Later that night, we arrived in Lijiang. It was already dark, so I went to bed quickly.
April 13: Today we set off in the rain for a cultural museum, where we learned about Naxi and Dongba heritage. There were displays with traditional costumes, pictograph writing, and various scrolls and artwork. It was very interesting to me, and reminded me in some ways of the displays I have seen of Native American culture in US museums. I thought it was a neat symbol of marriage that costumes for married women featured a knot in front, while those of unmarried women simply featured cross ribbons, which were untied.
We also saw a Dongba man drawing characters on paper. Our tour guide encouraged us to say hello to him in his own language, which we did, and she then started telling us the prices of the scrolls he was drawing, and that he could draw our names or good luck wishes for us.
After that, we headed back to our hotel. I got ahead of the group and ended up wandering the old city for three hours straight, before finding our hotel. I had passed the small alleyway at least 12 times, but had always assumed it was too small and inconsequential to bother looking down. The upside was that I saw a lot of the old city. In particular, I was struck with the Three Pit Well, an old well with three pits where water came up. A plaque in English said it was used for washing vegetables and clothes, and for drinking water. I observed people doing all of these things while I sat there for a few minutes to rest. The well seemed to be a cultural gathering place, where people came to get water, do their laundry, prepare veggies for dinner, and socialize with their neighbors. It was off the beaten tourist track, and one Chinese child seemed very surprised to see me there at all. It was much more relaxing than the congested streets of the rest of the old city, which were swarming with tourists.
I was glad to get back to the hotel though. My feet were starting to get tired.
April 14: Today we had a tour of the city. It was interesting - as we stood by a big brick wall with a relief of horses on it, I saw three little girls pass by wearing ribbons that were knotted, indicating they were married. "That can't be right," I thought, wondering who had put them in such costumes. I saw an old man looking at me. Something about him made me stare back for a moment. He had on a fine suit and tinted glasses.
Oddly enough, I saw the old man again that night, at a Naxi music exhibition in a concert hall. The orchestra featured aged musicians playing antique instruments, along with singing by younger Naxi women. The old man I had seen earlier in the day played some sort of string instrument, and also wacked the gong from time to time. The oldest musician was 89.
April 15: What a great day! We went out to Meili Snow Mountain today. I had to get up very early, but it was worth it. We took a cable car high onto the mountain, and played in the snow. Brian and I threw snowballs at Chinese tourists, but they were too far away and we couldn't hit any of them.
After that, we headed down to this beautiful clean stream. Apparently, it is custom to wash your hands and face in the water, which I did. I also hiked up a dry wash that led back to the mountain. I could see water had carved out strange shapes in the rock. It was quite beautiful.