Shuhe Ancient town – Suhe (束河古镇) is an important component of the World Cultural Heritage— the Ancient Town of Lijiang, which is one of the places where the ancestors of the Naxi People lived in compact communities.

Suhe was an important courier station on the Tea and Horse Road. The leather industry was flourishing, the products were sold to Lhasa and India, etc.

Shuhe Ancient Town map

Basic Information

Geographic location: 4 kilometers north of Lijiang Ancient City
Scenic status: a World Cultural Heritage Site
Tour time: 3~4 hours

Recommended Tour Route

The age-old Square Market → the Qinglong Bridge → the Cobbler’s Street → the Dragon Spring → the Dajue Palace Frescos → Suhe Primary School

Key Points

Features of Square Market, famous handicrafts, the Qinglong Bridge, the Dragon Spring, Dajue Palace, educational tradition in Shuhe

束河古镇 The Ancient Town of Suhe

Shuhe Ancient town, 4 kilometers north of Dayan Ancient Town, is an important part of Lijiang, the World Cultural Heritage Site. It is the earliest residence for Naxi people and it is the oldest village market in Lijiang. The age-old Square Street, the Qinglong Bridge, the Cobbler’s Street, the Dragon Spring, the Dajue Palace Frescos and Suhe Primary School are the major attractions.

Surrounded by the residential houses of Naxi people, the Square Market (Square Street) lies in the center of the village. It is a copy of Square Market of the Lijiang Old Town. Local people believe this square was built earlier than its counterpart in Dayan Town (Lijiang Old Town). The Square Street extends 35 meters from east to west and 30 meters from south to north. Shops and stores lined in all directions and the street can be washed easily like the street in Dayan Town. It is said that Chieftain Mu opened the Suhe Square Street in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Since then it had been an important station on the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road and had attracted many Tibetan and Han merchants.

Suhe used to be Lijiang’s most famous “township of handicrafts” known for its leather processing, bamboo plaiting, and blacksmithing. Suhe leather craft was so matured that many products were sold to Zhongdian (Shangri-La), Lhasa and even India. A saying goes that “the cobblers of Suhe is really smart, they bunched the world with their awls.” Standing on the cobbler’s street will arouse the imagination of the old days when the craftsmen were doing their work.

At the western side of the Square Street is a big stone bridge over the Qinglong River. In Naxi language, the bridge is called “Ji’a”, meaning “bridge over spring influx”. The bridge was built in the year of Wanli of the Ming Dynasty. It is a mono-arch bridge with a span of 25 meters. Being 4.5 meters in width and 28 meters in length, the bridge is the largest one on the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Route in Lijiang. Looking carefully at the surface of the bridge, one could identify marks from the horse hoofs on the stone slabs. Walking on the bridge, one could feel as if he is back in the old days. Standing on the bridge, far away mountains and nearby rivers flanked with trees and villages forming a touching view of countryside beauty.

Next attraction of Suhe is the Dragon Spring. There are two pools among stones. A pavilion is built between the two pools. Facing the pavilion is a rockery on which trees and liana plants are grown lushly. With lacquer, cypress, and persimmon trees, the autumn scenery here is picturesque.

Behind the Dragon Spring is a temple at the riverside built in Qing dynasty (1644—1911). The temple, with upturned eaves and tower pavilion, is called Three Saints Palace. In the Main Hall of the palace, there are statues of the Goddess of Mercy, the military strategist —— Sun Bin, and the Supreme Monarch—— Taishanglaojun. Local people believed that Sun Bin was the forefather of cobblers and Taishanglaojun the forefather of blacksmiths. They are enshrined together with Goddess of Mercy to be the Three Saints.

Out of the Three Saints Palace and crossing the Qinglong River is the headstream of Suhe where spring water comes out from under rocks. The crystal-clear water then divides into three streams forming the three rivers running through Suhe Ancient Town. The Dragon Spring River (also called Nine-tripod River) runs in the west, villagers drink from it; The Qinglong River runs in the middle, villagers wash clothes from it, and the Suhe River originates from the north of the Dragon Spring and villagers wash rice and vegetables from it. What a clever way of using water!

The Dajue Palace is a cultural relic under provincial protection. It is a courtyard at the eastern side of the Square Street. The palace was built in the year of Wanli of the Ming Dynasty and the wall paintings in the palace are very well known. The architecture of the Main Hall is not so grand but the structure is balanced with upturned eaves at four corners. Beams and poles are decorated with relief and carved corbel arch looks lively. On the walls of the Main Hall are 9 wall paintings; only 6 remain up to now. Covering 26 square meters, the paintings are of Buddhist themes. The Buddhist figures such as Goddess of Mercy, Arhats, Heavenly Kings, Fairies, and Gods are worshipping the Buddha. A special Tantrism-styled, eight-arm statue of the Goddess of Mercy and immortals of Daoism can also be seen in this painting. Nine arhats and a god of craftsman are painted on the east and west walls. The paintings are the real treasure of the Ming Dynasty frescos.

Next to the Dajue Palace, Suhe Primary School is a place worth visiting because Suhe is a township with good educational tradition. Early in the Qing Dynasty, there were private schools here. Later public schools are established making Suhe a cradle of men of mark. On the screen wall of the school are the words “famous persons are common at this place” which suggests that Suhe people attach great importance to education and have an excellent educational tradition.

Words and Expressions

cobbler n. 皮匠
age-old adj. 古老的
handicraft n. 手工艺品
blacksmith v. 铁器制造,铸造
influx n. 流入,汇流
width n. 宽度
length n. 长度
caravan n. 商队,马帮
fresco n. 壁画
arhat n. 罗汉
fairy n. 仙女
immortal n. 神仙
craftsman n. 工匠
upturned n. 上翘的
eaves n. 屋檐
headstream n. 源头
beam n. 粱
screen wall 照壁
Supreme Monarch 太上老君
Heavenly King 天王

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