Maureen's Adventures in Asia travel blog

Make a Wish

Lijiang old town at Night


Once you pass the Waterwheel at the entrance of the Old Lijiang Town, we will find yourself transported into a world of narrow cobblestone streets bordering canals of crystal clear freshly melted snow. Walk the narrow streets, explore traditional charming old houses, watch (and join) the Naxi women dance in the square and you will soon love the Naxi Culture and its people in Lijiang.

The drive from Dali to Lijiang is amazing. Its a scenic drive with Mt. Cangshan on one side and the Erhai Lake on the other. Lijiang means "beautiful River", a name given by Kublai Khan in 1254. It has kept unchanged since the Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D.-1644A.D.) when the town was founded. Lijiang, possibly the best-preserved old town in China, is one of the last places in this country where we can witness and experience a historical, traditional, ancient urban culture. Remarkably, the old houses with stone foundations, plastered whitewashed brick walls, red wooden doors, shutters and balconies, and sloping tiled roofs, survived a recent earthquake without much damage, while the new concrete buildings were flattened. The canals are lined with weeping willows and decorative arched bridges linking one alley to the next.

The Nazi civilization is as old as the wrinkled cobblestone streets. When you first meet the Naxi people, their flushed pink cheeks and smiling eyes bespeak a kind of purity and warmth absent in most of Asia. The traditional Naxi in Lijiang choose to be living examples of their unique heritage. They are descendants of Tibetan nomads and form a matriarchal society where friendship rules, marriage is not practised and women hold more power in the social order than the male of the species. Children are brought up by their maternal family, and the Naxi clan is often described as "a society without fathers or husbands."

Naxi culture is a proliferation of its core religion, Dongbaism. This ancient religion is believed to have originated from the Dongba Shilo, a shaman who lived in eastern Tibet 900 years ago. Dongba religion teaches the belief in supernatural gods and incorporates influences from Lamaism, Buddhism and Taoism. Dongba mythology is also based on the faith that "Nature" and "Man" are half-brothers who share the same paternal bloodline. Precisely because the Naxi respect their environment, Lijiang's pristine beauty has been well preserved until today. At the Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture situated near Black Dragon Pool, you can see displays of more than 1,300 Dongba pictographs, which constitute the only artistic script in the 21st century that still uses hieroglyphics.

Most evenings were spent in the square watching the Naxi wormen dance, and enjoying the beautifully lit temple. But you must tear yourself away for one evening, and enjoy a traditonal Naxi concert. Classical Taoist music featuring early versions of instruments such as lutes, three-string violins and cymbals. This is one of the few places in China where this music/instruments are still played. Many of the muscians are ancient, with long one Confusious beards, and they play the original instruments (which they had buried during the cultural revolution for safe-keeping). These rebels keep the anicent music and instruments alive in spite of the government.

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