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2.110560 - CHINESE MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - YUNNAN: A Cultural Tour with Traditional Chinese Music (NTSC)
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Yunnan – A Cultural Tour with Traditional Chinese Music

 

1. Old Town of Lijiang

Lijiang’s maze of cobbled streets, rickety old wooden buildings and flowing canals make it one of the most visited sites in northern Yunnan Province. Lijiang is separated into old and new towns that are starkly different. The approximate line of division is Shizi Shan, the green mound in the middle of town, topped by a radio mast and facing the Past Pavilion, a new pagoda. Everything west of the hill is the new town, and everything east is the old town. The whole old town is pedestrianised.

Criss-crossed by canals, bridges, and a maze of narrow streets, the old town is the reason why so many people come to Lijiang. The town’s web of artery-like canals once supplied the city’s drinking water. There are several wells and pools still in use around town. The focus of the old town is the Old Market Square. Once the haunt of Naxi traders, it has given way to less attractive souvenir stalls. However, the view up the hill and the surrounding lanes is still extraordinary, but must be shared with hundreds of other people. Interesting sights such as Mu Family Mansion, and Black Dragon Pool Park keep attracting tourists from home and abroad. The Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture is right at the north entrance of Black Dragon Pool Park.

One of the few things to do in the evening in Lijiang is to attend performances of the Naxi Orchestra inside a beautiful building in the old town. Not only are all 20 to 24 members Naxi, but they play a type of Taoist temple music that has been lost elsewhere in China. The pieces they perform are supposedly faithful renditions of music from the Han, Song and Tang dynasties, and are played on original instruments.

Music: Song of Riddles / Flower-Picking Song / Youth Dance

 

2. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Located near Lijiang, in Yunnan Province in southwestern China, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulong Mountain) is the southernmost glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. The view of the massif from the gardens at the Black Dragon Pool (Heilong Tan) in Lijiang is noted as one of the finest in China. Consisting of 13 peaks, among which Shanzidou is the highest with an altitude of 5,600 metres, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain stretches a length of 35 kilometres and a width of 20 kilometres. Looking from Lijiang Old Town in the south which is 15 kilometres away, the snow-covered and mist-bound mountain resembles a jade dragon lying in the clouds, hence, the name Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

According to geologists’ research, for about 400 million years the area around Jade Dragon Snow Mountain was an ocean and it was during the last 600,000 years that the different landscapes came into being because of the rise of the lithosphere. Archaic legend about this mysterious and beautiful snow mountain goes like this: “Once upon a time Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain were twins. They had lived on panning in Golden Sand River until one day an evil fiend seized the river. The brothers were very brave and had a fierce fight with the fiend. Haba died in the fight and Jade Dragon drove off the fiend after wearing out 13 swords. To guard the people and prevent the return of the fiend, Jade Dragon held the 13 swords in his hands day and night. As time passed, the brothers turned into the two snow mountains, and the 13 swords became the 13 peaks.” Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a holy mountain for the local Naxi people not only because of the legend, but also because a long time ago, it was a place for young lovers to sacrifice their young lives in honour of true love and to escape from arranged marriages and the dictates of feudal ethics.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a sanctuary for rare animals and wild plants. In fact one fourth of all plant species in China can be found here and 20 primeval forest communities shelter a big family of 400 types of trees and 30 kinds of animals which are protected by the state. The 13 peaks, which have an altitude of at least 4,000 metres, are covered by snow all year round; the mountain is called the “Natural Glacier Museum” for it has all types of glacier. Move down from the mountain top and rivers and pools can be seen, which are formed by the thawed snow running along the valley and through the forests. The plants and animals are different according to the altitude. So are the views. Every sight brings a surprise and every step leads to a new scene.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is now a famous scenic spot for sightseeing, mountaineering, skiing, exploration, scientific research and vacations. Besides, widespread legends and myths of the Naxi ethnic minority and the unclimbed Shanzidou are all-important, attractive spots for those who come to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Music: Bai Folk Tune / On the High Mountain / Horsewhipping

 

3. Erhai Lake

Erhai Lake is the largest highland lake next to Dianchi and one of the seven biggest fresh water lakes in China. It means ‘sea shaped like an ear’ in Chinese. The lake covers an area of 250 square kilometres and is located about two kilometres east of Dali. It is like a crescent lying between Cang Mountain and Dali City as seen from Cang Mountain. On a sunny day the crystal waters of Erhai Lake and the snow-covered Cang Mountain are resplendent. For this reason the scene has commonly been described as ‘Silver Cang Mountain and Jade Erhai’. The surrounding islands, temples and villages include Golden Shuttle Island (Jinsuo Dao), and the nearby fishing community of the Bai Minority with its evidence of traditional Bai culture and the rare beauty of the lake and its surrounding scenery. On Xiaoputuo Island are seen the unique styles typical of ancient Chinese Buddhist temples.

Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple

The Three Pagodas are a group of three independent pagodas set on the corners of an equilateral triangle, dating from the time of the Nanzhao Kingdom and Kingdom of Dali. The Three Pagodas are located about 1.5 kilometres north of Dali in Yunnan province. They are at the east foot of the tenth peak of the massive Cang Mountain Range and face the west shore of the Erhai Lake of the ancient Dali city.

The Three Pagodas are made of brick and covered with white mud. The elegant, balanced and stately style is unique in China’s ancient Buddhist architecture, which makes this an important site. The Three Pagodas, visible from miles away, have been a landmark of Dali City, selected as a Chinese national treasure meriting preservation. The main pagoda, known as Qianxun Pagoda, is 69.6 metres high and one of the tallest pagodas in China’s history. The central pagoda is square-shaped and composed of sixteen storeys, each of which has multiple tiers of upturned eaves.

Cangshan Mountain

Cangshan Mountain, also called Diancang Mountain, is located in the west of Dali in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan. It has 19 peaks, the highest of the Yunling Mountain Range. All are 3,500 metres above sea level and at 4,122 metres, Malong Peak is the highest. In between the peaks are streams, and water rushes down the mountain and pours into Erhai Lake. These streams originate from spring water or thawing snow and irrigate the surrounding farmlands. The mountain is noted for its very rich, diverse flora, with more than 3,000 different kinds of plant on the mountain.

Cangshan Mountain enjoys a great reputation for its snow, clouds, springs and marble. The unmelted snow on Cangshan Mountain is the first of the Four Famous Scenes (wind, flowers, snow and moon) in Dali. The clouds here change often: sometimes as thin as silk; sometimes as dark as ink. The springs here are also famous. Besides the eighteen streams, there are still many lakes at a height of over 3,800 metres. Cang Mountain is a famous centre for a smooth marble known as Cang Mountain Stone.

Besides the natural scenery there are elements of traditional Bai culture. Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple, Inaction Temple, Three Pools in Qingbi Temple and Zhonghe Temple are all tourist attractions.

Music: Flowing Stream / Yunnan Folk Song

 

4. Kunming

Kunming is the capital of Yunnan Province, with a history of more than 2,400 years. Today the city is the political, economical and cultural centre of Yunnan and the provincial centre for transport, science and technology and, consequently, the most popular centre for tourism in Southwest China. Located in the middle of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, Kunming is located at an altitude of 1,900 metres above sea level. It covers an area of 21,501 square kilometres and its urban area covers 6,200 square kilometres. Kunming has an estimated population of 5,740,000.

The city is also home to several universities, museums, galleries and other important economic, cultural, and educational institutions. The headquarters of many of Yunnan’s large businesses are in Kunming as well. Kunming enjoys a year-round temperate climate and does its best to live up to its title of “the City of Eternal Spring”. With its convenient transport links in and out of the city, Kunming welcomes tens of thousands of tourists every day. Kunming is also renowned for many delicious local dishes; the most famous ones are Across Bridge Rice Noodle and Xuanwei Ham, both available at famous local restaurants or the night market.

Music: The folk song of the Mido Mountain / The Loach

 

5. Dadieshui Waterfall

Dadieshui Waterfall is about 30 kilometres southwest of Lunan County, where the Stone Forest is located. It is one of the largest and most famous waterfalls in China. The water rushes down over a 30-metre-wide section of cliff at 150 cubic metres per second down 88 metres to the rocks. When the water hits the rocks below, it is dispersed into a fine mist.

There is a story about the place. The waterfall is said to have been transformed from cloth woven by a kind-hearted girl in the village who was chased by a greedy rich man. She jumped off the cliff when there was no way ahead and turned into a fairy pigeon. The noise of the waterfall is just her voice.

Stone Forest

Located in Shilin Yi Autonomous County, the Stone Forest is 86 kilometres away from Kunming. The climate belongs to the subtropical low latitude monsoon climate, with an average temperature of 16°C. This is a large-scale comprehensive tourism area incorporating natural scenery, national customs, leisure and holiday, and scientific research. Covering an area of 1,100 square kilometres and with a conservation area of 350 square kilometres, there are all kinds of unique natural elements.

