Situated in the northwest plateau in Yunnan, Lijiang (the Beautiful River) got its name from its position at the middle reaches of the beautiful Jinsha River. The Naxi Autonomous County is the seat of the administrative commission of Lijiang Prefecture. Scattered on an area of 7,648 square kilometers, the population of 320,000 is made up of the Naxi, Bai, Lisu, Pumi, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Hui, Han and other ethnic groups. Among them, the Naxi people constitute 57% of the total. Affected by the plateau wind from South Asia, Lijiang has two distinctive seasons, the dry and the wet. The temperature range of the four seasons is narrow. The annual mean temperature ranges from12.6 C to 9.9 C. The Dongba religion, a primitive religion, is the common belief of the Naxi people. In addition, some of them believe in Lamaism. These two religions have greatly influenced the ideology of the Naxi people and their social activities and life.
The Ancient town of Lijiang
The Ancient town of Lijiang was built in the middle of a flatland at the foot of the Yulong Snow Mountain. It got its name "Dayan Zheng" (the Town of Big Ink Slab) because the town is surrounded by tree-covered mountains on all sides with crystal clear water running in the middle of it. It has the appearance of a big jade ink slab. The town covers an area of 3.8 square kilometer at an elevation of 2,400 meters.
The town was built in the late Song dynasty and the early Yuan dynasty. Since then, it has been the political, cultural, and educational center in this area. For a time, it had been an important trading center for business between Yunnan and Tibet, China and India. And now ,the town is a Historical and Cultural Heritage in China and it has been included in the World Cultural Heritage. The roads in the old town radiate from Sifang Street (Square Street) to form a network connecting every corner of the city. Small squares are scattered along appropriate sections of the main streets. Houses have been built on the mountain slopes tier upon tier. "The city depends on water for existence and water comes along with the city" has become one of the main features of the old town.
Culture is the soul of Lijiang ancient town. Dongba culture is an integral part of Naxi culture, referred to as the ancient culture of the ethnic Naxi. It is called so because it is mostly found in the Dongba religion, which is believed to be one thousand years old. It chiefly consists of scriptures, paintings, music, dances, ritual implements and religious services.