in south China's Yunnan Province, is the only Chinese city listed on
UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list. With a history of 1,300 years, it
is generally referred to as the Old Town of Lijiang, home to the ancient
Dongba culture and a major scenic area in China.
Location (Map source: China Daily)
is heavily populated by people of Naxi nationality. It is the county
seat of the Naxi Autonomous County. It is situated on a plateau at an
elevation of 2,600m and is impressive because of its scenery and lush
vegetation. With the Jade Dragon Mountain as
backdrop, the old town has adapted itself harmoniously to the natural
scenery. The architecture is especially noteworthy for the blending of
elements from several cultures that have come together over many
centuries. Lijiang maintains an ancient water-supply system of great
complexity and ingenuity that is still functioning effectively.
Location (Map source: China Daily)
Set off from Dali, take
the Yunnan-Tibetan Highway, drive northward for 400 km, and you will
reach the old town of Lijiang, another ancient city of historical and
cultural heritage. It is a land of mystery and elegance.
Dayan Town, the center of Lijiang, is surrounded by the Lion Mountain to
the west and by the Elephant Mountain and the Golden Rainbow Mountain to
the north. To its south and east stretch fertile fields for miles on
end. It is an intact ancient city inhabited mostly by people of the Naxi
ethnic group. (The people of Naxi, while developig their land of
snow-clad mountains and turbulent river since ancient times, have to
their credit the "Dong Ba Culture" seen as one).
A birdís eye view at the top of the Lion Mountain gives you a full
picture of the city spread four main streets which then split into dozen
of streets and lanes, creating the pattern of a web. In the center of
each street or lane lies a space that serves as the neighbourhood fair
in the daytime and as the resting place for the mornings and evenings.
Paved with natural colourful stone slabs, the streets neither get muddy
on rainy days nor turn dusty in dry weather. The branches and blossoms
stick out from the roofs or walls of the shops and houses, projecting
mottled shadows on the stone-paved lanes. Stone is the common foundation
of the house and timer as the material. Most houses have a screen wall
in the front and some have a quadruple courtyard.
Lijiang is favoured with plentiful sunshine, an easterly wind and clear
spring water within easy access to every family. Willow trees and
flowing springs make you imagine that you might be in a city by the
water in Southeast China. Occasionally, couples of Naxi women can be
seen walking along the streets, wearing broad-sleeved-and-broad-waited
blouses, long trousers inside frill and boat-shaped embroidered shoes.
The ancestors of the Naxi ethnic group created the mysterious Dongba
Culture focused on the Dongba Religion. According to the legend, the
founder of the Dongba Religion, with his supernatural abilities learned
from the deities, killed the monster and the ghosts, bringing peace to
the local people. Dongba believer practice witchcraft and are skilled in
medicine. The Dongba Culture in turn fostered the world-renowned Dongba
Civilization, as can be found in the Dongba Script reputed as the only
surviving hieroglyph in the world. Various aspects of the Dongba
Civilization such as the appealing Dongba music, the vivid and romantic
Dongba literature, the unique Dongba paintings and the wild and warm
Dongba dances are all evidence to its profoundness. So tourists
interested in folk customs will not be disappointed by the city.
In the eyes of the Naxi folks, happiness is derived from a unity with
nature, and the chief pursuit lies in music and painting. As the Naxi
women do most of the labour, the men have plenty of free time to develop
their abilities in music, painting and poetry. In the twilight, a group
of elderly Naxi people can be found singing in the streets by the river.
One man dose the solo and all the others serve as the chorus. Through
the Naxi language is beyond the comprehension of outsiders, their love
of life is clearly written all over their faces.
The Yulong Snow Mountain that pierces into the sky is a permanent
background of the city. With its altitude above 4,500 meters, the
north-south mountain has 12 peaks, the main peak reaching 5,596 meters.
The best place to appreciate the Yulong Snow Mountain is the Spruce
Ground, a highland ranch with breath-taking beauty. The green grass,
yellow flowers and straight spruce trees seem to whisper to you an
ancient legend. It goes like this: On the Yulong Snow Mountain lives a
couple of gods of love who dominate a kingdom of love. True lovers who
cannot be united in the earthly world can go to the Spruce Ground and
cry out the name of the gods of love who will then take the lovers to
the flower land and grant them an everlasting happy life.