The Stone Forest, characterized by the rough limestone known as karst, is well-known for its grandeur, rarity, danger, elegance, quietness and vastness. It has been called the first wonder of the world and a natural geological museum, and enjoys a high reputation in geological circles for its remote history, wide variety and large scale. It took shape 270 million years ago, experienced long geological evolution and complex geographical change, and became the precious geological site it is today. It includes numerous natural formations such as the stone forests of Malaysia, America and Africa. It seems that the stone forests of the entire world meet here. With well-structured stone teeth, peak clusters, water-eroded caves, karst lakes, waterfalls and underground rivers, it is a typical plateau karst ecological system.

The charm of the Stone Forest lies not only in its natural sights but in the customs of the Sani people of Shilin County, the hometown of Ashima. In the endless stone peaks and red earth of Shilin, there are also precious national and historical cultural resources.

Music: My Heart

 

6. Dali Ancient City

The beauty and character of Lijiang’s old town has attractions in spite of the crowds. Dali Ancient City triumphs, however, with its stunning location, sandwiched between mountains and Erhai Lake.

Dali lies on the western edge of Erhai Lake at an altitude of 1,900 metres with a backdrop of the imposing 4,000-metre-high Cang Shan (Jade Green Mountains). The main inhabitants of this region are the Bai people, who number about 1.5 million. The Bai people have long-established roots in the Erhai Lake region, and are thought to have settled in the area some 3,000 years ago.

Dali is a miniature city that has some preserved cobbled streets and traditional stone architecture within its old walls. The city can easily be explored in a short walk for an hour or so. From the South Gate across town to the North Gate takes about half an hour. Huguo Road is the main place for cafés—locals call it Yangren Jie (Foreigners’ Street).

Attractive sights in Dali include Three Pagodas and Dali Museum. Reproduced on thousands of postcards and calendars, Three Pagodas are among the oldest standing structures in southwestern China and a sort of symbol of Dali. The tallest of the three, Qianxun Pagoda, has 16 tiers that reach a height of 70 metres. Flanked by two smaller 10-tiered pagodas about 42 metres high, it was originally erected in the mid-ninth century by craftsmen from Xian. The Dali Museum displays a small selection of archaeological pieces relating to Bai history and has some interesting exhibits of marble handicraft.

Music: I Give You My Purse / Daobanjiang

 

7. Jinshajiang River

Jinshajiang River is the westernmost of the major headwater streams of the Yangtze River in the southwest of China.

The headwaters of Jinshajiang River rise in the Wulan and Kekexili Ranges in western Qinghai Province, flow to the south of the Kunlun Mountain, and then on the northern slope of the Tanggula Mountain bordering Tibet.

The three principal headwaters—Chumaer, Muluwusu, and Akedamu—join together and form Tongtian River, which flows southeast to Zhimenda near the frontier between Qinghai and Sichuan Province.

Jinshajiang River then flows south through a deep gorge parallel to similar gorges of the upper Mekong and upper Salween River, from which it is separated by Ningjing Mountain.

Jinshajiang River forms the western border of Sichuan Province for some 250 miles (400 kilometres) and then flows into Yunnan Province.

After a large, 200-mile-long loop to the north of Dali, Jinshajiang River swings northeast, forming the boundary between Sichuan and Yunnan Province until it joins the Min River at Yibin in Sichuan Province to form the Yangtze River.

The upper course of the river falls about 2.7 metres per kilometre. Below Batang in Sichuan Province, the gradient gradually decreases to about 1.5 metres a kilometre.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest in the world, measures 16 kilometres long and is a giddy 3,900 metres from the waters of Jinshajiang River to the snow-capped mountaintops of Haba Mountain to the west and Yulongxue Mountain to the east, in a series of rapids under 2,000-metre-steep cliffs. Legend says that in order to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river at the narrowest point (25 metres wide), hence the name. The inhabitants of the gorge are primarily the indigenous Naxi people, who live in a handful of small hamlets.

The gorge is not considered navigable, but hiking is possible. The hiking path (the high road) is well maintained and marked, although sometimes narrow, and is used by Naxi people as part of everyday life. About 22 kilometres long, this trail is shorter than the lower road, yet more varied. It features a variety of micro-ecosystems, waterfalls, and a fair number of guesthouses for trekkers. These guesthouses are not heated and thus the trek is not advisable during the rainy season. The lower road, stretching about 195 kilometres from Qiaotou through the gorge, is a stretch of paved road crossed by several waterfalls, and frequently beset by rock-slides. Some part of the road has been known to disappear into the river. The lower road follows the Yangtze River, so there are more views of the river, and a stronger sense of being in a gorge than on the upper trail. Where the high road descends and meets with the lower road, one can climb down to the river near the Tiger Leaping Stone, the point at which the tiger was said to have leapt across the river.

