Day 4 - Shaxi - Lijiang (2500m high) (B)
Head to Lijiang which takes around 2h30 to 3 hours to travel the almost 100 km /60 mile journey. This magnificent labyrinth of traditional redwood and brick houses topped with grey slate roofs, canals, stone bridges and cobbled streets in 1999 was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Small interior courtyards are furnished with flowers and bushes to which the locals tend and that give this town its beautiful, and special, aroma. It’s a real paradise at the heart of Naxi culture. Originally coming from Tibet over 2000 years ago, the Naxi first lived as nomads in Sichuan before settling in Yunnan. There are around 300,000 Naxi People living in China, found mostly in Yunnan and Sichuan. They are most notable for their expertise in canal building which assures each home has running water, Lijiang being a perfect example, their literature, religion, and by their social organisation which is both “matrilocal” (whereby couples move in with the wife’s family) and “matrilineal” (where succession favours females over males).
The Dongba script is the keystone of the Naxi culture, supposed to be the only pictographic writing still in use in the world, and whose shamans (we are now on the fingers of the hand) are the guarantors. The Canon Dongba is a veritable encyclopaedia of over 1000 volumes that describe the Naxi mythology and deal with cosmology and astronomical treaties.
In Naxi culture, there is no marriage as sexual liberty takes precedence over formalised unions. Children, who do not know their fathers, are raised by their mothers, aunts and maternal uncles. Additionally the Naxi are split into 2 groups, including the Na (eastern branch) who live near the Lugu Lake and whose society still operates based around matriarchal clans.
We recommend an early rise to enjoy the peace and quiet of the early morning. Lijiang is also known as the “Big Inkpot” due to the network of canals which flow through the village resembling an inkpot that has been knocked over. Crossing over the labyrinth of alleyways you will arrive at the “Lion Hill” which offers you a fantastic view over the village below. At the top, there will be a chance for a quick coffee break on the terrace so you can relax after your ascent to the top.
Afterwards, we will visit the Mu Palace which is named after the Chinese Empire warlords who ruled from this magnificent residence in this region during the Mongol Dynasty (13th century). The palace is a vivid example of Ming and Qing architecture, based on the same style of architecture as the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Following the visit to the palace we will head to the edge of the old town where you will be able to enjoy the local market and get a feel for the ‘real’ Lijiang, where you will see locals still dressed in traditional clothing selling teas, vegetables, fruits and even daily tools in a very vibrant and animated atmosphere.
From here we will walk to the Black Dragon Pond Park in the north of the town which offers, on a clear day, a panoramic view of the famous Jade Dragon Mountain which you will visit the next day.
We will then head back to the vibrant heart of the old town.
Note: the pond is now dry, Yunnan Province is a victim of repeated drought in nearly two years
You will be free to enjoy the evening yourselves, wandering around the town as the night falls and red lanterns are placed outside people’s homes.
Note: This day will be spent entirely on foot, and as sometimes the cobbled streets can sometimes be slightly slippery we recommend wearing sturdy shoes. The order in which we visit the sites may be modified depending on the hotel in which we stay.