And from Tiger Leaping Gorge we began our descent south, spending our last week in China doing what we hadn’t done in two months – relaxing. This doesn’t mean that we were out of the mountains or that we had heat (Lijang is 2,400 above sea level), but all of this was forgotten when we met some excellent friends and enjoyed what Yunnan has to offer.
Litang is a gorgeous, ancient town overrun with Chinese tourists. What a shit show. Naxi women, who are known for their strength and matriarchal family structure, dress up in disneyland ‘ethnic minority’ costumes and show off their traditional skills of weaving and waving tourists. Men on horses and fur hats paraded around town selling horse rides and photo ops. Seeing how tourism impacts China’s minorities is always depressing, but Lijang is the worst.
The real example of the Naxi people (Na-she) was the owner of our hostel, Mama Naxi. The woman never took off her apron, never put down her mop – she even washed her hair in the outdoor sink in between chores. And in traditional Naxi style, her husband sat on his ass and played solitaire all day. As we were leaving Mama presented us with necklaces and gave hugs and kisses. After kissing Vinnie she grabbed his beard, “Ma-arsh!” she exclaimed.
We had no idea what the woman was saying.
“Ma-arsh, Ma-arsh!” she continued to shout while stroking Vinnie’s beard. She pointed to the wall and with giant sweeping arm movements made a square, “Ma-arsh!”
In garbled Chinese-English she explained that years ago there were four important men in China: Leee-neen, Ma-arsh, Sta-leen and Mao. In every village there were huge paintings of these four men and now it appears that Vinnie and his beard closely resemble german philospher and communist revolutionary, Karl Heinrich Marx.
Lijang is worth the trip if only to stay at Moma’s and enjoy her unique brand of Naxi love.