Music: Ten Sisters

 

8. Streets in Lijiang Old Town

The picturesque Old Town of Lijiang in Yunnan Province, first built in the late Song Dynasty and the early Yuan Dynasty, has a history of over 800 years. It is a well-preserved old city of ethnic minorities with an outstanding culture of its own. The streets here were built along the lie of mountains and the flow of rivers. Most of them are paved with the local bluestones, which are neither muddy in the rainy season nor dusty in the dry season. There are many streams and canals here. The clear waters and ingenious system of canals have sustained its people for hundreds of years. The primitive cobbled streets, with their natural stone patterns, add a sense of antiquity and mystery to the Old Town.

The Square Street (Sifangjie) in the town centre best represents the streets in the Old Town. It is also a trade centre of the northwestern area of Yunnan Province. The street is actually a small square of several hundred square metres, paved with bluestones and lined with shops. On the west lies the West River and on the east is the Middle River. When the sluice on the West River is opened, the resulting current of water flushes and washes the streets. Four main streets radiate from Square Street and extend in four different directions—they are: Guangyi Street, Qiyi Street, Wuyi Street and Xinhua Street. Countless lanes extending in all directions form a network and connect every corner of the town.

Here, you can appreciate the buildings that show the influence of different cultures. Despite the stark contradictions of the Old Town and the new, the Naxi people try not to upset the balance of nature, which has made Lijiang an unusual example of ancient Chinese town-planning. The town is not governed by man-made order, but by the contours of nature. Residential houses, markets, roads and water systems are grouped together or dispersed as seems fitting. Stone and wooden bridges, flowers and birds, musical performance and paintings, with folk customs, make the Old Town even more attractive.

Music: Embroidered Purse / Wonderful time in the Hills / Tea Picking Songs / Flower Picking Song

 

9. Shangri-La and surrounding areas

In the Tibetan language, Shangri-La means “the sun and the moon in the heart”. In the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton, Shangri-La is described as a permanently happy and peaceful land, isolated from the outside world. The Zhongdian County in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Yunnan Province perfectly matches the description in the book. It is exactly the Shangri-La that has been sought for half a century. In 2001 Zhongdian County was officially renamed “Shangri-La”.

Shangri-La is located in northwestern Yunnan, on the borders of Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet. It is one of those rare well-preserved lands of natural eco-environment and traditional cultures. It is also a tourist attraction which combines beautiful scenery and unique traditional lifestyle. It has twenty-four scenic places, among which the best-known are Meili Snow Mountain, Bita Lake, Songzanlin Monastery, Baishui Tableland and the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

The scenery in Shangri-La is magnificent, precipitous and impressive. It boasts a Snow Mountain Group nearest to the equator in the northern hemisphere (Meili Snow Mountain and Baimang Snow Mountain), some rare low-altitude glaciers (such as Mingyongqia and Siqia), the Lancang River Gorge and the Tiger Leaping Gorge known as “deep, dangerous, spectacular and steep”. Shangri-La is also studded with lakes—Bita Lake, Shuodu Lake, Napa Lake, Swan Lake, and others. Cattle and horses graze on the vast, fertile highland grassy meadows. Hundreds of rare trees, herbs and wild flowers grow in the virgin forest, and numerous rare animals make their home there.

As a multi-ethnic county, Shangri-La has diversified folk traditions. Its people are from thirteen different nationalities, including Tibetan, Lisu, Han, Naxi, Yi, Bai, and Hui. Each ethnic group keeps its own unique lifestyle, national costumes, houses, and traditional customs such as wedding ceremonies and so on. People of different nationality believe in different religions (Tibetan Buddhism, Christianity, Dongbaism, Catholicism, Islam, among others) but live in remarkable harmony. Grand temples, fine craftsmanship, magic Tibetan medicines and herbs, varied folk dancing, ancient Dongba pictographs and totems of the primitive religions are all amazingly impressive.

White Water Terrace

White Water Terrace (also called Baishui Tableland), is located in Sanba Township, Shangri-La County, 101 kilometres southeast of the seat of the County, covering an area of 3 square kilometres at an altitude of 2,380 metres. It was a famous tourist attraction in western Yunnan as early as the Tang and Song Dynasties.

