China Underground > Travel to Yunnan > Travel to Lijiang > The Jade Water Village

The Jade Water Village

Last Updated on 2020/11/03

Surrounded by mountains, trees, and alpine meadows on three sides, the village looks like a fairyland.

It is called “Gejiben” in the Naxi language, meaning “a place for white cranes to play with water”.

Map of the Jade Water Village 玉水寨

Basic Information

Geographic location:

at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, 10 kilometers north of Lijiang Basin
Scenic status: a 4A national tourist attraction
Tour time: 2 ~ 3 hours

Recommended Tour Route

Entrance → the Three Waterfalls of Dragon → the Hanxiu Waterfall → site for offering sacrifice to nature → site for offering sacrifice to gods → the Holy Spring → the Dongba Wall Painting Gallery → the Yushuiyuan Hall → site for offering sacrifice to wind → the Folklore Showroom → the Performance Hall → the Monument

Key Points

Basic facts, the design of the village, features of waterfalls, Dongba culture, Naxi people’s life style

The Jade Water Village 玉水寨

The Jade Water Village is a 4A tourist attraction located at the foot of the Yulong (Jade Dragon) Snow Mountain, ten kilometers north of Lijiang Basin.

It integrates natural landscape, Dongba religion, and Naxi culture in a congenial whole. As the name of the village suggests, there are a lot of attractive landscapes related to water, such as the Three Waterfalls of Dragon, ancient trees (acer monoes) where meltwater from the Yulong Snow Mountain gush out, and the Holy Spring. It is also a place to learn about Naxi people’s history and life from their traditional construction, the Dongba Wall Painting Gallery, house utensils, music, dance, and various rituals. In the past, the Jade Water Village was the site where local Naxi people held rituals, for the place was believed to be the haunt of a dragon. As a matter of fact, the place is important because it provides the main source of water for the Lijiang Basin.

The gate of the Jade Water Village is composed of an archway supported by two big stone sculptures. The sculpture on the left is a red tiger and the other on the right is a white yak. They are regarded as the door-god of the Naxi people. The sculptures support a big flagstone in the style of the Dongba Scriptures, on which are three eye-catching Chinese characters “玉水寨”(Jade Water Village). In general, the gate is of primitive simplicity and grace.

The village is designed along the water. There are a number of artificial waterfalls from Yulong Snow Mountain. For example, people can see the beautifully designed Three Waterfalls of Dragon, which is surrounded by verdant trees, flowers, and meadows. The first part of the waterfall is said to be where “dragon” appears, the second part where it plays with water, and the third part where it disappears. There is also the picturesque Hanxiu Waterfall, which rivals the Nine-Village Valley in beauty. Here the water runs relatively slowly as if it was singing a melodious song.

The origin of the waterfalls is a 4,000-meter-long undercurrent from the Yulong Snow Mountain. It gushes out from a stone crack in the village and forms “the Holy Spring”. Research shows that the spring does well to people’s health as it contains a lot of mineral resources, thus many people come here to fetch water. Near the spring are two huge acer monoes which are over 500 years old and a pool in which numerous trouts are raised. The spring finally flows into Lijiang Basin and provides the main water source for it.

The Holy Spring is surrounded by various sacrificial grounds. On the east side of the spring is the site where the Naxi people used to offer sacrifice to the gods. When it came to auspicious occasions, the Naxi people gathered here to hold rituals. They burnt incense, offered sacrifice to the gods, and prayed for safety and happiness. People of other nationalities were not allowed to peek or participate in the rituals. Today, however, a ritual is held here every day for people from different places to learn about the Dongba religion. The site was once destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. It has been rebuilt under the leadership of He Kaixiang, a Naxi ritual specialist.

There is also a site for people to offer sacrifice to nature nearby. According to the Dongba scriptures, human beings used to be the brother of “nature”. However, since people did not love and protect nature, they were punished and deprived of land. Later on, people were required to offer sacrifice to nature to show their determination to protect forests, animals, and water resources. From then on, people have formed the habit of coming to the place and offering sacrifices every year. They come here to pray for good weather and rich harvests.

On the far west of the spring is the site where people offer sacrifices to the wind. The Naxi people considered that the power of wind is infinite and they must hold reverence for it. It was also believed that the strength of wind could release souls from purgatory, so funerals used to be held here.

In the village people can learn about the Dongba culture. They can visit the Dongba Wall Painting Gallery, which depicts six epics vividly, such as Genesis, Migration of herdsmen, and War between White and Black. The gallery also reflects the life and ideology of the Naxi people, including their outlook, belief, and life style.

