A devastating 1996 earthquake brought world attention to this beautiful city, located in China's southwestern province of Yunnan. Almost a third of Lijiang was destroyed, prompting a massive reconstruction effort and, in part, leading to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Lijiang is one of China's most unique cities - culturally, ethnically, and architecturally. The city's Old Town, or "Dayan Old Town," is precious. Cobblestone streets, wooden homes and cafes practically spill out into narrow canals which wind past water wheels and under weeping willows. Lijiang presents a quaint, picturesque urban area - an increasingly rare sight in China.
The Naxi Kingdom makes its capital here in Lijiang. The ethnic minority number slightly less than 300,000, yet their small numbers belie their impact on Chinese history and legend. Until recently, groups within their culture were matriarchal - women ran the show; inheritances passed down from mother to eldest daughter; businesses were run by - if not owned and controlled by - women.
The Naxi written word is the only pictographic system still in regular use today, though used almost exclusively by a diminishing number of priests as they relate legends during ceremonial meetings.
More familiar to all Naxis - but no less unique - is their music. Many of China's distinctive, indigenous musical forms vanished over the centuries as new sounds and styles were adopted and adapted. But the Naxis' isolation preserved a musical style virtually unchanged, earning it the nickname "fossil music." Wind and percussive instruments predominate; the voices can be likened to melodious chants; the lyrics relate stories of the past.
Lijiang and neighboring attractions include:
Naxi Music Demonstration: Two ancient forms of Naxi musical expression have remained virtually intact over the centuries and your tour includes a demonstration of both. Of particular note (pun intended!) are the unusual wind and percussion instruments mastered by the performers.
Lijiang "Dayan Old Town": Narrow, cobblestone streets; charming wooden homes, shops and cafes; and picturesque canals, water wheels and city markets make Lijiang a tourist Mecca.
Black Dragon Pool Park: Check your camera's memory card before visiting this park! You'll be taking lots of pictures here, both of the park and the mountain vistas in the distance! Located just north of town, Black Dragon Pool Park (or, "Heilong Tan Gongyuan") is stunning. Within a pond swimming with colorful carp is a rustic-looking three-level pavillion connected to the shore by a simple, five-arch bridge. But it's the majestic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (or, "Yulong Xue Shan") rising in the distance that captures your attention.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain: Within this 13-peak range flows the northern hemisphere's southernmost glacier. Your tour of the mountain includes the option of a chairlift ride to the top of the peak. At 14,750 feet, it's Asia's highest chairlift!
Tiger Leaping Gorge: As legend has it, a hunted tiger escaped certain death by leaping across the River of Golden Sands ("Jinsha Jiang"), smartly choosing the gorge's narrowest point. Hiking trails line the gorge, providing breathtaking views - and breath-taking climbs! (letstravelchina.com)