China Lijiang City:
Lijiang is located in northern Yunnan Province, covers an area of 7485.2 square kilometers with a population of 306,000, among which the Naxi nationality is 168,000. The average annual temperature is 12.6 and the annual rainfall is 900 to 1200 mm.
Lijiang is a town of historic and cultural interest. Besides the scenery, Lijiang's draw is the 750-year-old Naxi town of Dayan. It is the best and last of its kind in the country.
The Naxi people migrated to Lijiang long ago from northeastern Tibet. Their original religion, called Dongba after the name of its ritual specialists, resembles the nature worship and other concepts of pre-Buddhist Tibet. It has aroused the interest of the world's scholars, particularly because the Dongbas' religious manuscripts were written with their own pictographic script.
Naxi men have maintained a musical tradition. The first classical Naxi orchestra was founded under Kublai Khan's patronage, and the music and tradition have remained unchanged for over seven centuries. Naxi women are responsible for the hewing and hauling, marketing, most of the fieldwork, and managing the family's money. Men still retain ownership of the property, however.
The costumes of the women reflect their responsibilities and feature a sheep-skin "seven-starred cape". Frog-shaped, the top is black and the bottom white, representing night and day, while across the center seven embroidered circlets represent the stars of the Big Dipper.
A true matrilineal society exists northeast of Lijiang among the Mosu, in the area of Lugu Lake. There, the house and land pass from mother to daughter, and all children remain permanently attached to their mother's household. Most Mosu still practice their "walking marriage" custom, whereby the man comes to the woman's house only at night and returns to his mother's in the morning. Women manage the household, and fieldwork and men are very much in the background.
Criss-crossed by canals and a maze of narrow streets, the old town is not to be missed. Arrive by mid-morning to see the market square full of Naxi women in traditional dress. Parrots and plants adorn the front porches, old women sell griddle cakes in front of teahouses, men walk past with hunting falcons proudly keeping balance on their gloved fists, and more old women energetically slam down the trumps on a card table in the middle of the street. You can buy embroidery and lengths of striped cloth in shop around the market.
Above the old town is a beautiful park which can be reached on the path leading past the radio antenna. Sit on the slope in the early morning and watch the mist clearing as the old town comes to life.
Now acting as sentinel of sorts for the town is the Wan Gou Lou, a pagoda being raised at a cost of over one million yuan. It's famed for a unique design using dozens of four storey pillars, and these were culled from northern Yunnan old-growth forests.
Lijiang is the base of the Naxi ( also spelt Nakhi and Nahi)minority, who number about 278,000 in Yunnan and Sichuan. The Naxi are descended from Tibetan nomads and lived until recently in matriarchal families, though local rulers were always male. Women still seem to run the show, certainly in the old part of Lijiang.
The Naxi matriarchs maintained their hold over the men with flexible arrangements for joint residence. Both partners would continue to live in their respective homes; the boyfriend would spend the nights at his girlfriend's house but return to live and work at his mother's house during the day. Any children born to the couple belonged to the woman, who was responsible for bringing them up. The father provided support, but once the relationship was over, so was the support. Children lived with their mothers; no special effort was made to recognize paternity. Women inherited all property, and disputes were adjudicated by female elders.The matriarchal system appears to have survived around Yongning, north of Lijiang.
There are strong matriarchal influences in the Naxi language. Nouns enlarge their meaning when the word for ' female' is added; conversely, the addition of the word for' male' will decrease the meaning. For example, 'stone' plus ' female' conveys the idea of a boulder; 'stone' plus 'male' conveys the idea of a pebble.
Naxi women wear blue blouses and trousers covered by blue or black aprons. The T-shaped traditional cape not only stops the basket always worn on the back from chafing, but also symbolizes the heavens. Day and night are represented by the light and dark halves of the cape; seven embroidered circles symbolize the stars. Two larger circles, one on each shoulder, are used to depict the eyes of a frog, which until the 15th century was an important god to the Naxi. With the decline of animist beliefs, the frog eyes fell out of fashion, but the Naxi still call the cape by its original name:" frog-eye sheepskin".
