Currently I am exploring a 800 year old village called Lijiang (a minority town in Yunnan). Lijiang is one of the many places which are at times nicknamed “Venice of the East” because of the abundance of waterways and canals (“Venice of South West China” would perhaps be slightly more accurate). Lijiang has magnificent views of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which consists of 13 peaks with an average altitude of more than 5000 meters.

The minority that occupies this city is named “Nakhi”. They are one of the officially recognised minorities in China. The Nakhi are thought to have come originally from northwestern China, migrating south toward Tibetan populated regions, and usually inhabiting the most fertile river-side land, driving the other competing tribes farther up the hillsides onto less fertile land. The Nakhi, along with Bai and Tibetans, traded over the dangerous overland trading links with Lhasa and India, on the so-called Tea and Horse Caravan routes.

Nakhi culture has its own native Dongba religion, literary and farming practices, influenced by the Confucian roots of Han Chinese history, and also by the group’s Tibetan neighbors. Especially in the case of their musical scores, it acts as the foundation of the Nakhi literature. While in Lijiang I attended one of their Orchestra performances. The Nakhi have their own writing, their own distinct language and their own native dress. Nakhi women have always been well known for their hand-made embroidery.

Before the cultural revolution there were a couple of foreigners living here. Peter Goullart, who wrote “Forgotten Kingdom” and biologist Joseph Rock, who wrote “The Ancient Na-Khi Kingdom of Southwest China ”. I immediately ordered the first edition of Goulant’s book, and then found out that Rock’s one is more of a collectors item. It will be difficult to get a hold of a copy.

 

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