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Shuhe Old Town

Lijiang, China

Due to its proximity with Lijiang Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shuhe has also been included in the Heritage List as an integral part of Lijiang, Yunnan. In Naxi, the name Shuhe means ‘village at the base of the mountain’ and so it was in olden times at the base of Mount Jubao. The town stands a mere 4kms away from Lijiang and is also famous as a ‘village of leather and cobblers’ and for its placement in the ancient ‘Tea Horse Route’, as tea passed from here from parts of China to be traded with the rest of the world, with horses as the main carrier.

Buses from Lijiang come to Shuhe daily for under RMB5. You can also ride a bike to the place, which would take about half an hour. There is an entrance fee for the place which maybe relaxed at times when there are important festivals or holidays. Since the city streets are cobbled and worn with time, be sure to wear sneakers or shoes with good grip to avoid injury. It is a good place any time of the year but gets crowded during the summer months. Spring and Autumn are ideal times to visit.

Though it is like Lijiang on a smaller scale, yet the town is more authentic and less touristy, maintaining a stronger identity of its past and the Naxi people’s culture. The town center is on Sifang Street, identical to Lijiang, but here a local market is convened somedays, and leather and other traditional items can be purchased as fine souvenirs. Additionally, all items on sale at Lijiang can be bought here for at least half the price. The buildings in the area have characteristic wooden fronts that are a beauty to behold. Down the same road is the river head, that spills into a trench called the Dragon Pool, that supplies water to the whole town. Beiquan Temple, and Sansheng Palace within it, are built close to this artificial spring as it is considered holy. There is a museum as well, the Museum of Ancient Tea Route, that enshrines the history of the old route along with maps and important events and even some artworks from a famous painter, Mao Xiaoxian.

Another iconic site is the Qinglong Bridge, which was built by Lijiang’s ruling family of Mu about 400 years ago. The time it has weathered can be seen in its pockmarked stonework, yet it still presents an image of grace and dignity. Its beauty is enhanced in spring when the willow tree overlooking the bridge is in bloom and adds a splash of color to the whole scene.

Other things to enjoy in Shuhe are the classical music performances that take place twice a day, roaming around the well-preserved old streets and marveling at the buildings and clean streams that flow through the whole town and even catching pre-wedding shoots that seem to be trendy here! And don’t forget to try the handmade flower petal biscuits.

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