak Meadow near the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yuunan, China

With harmony in religion, there is harmony with the scenery. Our next visit took us to the Yak Meadow, where on a clear, sunny day one can get a glimpse of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in all her glory.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yuunan, China

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yuunan, China

Unfortunately for us, there were a lot of misty clouds giving the overall scene a sense of mystery and awe.

A Tibetan Buddhist Temple in the Yak Meadow, Lijiang, Yuunan, China

A Tibetan Buddhist Temple in the Yak Meadow, Lijiang, Yuunan, China

Suke Ancient Town, Lijiang, Yuunan, China

Suke Ancient Town, Lijiang, Yuunan, China

Our final stop in Lijiang was the Suke Ancient Town—a well-preserved city that depicts the daily life of the Naxi people. It was another fine stop for tea.

Additional Comments

Of all the places visited in Yunnan, Lijiang was the most inspiring. It reminds me of the ancient towns that are depicted in Chinese historical dramas, where the martial arts and poetry thrive. This is a place that I would not mind revisiting.

References

Omniglot. (2014). Naxi scripts (Dongba, Geba and Latin) and language. Retrieved from http://www.omniglot.com/writing/naxi.htm
Wenlong, C., ed. (1999). World Cultural and Natural Heritage (China Volume): The Lijiang Old City. Beijing, China: China Pictorial Publishing House.

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