Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Li Jiang, Dali, and Back to Beijing-Oct'07

After our Ruili visit, we are off on vacation to Lijiang. This requires us to take a 3 hour ride back to Luxi , take a 1 hour plane ride back to Kunming, then get on another plane to Lijiang.

Lijiang was devastated by a major earthquake in 1997 and Chinese officials, having never been there before, were struck by the natural beauty of the surroundings and decided to invest some money for tourists. The entire town is now a World Heritage Site. We came to Jijiang in the midst of a week long Chinese holiday and the place was really crowded. We stayed in the old town part and anything less would not have surfeited. We stayed at the beautiful Zen Garden Hotel just far enough away from night time noise yet close enough to be in the heart of things very quickly. We stayed in a very small room for 3 nights, but it had the best view of the countryside, roofs of the old town, and garden below. This was especially striking at night. There is a pagoda sitting on top of the hill in the distance and I will end up there and take

this photo looking down on the Old Town and our hotel which lies in the cloud shadow.
Every morning this Chinese young woman placed lyrical music on her harp like instrument. Our room is visible on top.

The Zen Garden was an interesting blend of old and new. There were two computers in the entry room for guests to use with free Internet. Breakfast was kind of a Continental deal except tea instead of coffee. Two nights we stayed in the top room which had an antique bed. The bed was regular size (remember those) and was pushed against a wall so there was no way the wall person could get up at night without disturbing the other. But like I said, what a view.

There was a sit down commode but no flushing water for it. Doing #2 required careful planning to securely wrap everything up for deposit in a bucket. BTW-this is not uncommon for public facilities outside of major cities.

Our luggage had to be transported from the nearest street by cart down a cobblestone slope to reach our hotel and back up the hill when we left.

We were moved down stairs our final night due to a prior booking and I left my sport jacket in the wee closet. The hotel management knew we were going to Dali, 4 hours away and the name of our hotel. They paid a taxi driver to deliver my coat the next day, free of charge. That kind of service is hard to beat, anywhere.

Lijiang is home of the Naxi (Na’see) minority people and we learned much about their religion and way of life. Their religion seems to be close to that of our native Americans, where spirits and nature harmonize. They have a 1000 year old written language and developed a paper made of (I forget) which lasts and lasts, Their writing is based on pictographs. The Naxi shamans were care takers of the written language and are mediators between the Naxis and the spirit world. (Every religion has a middleman).

We visited a Naxi cultural center and joined in with the old women during a little dance routine. The Naxi women wear blue blouses and trousers covered by blue or black aprons. The T-shaped traditional cape not only stops the wicker basket, always worn on the back, from chaffing but also symbolizes the heavens. Day and night are represented by the light and dark halves of the cape; seven embroidered circles symbolize the stars. Two larger circles, one on each shoulder, are there to depict the eyes of a frog, which until the 15th Century was an important God to the Naxi. With the decline in animist beliefs the frog's eyes fell out of fashion, but the Naxi still call the cape by its original name: frog-eye goatskin.
These ladies were such fun.
This lady is either a goddess or character from one of the Naxi folklore. What would Freud say?
We visited Black Dragon Lake where we saw one of the Naxi shaman in action and learned all about how to make the paper. Judith, Chevy, Wei and myself. And we saw this famous painter in action. He uses no brushes, just his hands.
Then we see the Mu Fu Mansion. It is a modern complex of buildings that recreates the palatial residence and seat of government (Fu) of the ruling clan (the Mu family) of Lijiang. It has been built entirely from scratch, in a style that imagines the state of these buildings as they might have existed during the 18th century Qing dynasty. The original complex was razed to the ground during the later Qing.

On the right is the Hall of 10,000 Scrolls or what could be called the library.

So we shopped a lot among us and bargained for everything we bought. Here are some of the people seen on the streets of old town.

After Lijiang our last stop is Dali, home of the Bai minority. It is a 4 hour drive up and down mountains pausing for occasion goats to clear the highway. I was struck more than ever how much labor is involved in growing rice. The Dali valley is very fertile and I saw corn, tapioca, bamboo, cabbage, being grown in the fields. The climate is warm year round in this area and doesn’t get very hot because the elevation is about 7500 feet. So there is a continuous growing season. Below-farmers replanting rice and rice drying in the fields.

Dali has a population of about three million people. The city sits in the mountains of the Tibeto-Burman region, resting on the western edge of Erhai Lake. The Cangshan Mountains form a majestic horizon behind the city. Dali has a number of attractions, not the least of which are the city's pagodas, the three Chongsheng Pagodas near the Chongsheng Temple are the most well known. The city is also well known for a number of ethnic festivals. The tallest pagoda is 230 feet tall and was elected about 800 A.D.
The three pagodas of Chongsheng. This is a very popular place to take this shot. Notice that the two smaller pagodas further away lean in towards the large one. I image that this is to protect the big pagoda from having the smaller ones falling on it during an earthquake.
This Buddha is about 5 stories high.
This is the rear of the Chongsheng Temple and due to the steepness of the hill and the angle of the shot, the 3 pagodas are not visible.
This was taken just above the Chongsheng Temple showing Buddha in a fountain with streams of water shooting out of dragon’s months to form the effect of a halo. Cool!
Just about then the monks started a procession to the temple.
About half way up the slope there was kind of a rest stop and these musicians played and each one of us took turns playing the cymbals.
These young women entertained us as we took a boat ride on the Er-Hai Lake.
We took a gondola up the Yulong Snow Mt. and there is a trail to go further up, so I did.
I saw this morning glory type pool where the trail ended.
We take a few minutes to meet with the local head of the CDC to have some drinks. She tells about the local conditions of the AIDS epidemic which is driven by heroin users. She just has some tea but Judith and I enjoy a couple of gin and tonics, the drug of our choice.

We fly back to Beijing and stay within walking distance of our hotel. I saw the blind man playing this instrument sitting on the steps of one of those under the street tunnels. I am going to try to PhotoShop the intruding elbow out of the picture when I have time. Otherwise, it is a nice shot.
These are shots I took around Tianamen Square.
I decide to get a pedicure, having never had one, and the man comes in and says I have nail fungus in three toes and finds some on Judith’s nails also. The young woman translator comes in and tells us they have Chinese medicine that will eliminate the fungus. She also mentions that there is medicine taken orally in the U.S. but can be harmful to your liver (Judith knows this to be true). So Dr. Mengele, as we like to call him, puts this gooey black paste on our toe nails and wraps them up with tape and says to leave this on for three days. The cost is about $25 US each toe, but what the hell, we gave it a shot. The old nails have to grow out before we can really tell, but I think it did the job. Very clever these Chinese. Finally, I can’t resist this photo of a young lad I saw in an antique shop with a teddy bear strapped to his back.


GETkristiLOVE said...

These are great photos - you see and do so much in one trip. I'm very envious. I love the photo of the little boy in the red sweater!

Marcella said...

Well said.