One morning, Huang took us up to one of the topmost hills of the city so we could look down on one of Lijiang’s famous views: the upturned eaves and black tiled-roofs of Lijiang’s traditional houses.
Apart from a few solar panels here and there – which Huang said the government isn’t too happy about and is trying to persuade people to remove – the view was almost identical to the photos taken by Joseph Rock in the 1920s. Rock, an eccentric Austrian, more or less stumbled onto the Naxi culture while conducting intensive research into Yunnan’s unique botany. He ended up devoting almost 30 years to documenting the Naxi script, traditions, songs and customs.
While wandering through the old town, we stumbled on an exhibit, sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and just opened the week before we arrived, featuring many of Rock’s 1920s photos of Lijiang and the surrounding countryside, juxtaposed with 2005 photos taken from the same vantage points. In most cases, the two views were nearly identical. Others, obviously, showed a great deal of change, especially where farmers’ fields had been replaced by large houses and light industry. But on this morning, our birds’ eye view took us back in time.
The girls were thrilled by this famed rooftop view – for about a minute and a half. Much more exciting was the enormous yak that we found, to our surprise, standing by the ramparts, saddled and bridled, a prop for a Tibetan-style photo op! If you’ve visited our website before you know we’re always ready for a dress-up opportunity, and the girls scrambled into costume. Miranda loved her Tibetan dress, and vowed to find one just like it when we visited Zhongdian. Sami was dressed in a Yi minority costume – look at that cool hat! Later that day we would meet and pose with an old Yi woman with a totally different, fantastic headdress.
The yak’s handler had to hold onto the horns while the girls were on board – it was a little skittish!
That would have to hold us until our visit to Zhongdian, a Tibetan town a half-day’s drive north of Lijiang. In the meantime, we still had a lot of Naxi culture left to explore!
Next: The Naxi Language