So different from Han Chinese, the poetic pictographs, colorful costumes and physical features of the people of Lijiang tend to quickly beguile first-time visitors to town. They soon realize that there’s nothing quite like this place anywhere else in China. The Naxi (pronounced “na she”) people have lived on the edge of the Chinese empire for centuries and managed to preserve unique features of their culture: written and spoken languages, religious practices, music and matriarchy have survived most attempts at assimilation.
Religion is exceptionally complex: Animism, Buddhism, Taoism, Tibetan Bon and in recent times, Christianity, are all mixed up together in what is commonly termed the Dongba religion. The typical Dongba village shaman presides over deaths, marriages and divinations from blessing a new restaurant to choosing an auspicious name for a child.