A Day in Lijiang

a guest Jul 8th, 2012 11 Never
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  1. I learned how to write my name in a different language today. Early this morning after breakfast we paid a visit to a traditional ritualist/healer of the Naxi people: a Dongba. These shamans have performed ceremonies and served various needs of the Naxi for generations but they have dwindled to a mere 33 across the entire minority group. The tradition is threatened by a dwindling level of relevancy among the new generation and the difficult training required to become a Dongba.
  3. Dongba is both the name of the position, as well as the name for his pactice and the language he writes and chants in. It is passed down from the father to his sons, with training beginning at age 6. This has proved to instill some hesitance in Dongba fathers, who are not always choosing to propagate their traditions, and instead favoring education or other forms of work for their children.
  5. In either case, we were taught all of this by the Dongba we met, and given our name in traditional Dongba text. Names are a powerful thing; in the end it's one of the few things that a person can actually lay claim to besides your own flesh and bones. Many traditions place great value on a person's name and I kept this in mind when I was shown the Dongba form of my name.
  7. Afterwards we spent the day in Old Lijiang. This has by far been my least favorite city. In our class this spring we studied fairly heavily how indigenous people and the government have aggressively promoted their tourism industry. There was a lot of walking through marketplaces selling literally the exact same items in shops only single spaces apart. The food was expensive, it was packed with other tourists, and the atmosphere was generally not that enjoyable. It was really hard not to feel cynical about the experience. It felt a lot like Disneyland without the rides or massive cartoon characters. Gross.
  9. I did end up getting some materials for my research on Chinese city dynamics. A development firm had several offices across this district that were targeting rich tourists to invest in a new housing project to be built south of Shuhe, where we've been staying. Thanks to our guide, Lilly, who was with me at the time, I was able to speak to one of the saleswomen about the project and got some materials. It's all in Chinese, but I think I'll be able to get some help on translating the gist of it.
  11. We finished the evening by listening to a traditional Naxi orchestra. They played pieces from ancient Imperial China as well as some folk ballads from the nearby regions. It was the first time I'd seen a traditional concert of Chinese culture. Interesting to say the least, although it was kind of disappointing that a nightclub's bass was infiltrating our concert hall during the performance.
  13. Tomorrow we're getting up before 8 to have breakfast before we begin our climb of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. I will admit that Lijiang has a fabulous backdrop of this majestic peak. We'll be staying at the Weihai Ecolodge and visiting some villages located on the slopes of the mountain. I'm not expecting to have any internet connection, but I'll write as soon as I get one.
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