Yunnan · Lijiang · Lijiang
Shigu and the First Bend of the Yangzi 石鼓以长江第一晚

The turn of the Yangzi made Chinese civilization possible and was the location of many important battles.
Picture: First Bend of the Yangzi River as seen from Shigu.
First Bend of the Yangzi: First Bend of the Yangzi River as seen from Shigu.

The Yangzi marks Lijiang’s northern border with Zhongdian as it first flows south, then abruptly turns 180 degrees northwards just opposite of Shígu, a place called the ‘first bend of the Yangzi'.

The most stunning view of the Yangzi River bend is from above a rocky outcrop just east of Shigu. Most are content to view the river from the lookout point on the road below, but the steep climb up the hill through the fields is most rewarding.

Countless caravans on their way to Weixi and beyond up the Mekong Valley to Tibet crossed the river at Shigu as did the legendary Han Dynasty marshall Zhuge Liang when he first conquered Yunnan, followed by Kubilai Khan when he repeated the feat for the Yuan Dynasty.

In 1936 Shigu once again made history, when a column of the second wave of the Long March commanded by He Long crossed in a number of small boats – an event that is commemorated by the small museum and a sculpture showing a Naxi boatman ferrying a communist combatant across the river.

The stone drum, a round memorial tablet from which the town derives its name, commemorates a Naxi victory of the expanding Tibetans. The tablet is cracked through the middle and it is said, that with any war the crack widens while in peacetime the crack closes again.

Nearby one of the oldest chain bridges still extant in Yunnan, crosses the Chongjiang tributary coming down from the slopes of Mt. Laojun. Sadly, in the last decade it has suffered a bad restoration, robbing it of most of its charm. At least one Naxi musician seems to be always present, trying to extract some tourist money by fiddling as soon as a tourist comes in sight.

The town has changed little in the last decade, apparently benefitting little from the many tourists passing through. But then not even a proper viewpoint has been built to take advantage of its natural setting. Instead an ugly pier building obscures the view.

Travel Notes

Accommodation is all along the main road passing the lower section of town. A local family maintains a trail up to a viewpoint about 500m east of the town.

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