Lijiang: Black Dragon Pool Park, Dongba Culture, Old Town, Puppies, Naxi Music Concert, Party Time


Located about 145km north of Dali, the city of Lijiang has a population of over one million. Its Old Town, also known as Dayan, is the home center of the Naxi minority people and their Dongba religion and culture.

Black Dragon park and Lijiang

Seen from a mountain next to it, tranquil Black Dragon Pool Park lies next to the modern city of Lijiang. In the center of Black Dragon Pool is the Five Phoenix Tower. We are looking toward the west, having climbed up here for our early morning exercise.

Black Dragon Park, Pagoda, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Now we are looking across Black Dragon Pool to the Five Phoenix Tower and the Five Holes Bridge. In the background is Yulong Xue Shan (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain), and to the right (behind the bridge) is Elephant Mountain. The wooden Five Phoenix Tower was built about 400 years ago, in the Ming Dynasty. This is a frequently-photographed scene, appearing on the covers of numerous books about China.

Dongba object
Dongba Cultural Center

In the southwest part of the park there is a Dongba Research Institute, a museum and education center for the Dongba religious culture, which is polytheistic and combines some Daoist ideas with older animistic beliefs. The frog (at the center of the round shield, above) is an ancient Naxi deity.

Dongba Cultural Center
Dongba objects

Tiled roofs

A stormy sea of tiled roofs covers Dayan, the Old Town of Lijiang.

Water wheels
Stream in town

Symbolic water wheels signify that Lijiang was historically a mill town. At the north end of Dayan, water from Black Dragon Pool splits into three streams that flow through the Old Town. Dashiqaio, the stone bridge shown at right, spans the middle river and dates from the Ming Dynasty.

Street scene
Street scene

Dayan is a functioning town, with a combination of residence, commerce, leisure and tourism.

Board game
Bird in cage
Board game
Woman at loom

This woman is weaving, for tourists we think. She is not dressed in the Naxi manner, though -- perhaps she belongs to some branch of the Yi People.

Donga Paper Workshop
Donga papers

The Dongba Paper Workshop invites visitors to participate in making paper and learning the Dongba culture and its pictographic script, said to be the only hieroglyphic writing system still in use today.


While having a tea break at an upstairs spot we watch a tired-looking mother dog, and then we are shown a basketful of her puppies. We hope that none of them are destined to appear on any menu.

Maiu woman

On a side street suddenly this lady appears, colorfully attired and bejeweled in the manner of the Maio ethnic minority.

Colored lanterns

Colorful lanterns adorn restaurants and night spots along Mishi Xiang Street (with canal alongside), where we will party this evening.

Snack vendor

A street vendor supplies tasty sizzled snacks to tide us over until dinner.

Small crude truck

These ugly duckling mini trucks are often seen in work areas throughout China. Their one-cylinder engines are noisy and smoky, but apparently cheap and practical.

Restaurant outdoor kitchen

We have dinner at a semi-outdoor spot, where curious creatures share the courtyard with us. The fish are unquestionably on the menu, and probably the frogs, too, but we are not sure about the rooster. He does look a bit apprehensive. Perhaps he overheard us.

Fish and frogs

Naxi Music Ensemble

After dinner we attend a concert performed by the Naxi Music Academy, in the Old Town. They perform Naxi classical music from the Han, Tang, Song, and Yuan Dynasties, on authentic old instruments. Some of these same performers actually buried their instruments during the Cultural Revolution to keep them from being destroyed. This highly regarded orchestra has performed in the United States and Europe. Use the slider to pan across the whole orchestra.

Mishi Xiang Street
Disco dancing

It is Christmas Eve, and we adjourn to one of the spots on Mishi Xiang Street to do a bit of celebrating before returning to our hotel.

Lijiang Old Town at night