Importance of Cultural Preservation Emphasized

Balance should be achieved between cultural preservation and economic development, according to He Duanqi, a deputy from Yunnan Province attending the annual session of the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC) which concluded on March 15.

Local resources should be tapped in a long-term strategy, while creating economic and social benefit crucial in China's campaign of western development, he added.

He, a commissioner of Lijiang Prefecture Administration, said tourism should serve as a window and driving force for Lijiang's opening-up and all-round construction, since the prefecture boasts breathtaking scenery and unique culture. The ancient town of Lijiang was included by UNICEF in its World Cultural Heritage List in December 1997.

According to the commissioner, Lijiang received 2.9 million tourists and achieved 1.9 billion yuan in tourism profits last year, contributing 22 percent to local GDP. The prosperous tourism sector spurred other tertiary industries, including catering, hotels, and handicraft manufacturing.

While boosting tourism, Lijiang allocates more than 30 million yuan for the protection and renovation of historical and cultural sites each year. Various measures have also been adopted to prevent damage to these sites. The splendid culture, in his opinion, is a brand name containing invaluable assets left by previous generations, which should be inherited and further developed.

Lijiang, an ancient beauty spot in southern China, is known for the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge; picturesque Lugu Lake, around which live the Mosuo people, who still maintain a matriarchal society; and the snow-capped Yulong (Jade Dragon) Snow Mountain, which offers views of glaciers, waterfalls, verdant forests and tranquil meadows.

The ancient town of Lijiang, with a history of 800 years, is lined with the maze of narrow streets crisscrossed by canals.

According to He, it is home to 22 ethnic minorities, accounting for 57 percent of its total population of 1.1 million. The various ethnic groups have formed their own exotic traditions and cultures, which adds the unusual charm of Lijiang. The prefecture has integrated the cultures of the Han, Tibetan, and other nearby ethnic groups, which is reflected in its architecture, music, murals, and religion. A trip to Lijiang is a must to savor the splendid local culture, suggested He.

One of the branches of the Naxi ethnic group in Lijiang is the Dongba. Some characters in the Dongba script are pictographic ones, known and deciphered only by older residents, most of them in their 80s and 90s. As pictographic characters are still used today, it enjoys the reputation as the only well-retained living pictograph system in the world. So far Lijiang has completed 50 volumes of An Annotated Collection of Naxi Dongba, which, translated into Chinese and English, is considered as the encyclopedia of ancient Naxi society.

On April 10 this year Lijiang will hold a grand gala to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Naxi Autonomous County in the prefecture. It will gather friends at home and abroad and attract more developers to explore this beautiful land.

(CIIC by Guo Xiaohong, 03/19/2001)