The next leg of our trip in Yunnan Province was further north to Lijiang. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, this town is ready for tourists! At the entrance is a wishing trellis and the world culture wall, then a path leading into the town.
We had enjoyed roaming the streets of Dali’s Old Town and Old Town Lijiang was probably five times larger. And, with that comes an air of over-planning and perhaps too many souvenir stalls. Dried yak meat, embroidered bags, traditional drums, carved wood, coffee, and many restaurants lined the picturesque streets. Still, it’s a treat for us to wander around streets with interesting things to look at – we were still enjoying our break from regular life in Guangzhou. Plus, we found some awesome gelato popsicles!
We were quite pleased when our hostess back at the Bivou offered us a “treasure map” of Old Town Lijiang. On it were places she had discovered that were more looked beyond the obvious tourist shops and introduced us to more authentic representations of Chinese culture.
We were first rewarded with a visit to a shopkeeper who demonstrated his perfect Chinese character writing skills – using only the brush he held in his mouth – as he had been born without arms. To my kids, this was a first, tangible look into the triumph of the human spirit. He, by the way, was also a decorated champion swimmer.
Other places were fun to wander through including a performance hall where musicians make ancient and traditional Chinese instruments come alive.
Because it sounded fun, we were in search of a specialty bell shop that had been highlighted on the map. Now, this is where the combination of a hand-drawn, artistic map plus memory of the drawer comes into play (and to my friends reading this blog post…..I was not solely in charge of reading the map!).
And so we searched all around for the bell shop. We went farther into the village than we might have and saw fine hand-made umbrellas, bought fresh strawberries, and accidently toured a traditional Chinese hotel with a beautiful rose bush out front. So we found joy in the journey, but we finally gave up to head back to the hotel.
And just as we made our decision to leave, serendipity found us and we walked right up to the
elusive and most magical bell shop. Hand crafted little bells with prayers, scenery and poems dangling from the clappers. Beautiful tintinnabulations, incredible art and a willingness to let our children ring a few! And there’s a fantastic story about how these bells were used on the centuries old Yunnan-Tibet Tea-horse Road by on a horse carrying Bunong. Over time and with a few interludes with Buddha, these bells have come to be known the world over and to bring luck and happiness.