The Yunnan Province of China has become one of the most sought after travel destinations for those seeking to witness a truly unique cultural experience. Being engulfed by a breathtaking countryside is nothing to sneer at either. This blossoming tourist destination has remained largely obscured and tucked away from outsiders for hundreds of years until modern infrastructure and transportation has allowed access.
Located in the southwestern region of China, stowed away beneath rugged mountainous terrain, ethnic minorities migrated and settled largely in the lowlands of the Yunnan Province for peace, refuge and a new beginning. Due to this relative isolation, today the Yunnan Province is one of the most culturally diverse places on the planet with rich traditions and heritages having been preserved and untainted from outside influence. This makes it a destination of immeasurable interest for many tourists.
The Yunnan Province of China shares borders with Tibet, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar (Burma).
Some of the ethnic minorities that reside in the Yunnan Province are Yi, Bai, Tibetan, Naxi, Zhuang, Han, Hani, Dai, Miao, Lisu, Jingpo, Bulang, Dulong, Mongolian, Shui and many others. Aside from the Hui who have adopted Mandarin, all of these diverse ethnic groups have maintained their own native tongues. The extraordinary amount of cultural diversity has made this region an absolutely fascinating area to explore. There is a multitude of shrines, temples, monasteries and monuments as well as villages comprised of their own style of dwellings and community development.
A Cultural Sampling – Yunnan’s Naxi People
In the northern region of the Yunnan Province by the border of Tibet reside a gentle mountain people and culture known as the Naxi. These peoples are more widely known than their ‘cousins’ the Bai and the Yi minorities. Awareness of these people living in the remote Lijiang County was a result of the 1996 earthquake that levelled the historically significant Tea Horse Road. UNESCO helped aid in the reconstruction and in the process ‘discovered’ the Naxi people. Word spread quickly of the Naxi and their culture. This was the impetus of a profound fascination with not only the Naxi but many other cultures, peoples and the Yunnan Province in general.
The Naxi’s musical heritage includes the 13th-century Mongol-influenced Baisha Xiyue that uses traditional instruments and melody lines of the Naxi and Taoist traditions. They also play a style of ancient music called the Dongjing.
The Naxi have a pictographically recorded religion known as the Dongba. Dongba is an interesting blend of natural spiritualism, animism, Buddhism and Taoism. On a Yunnan tour, you might spot a vendor selling carved wooden trinkets of Dongba characters.
The dress of the Naxi people is vibrant with bright colors and simple yet intricate motifs. Hairstyles and traditional hats also are a part of the cultural dress and presentation.
Countryside of Yunnan
The countryside of the Yunnan Province is pristine and has a majestic grandeur. One of the most spectacular ways to capture this remote beauty is via motorbike tours that are available. The freedom of the open road while taking in the rice paddy fields, towering mountains, lush landscapes and inspiring lakes and rivers make is an experience not to be missed. Many tours take you through many of the most desired towns and villages replete with various cultures and iconic landmarks.
Some worry about preserving the quaint villages and ancient traditions that have remained invisible to the rest of the world for so long but now face the influence of tourism. Will open tourism spill the modern world into the purity of these cultures and ancient traditions? No one can know for certain, however, visiting such a remarkable and culturally rich place while it is still in its pure and early stages of tourism is upon many travelers priority list.