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The Mysteries of Nujiang River Gorge

Materials are provided by "Travel China weekly newspaper"
by Mu Zi


The 316-kilometer-long Nujiang River Gorge is flanked by two 4,000-meter-high mountains. The mountain peaks on the two sides have an average altitude of over 3,000 kilometers. The gorge is located in Yunnan Province in southwestern China, an area rich in ethnic minority culture. It is now a first choice for many domestic and foreign travelers.

Amazing Landscape

Walking through the gorge, one enjoys the view of high mountains, blue skies and white clouds. The gorge stretches from its narrowest point, only 20 to 30 meters, to the widest point, about 100 meters. The mountains are steep and feature odd shapes, some resembling knife's edge, a squatting lion or a galloping horse. Clouds and fogs linger between the mountains while swift torrents of the Nujiang River echo through the gorge. The mountain slopes are covered with trees and bushes, and on top of the mountains there are tall trees like guardians.

Halfway up the mountain are villages the Lisu and Nu people. The view is so enrapturing that a stroll through this part of the mountain makes one feel as if walking on clouds. And below one may mistake the farm fields that cover the mountain for a poster.

Along the mountains runs a varying current, which in some places is calm and in others is swift. The waterfalls atop the mountain and half way down the stretch of the river also vary in current from fast-moving rapids to tranquil pools.

Lisu minority costume
Lisu minority costume
On top of the Gaoligong Mountain, there is a big round cave. From afar it looks like a full moon, hence its name Moon Mountain. Interestingly a related inexplicable event happened in March 18, 1983. A giant white marble stone fell down and dropped right into a middle school at the foot of the mountain. Strangely, it fell down onto an empty open space, bringing no damage at al to the school. Nobody knows for sure where the stone came from, but a cave about the size of the stone sits on top of the opposite mountain.

The Nujiang is a mysterious river. No floods have occurred, and there are various kinds of bridges that lie across it, including ancient vine bridges, iron chain bridges and modern reinforced cement bridges.

Sliding along the bridge is an interesting and exciting experience. The vine or chain bridges are tied to stone anchors on each of the two banks. People secure themselves with a rope, holding to the chain with a bamboo hook or a pulley, then slide to the opposite bank. Sometimes, the local people also bring their farming or fishing equipment and goats with them to slide across the bridge.

Colorful Ethnic Customs

Over a dozen ethnic minorities live along the Nujiang River region, including the Lisu, Nu and Drung people. The ethnic people there are simple, honest and hospitable. They are good at singing and dancing.

When the Lisu people receive guests, it is the guests' honor to drink the Tongxin Wine. The Lisu custom is to have two people drink from the same cup, regardless of gender, hold the cup together with each other's faces and mouths touching, and drink the cup in one breath. This way of wine drinking is an expression of the Lisu people's respect for their guests.

The Lisu people also have maintained the custom of taking the Spring Bath. From the second to the sixth day of the first lunar month, local people gather in the hot springs 12 kilometers from the Liuku Town, bringing food and clothes with them. After putting up their tents, they take off their clothes and jump into the hot springs. Young people gather together and sing to express their happiness. In recent years, some new activities were added to the Spring Bath tradition, such as climbing up a knife ladder and dragon dance to attract more tourists.

The Drung people have the custom of butchering an ox to offer a sacrifice to heaven. On the sacrificial day, everyone changes to new clothes and gathers at the butchering ground. First two shamans drink wine while the villagers beat gongs and provide the wine. Then wizards sing and dance, grasping a long spear while drinking. Gradually getting close to the ox before suddenly kill it. Afterwards, the villagers pray to the mountain and split the beef and its organs amongst themselves; the head is only given to the two shamans.

The Nujiang River Gorge still has preserved cultural traditions, making it an ideal place to explore. Touring to the Nujiang River Gorge, one should first take the plane to Kunming, transfer to Baoshan, and then take a three-hour bus ride to Liuku Town, capital of Nujiang Prefecture.





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