The Naxi created a written language over1000 years ago using an extraordinary system of pictographs. The most famous Naxi text is the Dongba classic The Creation, and ancient copies of it and other texts can still be found in Lijiang, as well as in the archives of some and mediators between the Naxi and the spirit world. The Dongba religion eventually absorbed itself into an amalgam of Lamaist Buddhism, Islam and Taoism. The Tibetan origins of the Naxi are confirmed by references in Naxi literature to Lake Manasarovar and Mt Kailas, both in western Tibet.
Shigu (Stone Drum) Ferry
Some 68 kilometers west of the town of Shigu on the Jinsha River which is part of the Yangtze River, the ferry, located on the so-called "First Bend of the Yangtze", has been of strategic importance since ancient times. Legend has it that the armies of Zhuge Liang, Prime Minister of the Shu State in the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), and of Kublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) crossed the river at this ferry on their southern expeditions.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Some 50 kilometers northeast of Shigu Town in Lijiang County, the 16-kilometer gorge is only 30 meters wide at the narrowest point, with cliffs on both sides rising 3,000 meters above the water surface. The water flow roars and passes seven steep slopes, dropping a total of 196 meters. The gorge is among the deepest, most precipitous and most magnificent gorges in the world.
After making its first turn at Shigu the mighty Yangtzi River ( at this point known as the Jinsha River) surges between the Haba Mountains and the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, through what is one of the deepest gorges in the world. The entire gorge measures 16km, and from the waters of the Yangtzi to the mountaintops is a giddy 3900m.
Within five years the hike through the gorge went from obscure to the can's-miss experience of northern Yunnan, although you'll probably only encounter several other travelers on the trail. All up, plan on spending three of four days away from Lijiang doing the hike. Ideally you can do the walk in two days, although some travelers, enchanted with Walnut Grove, have lengthened it to over a week.
One American hiked through the gorge on one day, but if you didn't bring your superhero suit you'll have to stay overnight at Walnut Grove. It's worth spending an era day in Daju. It is a good town featuring the Tiger Leaping Gorge Hotel- a great place to stay.
First built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) north of the town, the 17-meter-high, 3-story tower is of unique and complicated architectural structure, with the first story in an octagonal shape, the second story dodecagon, and the third story quadrangle.
Painted during a period of 350 years in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911) on the walls of a dozen Buddhist and Taoist temples, the murals are created by painters of various nationalities, such as Han, Tibetan, Naxi and Bai. The murals mostly depict religious stories with vivid images, colorful ethnic styles and strong local flavor.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
The mountain is 5,600 meters (18,400 ft) in altitude and the best-known massif in the province. First climbed in the 1960s, is 13 peaks are mantled with permanent snow. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is home to half of Yunnan's 13,000 plants species, 400 kinds of trees, dozens of flowers types, and one-third of China's known species of medicinal herbs and plants. Its many ravines, creeks, cliffs, and meadows all have Naxi names and are settings for the myths and legends of these people, who have made the plain their homeland for a thousand years.
Still heavily forested, the mountain bursts into bloom every spring when the camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas start flowering. Herders take their cattle, goats, sheep, and yaks to graze on its slopes. In autumn, a portion of the pines turns amber yellow, while the leaves on deciduous trees present patches of orange, bright yellow, and scarlet.
Hei Long Tan Park
The park which means Black Dragon Pool is situated on the northern edge of town. Apart from strolling around the pool, the visitors can also visit the Dongba Research Institute, which is part of a renovated complex on the hillside. There is a small museum with Dongba scrolls and artifacts on display.
At the far side of the pool are renovated buildings used for an art exhibition, a pavilion with its own bridge across the water and the Five-Phoenix Temple built in the Ming Dynasty.