Mysterious Naxi culture
The lovely Naxi town of Lijiang is located in a fertile valley 2’400 meters above seal level at the foot of the 5’596 meter high Yulong Shan or Jade Dragon Mountain. The area around Lijiang is inhabited by the Naxi people. The Naxi are of Tibetan origin and settled in the Lijiang region of Yunnan perhaps 2000 years ago. In ancient times the Naxi were followers of the Dongba religion (animist spirit and ancestor worship). Over time Dongba mixed with Buddhism, Taoism and Islam but it retains its own characteristics and is still referred to as “Dongba”.
The Naxi are famous for the creation of their own written language more than 1,000 years ago, using a combination of symbols and pictographs. There are several famous ancient Dongba texts written in this language. Lijiang came into the spotlight after a devastating earthquake flattened most of the new town in 1996. During the reconstruction, Lijiang came also to the attention of the UNESCO, which added Old Town Lijiang to the World Cultural Heritage List in 1997.
With the construction of the new Airport began the influx of millions of Chinese tourist and with it came the big changes: Most of its labyrinth of cobbled stone alleys is now lined with tourist-shops, bars and over priced restaurants. However, despite the drastic recent changes, an early morning stroll through old town Lijiang should be part of every travel itinerary. Some visitors find Lijiang too much of a circus and opt to head out to the quiet and more authentic smaller villages in the surroundings.