The first part depicts the epic Genesis. According to it, the ancestor of man had evolved from the white eggs that were formed by the sweet sound in the sky and lucky air on the earth. At the same time, the ancestor of ghosts and evil was formed by black eggs. This painting reflects the Naxi people’s outlook that virtue and vice always go together and the world is full of contradictions. It is amazing that the Naxi people have developed materialism at such an early time and their thoughts are characterized by wisdom.

The second part is about Naxi people’s understanding of “karma”. The painting tells people that the world is composed of three parts: heaven, the human world, and hell. Nice people will go to heaven after death and the evil will end up in hell. The painting aims at teaching people to take pleasure in doing good. In the middle of this painting is a diagram used to practice divination, similar to the Eight Diagrams of Daoism.

The third part describes the Migration of Herdsmen, a Naxi epic. According to it, the Naxi ancestors had migrated from the northwest of China and finally settled down in Lijiang. Here they experienced changes in life styles, from hunting to nomadism to farming. The painting also highlights the work and harvest of the Naxi people. It expresses the theme that “labor creates the world”.

The fourth part portrays War between White and Black. The black was jealous of the white who were enjoying harvests and happy life, so they launched a war against the whites. In the end, the white won a victory because they were the virtuous party. The painting suggests the idea that the Naxi people are not bellicose, but they will fight bravely against the intruders when they are forced to.

The fifth part concerns the topic of love and highlights the Naxi culture formed in the Ming and Qing Dynasty. At that time, the local customs were greatly influenced by Central Culture. Even though young people had the freedom of love, their marriages are eventually arranged by their parents and many young people died for love. In the painting, an imaginary kingdom was portrayed where young people have the freedom to pursue their love.

The last part tells people that everything in nature was endowed by god and people should use resources rationally to avoid waste. It advises that people’s behaviors must be consistent with the law of nature and the doctrines in the Dongba scriptures. The painting also depicts the scene of the Naxi people offering sacrifice to nature, which fully embodies the Naxi people’s respect for it.

In the village, there is a huge Dongba censer. Whenever Dongba rituals are held, people burn incense here to pray for good fortune. They can also burn small articles like tissue as the sources of unhappiness so as to get rid of bad luck.

Behind the censer is the Yushuiyuan Hall where Dongba gods were worshiped, including “Dingba Shiluo” (the founder of Naxi Dongba religion), “Chongrenlien” (the forefather of the Naxi people), and “Sanduo” (the patron god). The god of nature, bears, and frogs are also enshrined in the hall.

There is also a monument in the village to commemorate the event that ancient Dongba literature of the Naxi people was enlisted as a memory of the world heritage by UNESCO. Ancient Dongba literature is the essence of the Dongba religion and Naxi culture. The very event signifies the acceptance of the Naxi culture by the world. 32,000 volumes among 1,500 kinds of literature are kept well in Lijiang, Kunming, Beijing, Nanjing, Taipei of China and the United States, Britain, Germany, and France. As the literature covers a variety of contents and subjects, they are regarded as the Encyclopedia of the ancient Naxi society. On the monument, one can see Dongba pictographs in relief and a winding snake which was looked on as the god of nature. On the top of the monument is a copper bird sculpture that the Naxi people considered the guard of “Dingba Shiluo”. The monument expresses the theme that “man and nature should be in harmony”.

In the village, people can have a glimpse of Naxi people’s lifestyle. They can appreciate original Dongba music and dance in the performance hall. They can also see the tools that Naxi people used in the past, such as water mill, water wheel, and water-operated tilt hammer. The tools were used in irrigation and making Lijiang sticky rice cake. Today, they are still used in some underdeveloped regions.

The Folklore Showroom is another attractive place typical of the Naxi style. The construction and layout are exactly the same as the traditional Naxi architectures. In the showroom, people can have a look at various utensils that are closely connected with the everyday life of the Naxi people. Here people can also learn local culture from three famous Dongba specialists, who are experts in Dongba dance, culture, history, and pictographs.

Words and Expressions

alpine meadow 高山草甸
utensil n. 器具
gallery n. 走廊,画廊
wall painting 壁画
ritual n. 典礼, (宗教)仪式
undercurrent n. 潜流
acer monoes n. [植]五角枫
trout n. [动]鲑鱼;鳟鱼
sacrifice n. 祭祀
incense n. 熏香,
purgatory n. 炼狱, 暂时受苦的地方
Genesis n. 《创世纪》(纳西史诗)
contradiction n. 反驳, 矛盾
divination n. 预言
the Eight Diagrams 八卦
nomadism n. 游牧, 流浪
bellicose n. 好战的, 好斗的
censer n. 香炉
enshrine v. 放置或保存(某物)于神龛
encyclopedia n. 百科全书
pictograph n. 象形文字, 古代石壁画
tilt hammer 杵锤, 轮锤

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