Photo Essay – From the interiors of Shangri-La county and a slice of Naxi Life

28 Dec

For our trip to Baishuitai in Yunnan region of China, we drove through some remote areas in the Shangri-La county. And during this drive, we saw some of the most gorgeous untouched mountainous landscapes and got a glimpse into the lives of local Naxi tribe that lives around these parts. And I am sharing more on them and their culture via a photo essay below-

Like India, China too has numerous ethnic groups and tribes. The Naxi tribe is an ethnic group that inhabits the northwestern part of Yunnan Province and the southwestern part of Sichuan Province in China. Originally from the nomadic clan of Qing people in North Western China, they later migrated south toward Tibet and usually live around fertile river land. In Yunnan they live around the Yangtze lands.

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My favorite pic of the trip – A local Naxi boy waving at us

The Naxi language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family though in the past they used a pictographic language called ‘Dongba’ and ‘Geba’.

Local markers in each Naxi village

Local markers in each Naxi village

They are an ethnic minority with a population of roughly around 320,000 people. The name Naxi is derived from two words – Na means “senior and honored” and Xi means “people”.

The local farms

The local farms

They live on farming, cattle breeding and making handicrafts – embroidery, painting, carvings etc.

Fields and terraces of Yunnan, China

Fields and terraces of Yunnan, China

The Naxi people live in houses like cabins (made of wood or stone) and the interiors normally have three rooms with doors (for indoors and outdoors) in each room. Most houses are two stories high and with a courtyard in the center. The locals build these houses facing either South or the East as they believe that this will bring in good luck that comes from these directions. Some of these existing houses are really ancient and preserved.

Local Naxi Houses

Local Naxi Houses

They have a matriarchal society where a woman is the head of the family and leaves her inheritance to her female descendants. They also do most of the household and farm work and also make key family decisions. Talk about all rounders 🙂

The villages in the shadow of the Haba Snow Mountains

The villages in the shadow of the Haba Snow Mountains

The Naxis celebrate a Torch Festival on June 24 each year and the Sanduo Festival on February 8th of every lunar year.

According to the Naxi legends, Sanduo is a Naxi war-god who protects them. It is said that long ago a hunter discovered a strange snow stone on the Jade Dragon Mountain and decided to take it home. On his way, he sat down to rest and put the stone down too but when he got up to resume his journey, the stone felt extremely heavy and didn’t move. People thought the stone was the embodiment of a god and decided to build a temple in its honor. Hence, people believe that they see a heavenly being in a white coat and a white helmet, carrying a white spear and riding a white horse here. It protects the Naxis and their land. Naxi people consider Sanduo to be the most powerful god in its mythology and they say Sanduo was born in the year of the goat. Therefore, on every goat day, a goat is sacrificed to honor the Sanduo.

The gorgeous views from the local villages

The gorgeous views from the local villages

The Naxis believe and practice the Dongba religion, a mixed form of Shamanism, and Lamaism. Sorcerers, called ‘Dongba’ meaning “wise man”, are invited to chant scriptures at weddings, funerals, and other important festivals.

Local Naxi villages

Local Naxi villages

There are quite a few other tribes in this region too. So the next time you are around here, do take some time and visit these local tribes to better understand their culture and customs and also see these gorgeous untouched landscapes all around.

The pictures and stories are my own from the road, but I have referred to the following websites for additional information – Wikipedia and ChinaHighlights.

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10 Responses to “Photo Essay – From the interiors of Shangri-La county and a slice of Naxi Life”

  1. sophierose233 December 28, 2014 at 06:25 #

    Great photos. I’ve heard so much about Shangri-La county and really want to visit. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 28, 2014 at 23:50 #

      Thanks for the kind words and I hope you can make it there too 🙂

      Like

  2. melissajane14 December 28, 2014 at 18:44 #

    Your photo of the boy with the hat is great! Certainly worth the long ride out to the Shangrila area.

    Like

    • getsetandgo December 28, 2014 at 23:52 #

      So true… In fact I feel that is one of my best pics of the trip… A picture perfect momemnt caught on camera… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Juliana Lightle December 28, 2014 at 20:39 #

    Love their societal structure.

    Like

  4. IshitaUnblogged December 29, 2014 at 02:05 #

    What an amazing journey! Wishing you a very Happy New Year and many many kms of travel and many many posts of blogging!

    Like

  5. Laura January 14, 2015 at 01:39 #

    Great post! It’s so interesting to learn about different cultures!

    Like

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