In our armchair travels through China we’ve arrived in the Northwest Yunnan Province near Tibet. This has become a popular area for hiking offering fantastic natural scenery. There are many different accommodations available and it’s your choice between hostels, hotels and inns. You can delight in high mountains, forests, wild rivers and streams. The Yangtze River flows through this area. We will visit the city of Lijiang, offering many cultural and historical attractions. Three ancient districts of the city became a UNESCO World Heritage area in 1997.
You’ll be amazed by the tall peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Yulong Snow Mountains. The ski area here is a popular place for local people. Even though few Chinese ski they love to go there to enjoy the snow. There is a beginner’s ski field. This is a good area for a day trip since it isn’t a resort. On those peaks there are glaciers that are the southernmost in the world.
In the late spring, summer and early autumn this is a great place for hiking. The tallest peak is Shanzidou at 5,596 meters. So that people can climb safely on one of the smaller peaks at 4, 680 meters a specially constructed stairway and path lead up to the summit but no to the very tip. From there you can see spectacular scenery like the Yangtze River flowing below through the valley with many waterfalls and rapids.
Baisha Old Town is one of the oldest towns in Lijiang. This is the earliest settlement of the Naxi people and is the birthplace of “Tusi”, chief of the Mu clan. In the town you can see many ancient buildings that were built during the Ming Dynasty. Among them are Dabaoji Palace, Liuli Temple and Wenchang Palace.
The well-known Baisha Frescoes are located in Dabaoji Palace.
There are 28 fresco groups in the palace. These mural paintings are a wonderful display of over 100 figures depicting religious tales and activities from Taoism, Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism.
Jade Spring Park offers visitors lovely scenery along with a large crystal pool. beautiful trees, a tall mountain and historic buildings. The park is also known as Heilongtan Park which literally means Black Dragon Pool Park. The park was first built in 1737 and is located in the north of Lijiang Ancient Town at the foot of Elephant Hill. The pool covers an area of about 40,000 sq. meters and is as clean as jade. In the summer and autumn this crystal clear pool is decorated with pretty milky flowers (blossoms of Ottelia acuminate) on the water. The pool is surrounded by chestnut trees and ancient monuments such as Longshen Temple, Deyue Pavilion, the Suocui Bridge and the Hanyue Stage.
The front gate of the park is a grand decorated archway with a board inscribed with the name of the park. Deyue Pavilion is located in the center of the Heilongtan Pool and connected with the bank by a bridge. The pavilion has triple eaves and was built in 1876. It is used as a research institution for Dongba culture.
In the north of the park you’ll find the Five Phoenix Tower also known as Fayun Pavilion and was built in 1601. It was moved to the Jade Spring Park from Fuguo Temple. This is an amazing structure of Naxi architecture combining the architectural style of Tibet, Bai minority and Han nationality. The pavilion is decorated with colorful paintings and exquisite carvings. It is 23 meters tall with three layers.
Dongba Culture Museum lies in the south of the park. The museum was built according to the development of Naxi architectures. Visitors can enjoy the performance of the Dongba sacrificial ritual.
Longshen Temple was built in 1737 and has five courtyards with various types of flowers and plants. In ancient times this temple was known as Longwan Temple or Dragon God Temple. The Chinese people regarded the Dragon god as being in charge of the rain and this is the place for holding sacrifice rituals to gods and praying for rain. Visitors can enjoy the ancient music of Naxi minority.
A UNESCO World Heritage site Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges on the planet and it offers the best hiking trail in the Lijiang area. The scenery is amazing. For hikers there are inns and guesthouses available. Tourists can tour the gorge area on tour buses that follow a road at the bottom of the canyon following the course of the river. The tour road is popular with Chinese tourists while foreigners prefer the High Trail above the road.
Dongba Village is within the Yushui Village Scenic Area. It is a Naxi theme park with a museum, gardens, ponds and a stream. This is one of the best places to go in the Lijiang area to learn about Naxi culture and writing.
You might like to visit Joseph Rock’s old residence in nearby Yuhu Village. Joseph Rock was an Australian-American botanist, linguist and explorer who lived in this area and put together a Dongba language dictionary.
The Mufu Wood Mansion is a reconstruction of the original building to give an idea of what the palace of the Mu clan looked like. The Mu clan of the Naxi rules here as vassals of the Ming Empire and then vassals of the Manchus of the Qing Empire. Built half way up a hill the building offers a great view of the surrounding city of Lijiang. The present wooden complex and gardens stretches for about eight acres. Visitors can walk about on walkways and climb up and down stairs to enjoy the scenery and see the interiors and courtyards. In the courtyard you can take a drink of tea and people can purchase beverages and alcoholic drinks. The azalea and orchid gardens are lovely At the top of the complex is a Daoist temple and Daoist fortune tellers can be hired.
Baoshan Stone Village lies in the Jinshajiang River ravine, 110 km north of Lijiang city. Around 100 families live in the village, which got its name by being located near a giant stone, resembling a mushroom. The village can be entered only from two stone gates, one on the south and one on the north.
All of the houses in the village are made of natural stone. Visitors are impressed by the superb craftsmanship done by the village ancestors hundreds of years ago.
In the Baishui River are numerous white stone terraces from water flows in small cascades. It is fed by many small springs that originate from melted snow on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
The river flows eastward under Baishu Bridge and meets Heishui or Black River before emptying into Heibaishui or Black and White River. Heishui River got its name due to the pebbles in the riverbed being black.
The Three Parallel Rivers Protected Area is the place where the headwaters of the Salween, the Mekong and the Yangtze rivers flow close together. These great rivers and the ecology is protected by a national park. UNESCO World Heritage calls it one of the world’s most biologically diverse temperate regions on the planet. This is a popular area for ecotourism.
The rivers flow down north to south through deep parallel canyons in the national park. In some places the gorges are 2,000 meters deep and at their closest, the three canyons are 18 and 66 km apart.
The Mekong runs through a 310 km long gorges and crosses both Cambodia and Vietnam.
Visitors are amazed by the high mountains, deep valleys, snow-capped peaks, large glaciers, lakes with potable water, wild forest, marshy grassland, rare animals and precious plants.
Here you can find 6,000 species of plants including 200 varieties of rhododendron and over 100 species of gentians and primulas.
Making their home here are 173 species of mammals, of which 81 are endemic and 417 species of birds, of which 22 are endemic. The rare mammals inhabiting this region include the black snub-nosed monkey, Indian leopard, snow leopard, Gongshan muntjac, Chinese shrew mole, stump-tailed macaque, Asiatic wild dog, black musk deer, takin, hoolock gibbon, Asian black bear and red panda.
Within the preserve are 3 prefectures and 8 counties including Lijiang City, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture with a town the Chinese call Shangri-La after the fictitious novel and Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture.
Stone Drum Town is located at the base of the mountain and flanks the First Bay of the Yangtze. The town derives its name from a white marble carved monument in the shape of a drum. The monument memorializes the victory and subsequent spread of Baizhuang power, the Tusi of Mu Family of Lijiang, during the Jiajing years of the Ming Dynasty. The stone monument was erected during one of the earliest periods in Lijiang. To the right of it you’ll find a beautiful willow forest and on the left flows the Chongjiang River.
The 17 m long Tiehong Bridge spans the river. The bridge was constructed of boards paved over iron chains and has iron chains as boarders on both sides. Stone Drum Town is a historically important town on the ancient trade route for tea and horses between inland provinces and Tibet. It still features a vibrant trade fair that is held every three days.