In the Naxi language, “Baishui Tableland” means “coming to white blossoms”. The karst rough limestone landform of the White-Water Terrace is one of the largest examples of its kind in China. The terraces are large limestone steps, built up over the years with calcium carbonate deposited by spring waters which flow down the steps. They extend from the mountain top down to the bottom like white terraced fields. Legend has it that two Naxi Gods created these terraced fields so that the local people could learn how to transform hills into fields and farm on them.

To the left of the tableland, there is a spring and a moon-shaped platform which is said to be the dresser of the fairies. Below the left side of the platform is a rock dome, as white as jade and resembling a pregnant woman. That is where local people pay homage to the God of Fertility.

White Water Terrace is not only a beautiful scenic spot but also the birthplace of Dongba culture of the Naxi Minority Group. It is said that Dingbashiluo, the master priest of the Dongba Religion, was attracted by the fascinating scenery of this place on his way back from Tibet and stopped to seek followers here. Later it became known as the Holy Land of the Dongba Religion. Each year, on the eighth day of the second lunar month, the Naxi people in this area gather here to celebrate their traditional festival by singing and dancing all day and night, praying to the gods for a good harvest, good health, babies and happiness.

Music: Flowers Will Not Bloom Without Rain / Little Magpie / Grazing Horses

 

10. Naxi Ancient Music

With its mixture of literary lyrics, poetic topics, and musical styles from the Tang (618 A.D.-907 A.D.) and Song Dynasties (960 A.D.-1279 A.D.), and with some Tibetan influences, Naxi Music has developed its own unique style. Ancient Naxi music represents the crystallization of several musical cultures, including “baisha fine music” (baisha xiyue), “dong jing music”, and the nowextinct “huang jing music”.

Interestingly, the music from Central China has been well preserved in ancient Naxi music as a result of the Naxi people’s geographical isolation, while the music directly from Central China itself was lost, as the inland was transformed many times during China’s changing history. As a result, Naxi music can boast that it is a “living fossil of music”.

It can be performed in two ways - sitting or walking. Seated performances are a kind of chamber music that involves more than 20 musical instruments, including wind instruments, such as the di zi, sheng (a kind of reed pipe wind instrument), and guan zi, and percussion instruments, such as the zuo gu (sitting drum), war drum, du gu (single drum), big and small cymbals, a slit drum, and so on.

At least four full orchestras exist in and around Lijiang, and these characteristic bands are famous for their “three old ones”: Old Men—most of the players are over 70 years old; Old Musical Instruments—many are antiques dating back more than a 100 years, some of which cannot be found anywhere else; Old Songs. All are relics of the past.

Members of the bands are drawn from all kinds of occupations including teachers, artisans, farmers, butchers, clerks, and so on. Ancient Naxi music bands have been invited to perform in Hong Kong, Great Britain, the United States, Holland, Belgium, and Norway, exercising great influence and gaining attention from all over the world.

Dongba Dancing

Naxi is an old ethnic minority living in Southeast China. The Naxi people love dancing and singing. They have created and preserved a treasure of Chinese folk-art, Dongba Dance.

The Dongba Dance of the Naxi people is very ancient and requires high skills. The ancient hieroglyphs discovered in the Lijiang area in 1980 are just like patterns of dances at that time. As the quality of these characters is close to photographs, the dancing characters are vivid as a direct painting of every dance. At the seminar of Dongba and Daba held in Lijiang in 1983, more than 60 Dongba and Daba old people performed the Dongba sorcerer’s dance in a trance. Their dance steps basically tallied with the ancient hieroglyphic Dongba characters.

There are many categories in the Dongba Dance. The God Dance describes the gods’ adventures to establish their sublime position; the Instrument Dance manifests the power of ritual instruments and weapons; the Animal Imitation Dance portrays various birds and animals; and the Battle Dance defeats demons to protect religious power. These are representatives of the most common types of sorcerer’s dance. These dances still exist today, with old Dongba people still performing according to the ancient dance steps.

The Dongba Dance is a precious relic in the history of Chinese dance culture.

Music: Tea Picking at Yuxi

 

11. Old Town of Shuhe

The Old Town of Shuhe, also called Longquan Village, is situated 5 kilometres north of Lijiang in Yunnan Province. It is the best maintained ancient outpost in the Lijiang area. The heart of this old town is Shuhe central market, which used to be the country fur market. The preserved cobbled streets reflect the bustle of the past. On all sides of the central market square are small stores. The old wooden doors of these stores and elderly people at their leisure in the square suggest its primitive simplicity.

The main inhabitants of this old town have been the Naxi people from the earliest stages. The well maintained central market square on the ancient post road witnessed the growing commercial activities merging with the traditional farm work of the local Naxi people.

Music: Rising River / The Crab Song


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