Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Splendid Yunnan Part III - Li Shui Jin Sha(丽水金沙)

This is Part III of the Splendid Yunnan series. You can find Part I, Part II, Part IV

A few years ago, a major earth quake struck Lijiang, the statue of Chairman Mao and the theatre where Mao's hand is pointing at were the two only man-made structures that were not damaged. That earth quake was so serious that it attracted the attention of the international media. From then on, Lijing became famous in the international arena. An old Chinese saying fits well here: Luck is where trouble originates, trouble is where luck originates (福兮,祸之所倚;祸兮, 福之所倚)

A performance titled "Li Shui Jin Sha" that showcases the beauty of the different ethnic minorities living in Yunnan are staged at the Lijing theatre every night. Yunnan is a province of great diversity. Geographically, it is bordering Laos, Vietnam, and Burma. Historically, there was a Dali Kingdom (大理国), which rose to great fame centuries later, for being mentioned in the famous sword-fighting novel Tian Long Ba Bu (天龙八步) by JinYong (金庸). Other than that, Yunnan preserves the ancient DongBa culture, which is different from the general Chinese culture.

What would be better than starting the Li Shui Jin Sha show with the famous Naxi Music (纳西古乐)? The Naxi Music was originated from the central plain area in ancient China, it miraculously passed down unaltered in Yunnan, thanks for being inaccessable to the outside world for centuries.

There are 55 ethnic minorities in China, you can find most of them living in Yunnan. Dai, Bai, Yi, Naxi, Miao, Moshuo, to name few. Each of them have their own unique costumes, their own cultures. As Yunnan is a neighbour of many South-east Asian countries, you can find many traces of inter-influence between them.

For example, the Dai tribe have very similar customs with the Thais. Thai New Year is called Songkar festival, where people would splash water to each other, strangers or close friends and families, the Dai have exactly the same festive with the exact tradition of splashing water.

If my memory does not fail me, the photo above depicts the beautiful world of the Third Kingdom of Yulong. The tribe that lives at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain has this tragic yet romantic tradition of committing suicide for love if they could not become husband and wife. The folklore says that those who committed suicide for their love ones would ascend to the Third Kingdom of Yulong. The Third Kingdom of Yulong is a heaven of sunshine, blossoming flowers, and a world of plenty. You will have eternal happiness there with your loved one there. That tradition is said to continue till this day.

Tickets to the show are available at RMB160, RMB120 I think. Get the RMB160 one, it is definitely worth your money.

However, life is not always that colorful and beautiful. When some people are happy, some people are upset. A not-so-widely known fact is that for the Yi tribe, there are two factions, the white Yi and the black Yi. The color signifies their social status. Before the communists came to Yunnan, the Yi had a slavery system, the black Yi were the masters, while the white Yi were the slaves. The communists abolished the slavery system and made everybody equal. The black Yi lost their slaves, their ownership to their land. They hated the communists till this day. A gypsy life they lead, moving from place to place. Once they come to a new place, they would burn the grass to fertilise the soil, plant their crops. A few years later, when the soil becomes infertile, they then move on to a new place. To maintain their high-class ancestry, they would never marry anyone other than a black Yi. They don't welcome visitors other than black Yi, either.

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