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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bridges, streams and old abodes: Spring scenes of Yunnan bewitch visitors

Setting out for a trip in Spring to China's southwestern province of Yunnan, inhabited with several ethnic minorities, visitors never miss the chance to be intoxicated amid a sea of flowers and unique wooden houses with a history stretching back hundreds of years.

Leg One: Lijiang 

 Shuhe Ancient Town 

The wind chimes enshrined with love and blessings hanging on an ancient tree clanged in gentle breezes. Beneath the tree stretch alleyways of slate and cobbles, zigzagging through the community of Shuhe Ancient Town in Lijiang, Yunnan Province. Along the labyrinth of the streets, the rippling streams glistened in the morning sun announcing the coming of a new day.
Sustained by ticket charges and small businesses, such as food, handicrafts, art products, hostels and restaurants, the legacy of the town survives the advent of modern commercialism and impresses visitors with its well-preserved buildings, bridges and creeks, as well as the entire landscape, where the intangible cultural heritage dominated by the Naxi Ethnic Group is housed and protected.
When an evolution from paper pulp to pixels has taken place, it is surprising to find that the ancient handicraft of paper-making in Naxi has endured and continues to flourish with exquisite designs, such as, diaries and paper lamps installed with compact florescent bulbs, an integration between old and new.
Connecting Lijiang, Diqing (where Shangri-la is located) and Tibet, Suhe Ancient Town used to be an important staging post along the Ancient Route of Tea and Horses where caravans traversed precipitous cliffs and roaring rivers to bring parcels of fermented Pu'er Tea by horseback to Tibetan drinkers. The itinerary comprises one of the most courageous, tedious and splendid adventures undertaken by Chinese merchants.
To get more knowledge about the ancient lifestyle in Lijang, one can go against the stream to reach the Museum of Tea and Horses Routes or Dajue Palace, a quadrangle dwelling tucked away in an alleyway. There are plenty of photos, relics and ancient Buddhist murals created as early as the 1580s. In addition to Marco Polo, who mentioned Suhe in his travelogue, Joseph Rock, the Austrian-American geographer and linguist reached Lijiang early in the last century and dedicated himself to the study of Naxi cultures. Moreover, during World War II, the Tea and Horses Route in Lijiang served as a guiding point for Chinese and American pilots flying "The Hump" to break through the blockades built by the Japanese invaders in China.
Dayan Ancient Town

An ancient compound established in 1382 on a 369-meter axis was actually an abode of the old magistrate family surnamed Mu in Lijiang. The administration of Mu enjoyed high prestige reflected by the decorations of stone-chiseled dragons that were entitled to have a claw of four fingers, while, the supreme power in Beijing was signaled with five. Built of wood and mud and influenced by both Han and Tibetan culture, the reading hall inside the courtyard stored thousands of volumes of Tibetan Buddhist scriptures while enshrining the divine spirit of Confucius.
Truly understanding the old verities of benevolence and magnanimity, the chief of the mansion built a suspended corridor for his procession when it needed to march among the buildings that connected with external streets. The corridor helped the parade proceed without disturbing the normal operations of the ordinary families on the streets. However, it is interesting that people who cross the corridor need to go back precisely by the same route, otherwise, they are unable to get out of the mansion.
Generally speaking, apart from Confucianism and Tibetan Buddhism, the religious beliefs of the Naxi people can be defined as the consecrated spirit of nature and the souls of creatures under heaven.
Despite the hustle and bustle of the commercial streets replete with bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and accommodation in Dayan Ancient Town, the mansion is a tranquil retreat witnessing the vicissitudes over the centuries.
Leg Two: Tiger Leaping Gorge

Located on the upper reaches of the fast-running Jinsha River, Tiger Leaping Gorge lies in the middle of the road heading from Lijiang to Diqing, and attracts numerous backpackers to spend generally two to three days trekking along the river banks. For those who are unable or unwilling to experience such toil, a sightseeing platform at the upper part of the Gorge gives a good view of the ferocity of the tides slapping on the rocks in the canyon.
Leg Three: Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-la, Diqing

One may be sanctified when taking a pilgrimage to Songzanlin Monastery, known as the smaller Potala Palace in Shangri-la, Diqing. Established in 1679 by the 5th Dalia Lama, the monastery is a vital religious compound that houses nearly 1,000 lamas. Once being a lama, who enjoys great prestige among Tibetan people, the Buddhist disciple can never resume secular life, nor get married and have children.
According to Tibetan Buddhism, genuine belief never contains secular purposes and desires but only admiration and awe to the rules of nature. Opposite to the monastery is a celestial burial site, where deceased Tibetans make their last contribution by giving their flesh and bones to the swooping hawks, a consecrated ceremony for one to return to nature and await reincarnation.
Lit up by the first rays of morning sun, the monastery is an important landmark that well defines the meaning of Shangri-la—the Sun and the Moon in the heart.
Leg Four: Dali
Chongsheng Temple

The three pagodas of the Chongsheng Temple in Dali, the city home to the Bai Ethnic Group, is a Buddhist religious site with a history of more than 1,000 years. With their octagonal eaves, a norm of local architecture, the three equi-distant towers have a transverse section forming an equilateral triangle.
Standing as a border, south of which there are no mountains able to reach as high as 3,500 meters, the snow-capped Mt. Cangshan is replete with waterfalls. Its seven lagoons in the middle of the mountain shaped by cascades of annual melting snow have been romanticized as Swimming Pools for the Seven Dragon Divinities. The causeway paved to connect three different cable car stations serves as a sightseeing corridor for visitors to experience the bushy and tranquil retreat, is called the Jade Belt of the Divinities. When rays of the setting sun penetrate the clouds and shed light on the mountain, dying it in immense and fierce redness, there is a splendid picture that resembles the legendary Buddha Light on Earth.
Leg Five: Kunming
Mt. West
Facing the vast Dian Lake, dubbed as the pearl on China's southwestern plateau, Mt. West in Kunming is home to a cluster of halls and sites that well demonstrate the essence of Chinese culture, a combination of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. Although visitors may need to take a cableway across the lake to the mountain, the sites they reach, such as Lingxu Cabinet, Gate of Dragon (the crossing of which could mean one winning first position in the imperial exam) and a stone fictionalized as an abandoned one when the Chinese goddess had managed to fill the crevices of the sky, are full of cultural and natural features that form a feast for the eyes and hearts.
Overlooking the Dian Lake, one can enjoy a scene of rippling waves and swirling vapor. At the same time, the sites of the mountain enshrined with legends reflecting the values of Chinese conventional culture, such as filial piety, benevolence and longevity, have indicated the belief, faith and merits of the Chinese people.
Jiangwu Military School

The memories of numerous defeats in wars in the last two centuries suffered by China always reminds people of the humiliating history and their brave predecessors, thanks to whose sweat, agonies and sacrifices the nation was able to rise again. The site of Jiangwu Military School, one of China's earliest ground military army training institutes, established by the legendary General Cai E (1882-1916), known for his struggle against Yuan Shikai's proclamation as emperor in 1915, and flourishing at the hands of Tang Jiyao (1883-1927), a revolutionary-turned-magistrate in Yunnan, is a reminiscent historic spot. A constellation of brave men, such as, Marshal Zhu De (1886-1976) and Ye Jianying (1897-1986), were among the alumni of the school, where they received military training before heading for the battlefields. Their sweat and blood to which we are much indebted have rescued the country from the abyss of chaos and enslavement and redirected its path to peace and prosperity.


from China Travel & Tourism News
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