Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture 楚雄彝族自治州

Chuxiong covers Yunnan’s central mountains, a region that despite the proximity to the capital remains remote and underdeveloped: it is the heartland of the Yi, hardy mountain folk with a number of colourful festivals.

Undulating mountains of reddish-brown soil, often densely covered in pine forests, characterise the landscape, with settlements far and few between. The trading route from Kunming to Dali, through Lufeng, Chuxiong and Nanhua, and the route north to Chengdu, through Wuding, Yuanmou and Yongren, apart the region remained inaccessible and unexplored until the second half of the 20th century. As there was not any mineral wealth nor many fertile valleys to speak of, few Han settlers felt tempted to settle in the region and even today some communities are formed almost entirely of ethnic minorities. The region’s tourist attractions are limited: the Yuanmou Earth Forest is one of the geological wonders of the region, with its eroded valleys, while the Yi, scattered amongst many valleys, have a number of colourful festivals, such as the Costume Festival in Santai or the main Torch Festival celebrated throughout. Sizeable groups of Lisu live in Wuding and Yuanmou County, some Miao in Wuding and Lufeng. Interesting are a number of Dai settlements in Yongren, Dayao, Yuanmou and Wuding Counties, the northernmost settlements of the Dai people.

Black Well, White Gold

Heijing is a small town in the northern Chuxiong mountains. Salt once made Heijing one of Yunnan's richest towns. Now its architectural splendours are being rediscovered.


Dancing under the Moonlight: the Costume Festival of Zhizuo

As villages go, Zhizuo could hardly be more remote. Some 70km from the county town, first along a winding mountain road, then on a deeply rutted track without public transport: even in the dry season it takes several hours and a bit of stamina to reach. Yet, at least on the first full moon of the year, the effort is worth it, as Zhizuo holds one of Yunnan's most colourful festivals, the Dress Competition Festival or Caizhuangjie 赛装节.