'Beyond the Clouds' - Lijiang in 1995

By Bruce Connolly | chinadaily.com.cn | 2017-09-11 08:02

'Beyond the Clouds' - Lijiang in 1995

Coal cart Lijiang Market Square 1995. [Photo by Bruce Connolly]

‘The picturesque Old Town is characterised by narrow granite paved lanes bordering gushing canals fed from reservoirs north of Lijiang to fields south. Steps lead down to the clear waters where women and even children washed clothes and vegetables.' (Diary notes from 1995).

With no map I simply followed the stream soon reaching the Market Square. By a bridge was the Old Market Cafe which would became my base not just to dine but to watch Naxi, Bai, Black Yi, Mosuo, Tibetan and other ethnic groups thronging the square. Every evening, folk dancing, singing and while I was there, a torch burning festival. My travels taught that becoming a regular at a local cafe can be rewarding in both honesty and friendship. The owner, always happy and welcoming, I was genuinely sad eventually departing.

The hotel hired strong bikes, useful as many local roads were gravel. I headed out towards the Snow Mountain and Baisha Village, an early Naxi capital. I wanted to track down a herbal doctor, one whose story helped put Lijiang on the travellers' trail. From around 1922 Austro-American botanist Dr Joseph Rock had lived on and off for 25 years at Yuhu village north of Baisha, documenting rare mountain plants while writing on the lives of the Naxi. In 1985, British travel writer Bruce Chatwin was researching an article on Rock when he came upon a certain Dr Ho and his herbal medicine clinic at Baisha. Chatwin's subsequent article, glowingly talking of his time with Ho, featured in early guidebooks to Yunnan. Ho's fame brought him prosperity while giving the area publicity.

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