Tuesday 27 May 2014

Shaxi, 15/16 May 2014

Shaxi is a REAL “old town”. Thankfully it has avoided the commercialisation of the "old towns" of Dali, Lijiang, and to a lesser extent, Weishan. Guest houses are more low-key and our hotel felt like it could well have been used by Mao on the Long March.

For millennia Shaxi has been an important trading stop between China and Tibet. It has an agreeable climate, rich agricultural land, and natural resources (they smelted copper way back BCE). It was on the recently named “Tea Horse Caravan Trail” – tea to Tibet, to cut their fatty diets, in return for horses from Tibet. Over 80% of local people are of the Bai ethnic group, or national minority.

The present day Friday market is vast, spilling back into the approaches to town. All kinds of food are traded, livestock, butchered pork, and lots of it, vegetables, fruit, clothing, hardware, machinery and spare parts. Sometimes you’re in an open air Bunnings, then a hen and chicken market, a meat market without a fridge in sight, then a ‘seconds’ shop.

Since 2001 Shaxi has been on a World Monument Fund endangered sites list. The Shaxi Rehabilitation Project, funded mainly by the Swiss and Chinese governments, aims to integrate cultural heritage, conservation and regional economic development in the Shaxi Valley. It shows. Put it on your bucket list.

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