Saturday, May 05, 2007

Lijiang - Naxi Music, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Feminine Power

Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China - home to the Naxi minority group, land of snow-clad mountains, fur-clad horseman, and feminine power.

Last year, a broken leg kept my son and me from joining the family on the long-planned trip through Yunnan. This year, a visit from Cynthia gave me the opportunity to try again. And so, you'll find a combination of pictures from last March's trip and this April's trip. I hope you enjoy.

Lijiang was the capital of the Naxi people. The Naxi - actually comprised of a number of smaller groups - are traditionally matriarchal. Still today, most of the work is done by the women and most of the wealth is held by the women. This painting, from the wall of the Naxi school, symbolizes much of the feminine power of this region. The key figure is Shu, the Naxi Goddess of Nature with a frog head, human body and serpent tails.

In the 8th century, a pictographic script was created to capture the history, religion and customs. This culture is called the Dongba culture. This gentleman stands before the Dongba Museum/Nightly Show. With his ever present smile, capped by his pheasant plumed hat, we only wonder what he smokes in his 4 ft pipe.

The town principles are outlined in Mandarin, English and Naxi script at the entrance to the old town. A great comparison of the forms of writing, not to mention some good mottos to live by.

During the mornings everyday, you'll find older people demonstrating the more traditional singing, music and dancing. Following on their heels are the fur clad horsemen, ready to give you a ride (or sit) on their mountain ponies.

More formal music Naxi music is found in the evenings. The emcee proudly introduces the 8 or so members of the band who are over 80; the oldest being 92. I expect every audience wonders which of the many will fall asleep during a performance or perhaps not make it through. Or perhaps the dissonance (to the western ear) is good for the heart and soul!

When the formal music reaches an uncomfortable pitch, the visitor need only wander to the restaurants to find a new level of singing. Bars and restaurants line either side of a cobblestoned canal area. With windows flung open no matter the temperature, guests drape themselves out of the 2nd floor windows and engage in singing (shouting??) competitions to similarly situated patrons across the canal. Led on by costumed women and conducting tourists,, the patrons, tourists, and passing travelers seem to be enjoying themselves - at least those who understand Mandarin.

A trip to Lijiang isn't complete with a trip through Black Dragon Pool Park with its vistas of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Visit the temple, hang a lock on the fence, explore the Dongba Research Institute Museum and take the obligatory photos.

Here's the family from last year.

... and when the bars, restaurants and music become just a bit too much, there's always the shopping.

Lijiang details: Last year's stay was the Moon Inn - the most expensive room is wonderful with magnificent views of the old town. Some of the smaller singles/twins are not so great.

This year's stay was at the Swiss Snow Inn. With quite low temperatures (I put on every layer I owned), the well-tended fireplace and bar were a great plus.

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