Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says – My Yunnan Trip # 17 – The Ancient Writing or Drawing on the Walls of the Lijiang Old Town

This is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: the Sign Says

In my Yunnan Trip series, I mentioned about the city Lijiang, which is the most impressive one.   I do have fsome interesting things to share with you in my future posts.  What I am posting today are a few ancient writing symbols written on the walls in the  Old Town.  Please see the photos below.  What do these signs say?  The characters displayed are the Dongba characters of the Naxi language.  What do they mean?

The people living in Lijiang are mostly the Naxi minority.  In my last post My Yunnan Trip #16 – the Naxi Minority in Yunnan, I have described a little about the Naxi population and the Naxi women. Here are some more details about this city and the people’s way of living.

While I can only tell some of these writings or drawings, which I would describe later, I am interested to know how these ancient writings/drawings and characters related to the way of living of the people here.  I found this website most helpful.  It is brief but very informative.


 Population and Distribution:

They mostly live in the Naxi Autonomous County in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, while the rest live in Sichuan and Tibet. Their population is 308,893 according to the 2000 census. In the name Naxi (also spelled Nakhi), Na means senior and honored and Xi means people.

 Language and Character:

Their language belongs to the Tibetan-Burman group of the Sino-Tibetan phylum. In the past, they used a pictographic language called ‘Dongba’ and another called ‘Geba’. In 1957, they designed characters based on the Latin alphabet and now most can write in Chinese. The Dongba Scripture (or Dongba Jing) that their ancestors left has recorded all facets of the Naxi life and is highly valued for posterity as a means of studying their character and history.

Before the foundation of modern China in 1949, most of the people held the faiths of Dongba Jiao, believing that all have spirits and those spirits could never die. When they encountered significant events such as marriage, death, festivals, or disasters, they would invite a wizard to chant. Although there was Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity being taught there, few Naxi people turned to those religions.

 Life Styles:
They live on farming, stockbreeding and handicrafts. Reaches of the Jinshajiang River is abundant in botanical resources such as trees and medicinal herbs. The Lijiang horse has also enjoyed the reputation for years of one of the ‘Three treasures of Lijiang’ which were presented to the official courts because of its ability to transport goods in mountainous area.

Their breakfast is simple and usually consists of steamed bread, but lunch and supper are often more sumptuous. They like to pickle pork. The pickled Pipa pork is famous for lasting several years.

I haven’t tried the pickle pork.  But if you read my Yunnan Trip #7  post on my foodblog, you would have seen the photos of the  breakfast cooked by the attendant of the little bungalow where we lived.

Based on the lunar calendar, the main Naxi festivals are Spring Festival, Pure Brightness, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and Torch Festival. Generally, these festivals are celebrated with worship and sacrificial activities.

 Other Customs:
They are warm and kind. After a hunt, they will share a piece of the kill with a casual passerby. When visited, they will prepare six or eight delicious dishes to treat their guests. Most of the young Naxi people insist that they have one spouse and usually they have a very complicated process to protect their monogamous marriage. But for those living beside Luguhu Lake in Lijiang, they still keep the ‘walking’ marriage which is the only remaining vestige of a matrilineal clan among all the ethnic groups of China.

Now you have some idea how this minority group live, and you may be able to imagine what these writings on the wall say. Well, let me try to translate a few of them which I do understand.  In this picture below, from left to right , top to bottom, it said:   customer, flag, bridge, drink, cut, frightened, superman, love, stretch your legs, quarrel, dance, dating, playing a flute,  kill,  walk/run, girl, tongue, nose, ears, eyes.


I read the other side of this wall writing/drawing as well, and realized that it might be about a story.  It probably talked about a drama of killing people in relation to love, jealousy, happened in a place where people drank, ate and dance.   Since there was a symbol of a superman, perhaps the superman saved the girl from being killed in the battle or fight!  Well, use your imagination please!

Although it might only be fiction, the story of  girls being seen dating in a public place of drinking, eating and dancing, might tell us about the Naxi women living in a more liberal society even in those ancient days.

That’s all for this post.  Please stay tuned for other interesting posts on the Lijiang Old Town, one of the World Heritage Sites in China.


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