Saturday, February 7: After walking around Mu’s Mansion and Lion Hill, Alex and I are famished. We have now given up on our idea of riding bicycles to Baisha and Shuhe because it’s late in the afternoon, and we need to stop for lunch. After we eat, we’ll take a taxi to Baisha.
There’s an area in Lijiang bustling with outdoor food courts and restaurants, so we head there. Earlier in our walks around town, we’d seen a restaurant on the roof of a row of food stalls. The narrow outdoor restaurant overlooks a square on one side and a cute canal on the other. It has wooden tables and chairs and an extensive Western and Chinese menu. We pick a table with a view of the square and order a vegetarian pizza and crab & spinach egg rolls to share. The food is delicious, and we really enjoy people-watching from our perch above the square.
Lijiang draws a cross-section of Chinese tourists, and we enjoy watching hippies with long hair and fringe bags, nerds with big black-framed glasses, girls wearing silly animal hats or hats decked out in flowers. The Chinese are very fashion conscious and do make specific choices, as we all do, about the image they want to portray. Some of the girls choose to be cute, wearing tops with lacy Peter Pan collars, or sweaters covered in bows or hearts. Some choose to be ultra-cool, wearing the latest fashions and looking very hip. Some are jammed into leather leggings and tight-fitting tops. It’s quite fun watching the couples too. The boys are often sweet, carrying their girlfriends’ bags or jackets for them. The boys are quite fashion concious too, wearing straight leg pants rolled up at the hem in pastel colors.
We love the view of the square on the one side; down below a man has a stall selling some kind of gelatinous snack. He constantly is pounding on a sheet of the gel with a mallet and inviting tourists to try their hand at pounding it.
After lunch, we head to the north side of town where we’ll try to catch a taxi to Baisha. We drove by Baisha on our way to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, so we know where it is. We pass by this pavilion of hanging wishes near the north gate.
We hail a taxi and ask for Baisha, and the taxi driver tells us it will cost us 80 yuan. This is highway robbery for a taxi, but we’re in a hurry so we take it. As foreigners, we’re always getting ripped off by taxi drivers in towns where the taxis aren’t metered. It’s annoying, but sometimes unavoidable.
When we arrive in Baisha, it’s pretty deserted and quiet.
Baisha Ancient Town is one of the oldest towns in Lijiang. Its name means “white sand,” after the natural white sand in the area. Baisha was the cradle of the Tusi Dynasty which evolved from the Mu clan, and it was also the earliest settlement of the Naxi people. To be found today are many ancient buildings that were originally constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644): Dabaoji Palace, Liuli Temple, and Wenchang Palace. The well-known Baisha Frescos can be seen in Dabaoji Palace (ChinaTravel: Baisha Village).
We wander around the streets for a bit, but we don’t know where to find the Baisha Frescos. Finally, we see this Chinese couple walking along with their bicycles. We ask them about the frescos; they don’t speak much English but the girl knows enough to tell us to follow her.
They have a friend who has ridden up ahead to look for the frescos. Eventually, their friend comes back and leads us all back to the center of the town, to where we were originally dropped off by the taxi. 🙂
At the end of Baisha Old Street, there is a cluster of temples called “Mudu” that were built in the Yongle era (1402-1424) of the Ming Dynasty. It consists of 3 yards: Sutra Collection Pavilion which is the dooryard, Liuli Temple which is the cloisters, and Dabaoji Palace which is the backyard.
Dading Temple was built by Ruler Muzeng during Wanli times (1573-1620) to Tianqi times (1621-1627) in the Ming Dynasty. Presently, there are 16 frescos which record the pictures of Kalachakra Vajra (also named as the Happy Buddha) in Tibetan Buddhism. As the temples are very dark inside, it’s difficult to get pictures of the frescos.
God of WenChang is honored in the WenChang Temple. He had a strong faith in Taoism and preached Taoism doctrine in Sichuan. His name was Zhang Yazi, but in 1316, he was entitled as “God of WenChang,” the god who was responsible for composition and academic work. He played an important role in testing those who wanted to win a government position in the old times. His reputation was once higher than Confucius in Chinese history, according to a sign outside this temple.
Dabaoji Temple was built by Ruler Muwang in the 10th year of Wanli Times (1582). It has a square layout. Its name was from a Buddhist scripture, Dabaoji, which contains quintessential Buddhist thoughts; it means “gathering everything good.” Dabaoji’s frescos are the best preserved of all the Lijiang frescos. The temple was acknowledged as a National Historical Relic on November 27, 1996.
According to a brochure about the Baisha Frescos, the earliest Baisha frescos emerged in the 17th year of Hongwu Times of the Ming Dynasty (1385), flourished during Jaijing (1522-1566) to Wanli Times (1522-1620) and went to decline at the end of the Ming Dynasty. The Baisha frescos have high historical and artistic value and have been recorded in many published books, such as The Painting History of China and The Frescos in Temples of China.
Among the 28 fresco groups in the palace, the painting of Sakyamuni explaining the sutra passages to his disciples is the most famous and valuable one. The frescos were created by Han artists who collaborated with Tibetan artists.
We take our time wandering around the Mudu, but as it’s getting late, we need to figure out how to get to Shuhe.
We know Shuhe is somewhere between Baisha and Lijiang, so we consider renting bicycles here in Baisha at a kind of general store across from the temples. However, due to an inability to communicate, we’re directed instead to a bus stop down the street. Oh well, I guess we’ll take the bus!