Yi Caobing 彝族操兵

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Every year, on the 26th day of the 6th lunar month, the Yi in Fuchang 副长 village of northern Midu 弥渡 county conduct a ritual martial play called 操兵, meaning 'military drill', that commemorates soldiers going out to war in the Qing dynasty.

Beggars' Convention

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On the birthday of 地藏菩萨 many Bai people bring offerings for the recently deceased to the 东岳庙 on the northwestern side of Dali's old town.

Portraits of Azhali Followers 阿吒力徒之肖像

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Azhali is an ancient Buddhist sect, dating back to the Nanzhao Empire, when Buddhism was adopted as state religion. It survived the centuries in Bai areas mostly around Jianchuan. These portraits were taken during the Prince Festival 太子会, the most significant Azhali event.

Caishen Folk Play 跳财神

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Offerings to Caishen, the Chinese God of Wealth, are common during the Chinese New Year, particularly on the fifth day, Caishen's birthday. 跳财神 is a certain form of folk play honouring Caishen which dates back to the Tang dynasty. The Bai have adopted and preserved many Han Chinese traditions and the pictures here show the play performed in Zhoucheng 周城 as part of the Benzhu Festival.

The Wooden Benzhu of Zashipeng 杂石棚村的木雕本主像

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The Benzhu Temple of Zashipeng Village near Shangcang in Binchuan County 宾川县鸡足山镇上沧村杂石棚村 has some beautiful wooden Benzhu statues dating back to the late Qing dynasty.

Playing the Incense Dragon 耍香龙

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In Longkan 龙龛 village near Dali, during the "Ghost Month", a spectacular fire dragon dance, with the dragon made of burning incense sticks.

Jianchuan's Thousand Lion Mountain 剑川的千狮山

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Not far from the county town is Jianchuan's Thousand Lion Mountain, a Buddhist Temple Mountain with some 3000 lions carved onto rocks.

Daoist Rituals in a Remote Bai Village 偏僻的白族村的道教仪式

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In the small salt village of 弥井 in Jianchuan county Daoist Rituals are performed on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month.

Xueli Benzhu Festival 雪梨接本住

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Receiving the Benzhu on the second day of the New Year in a Xueli 雪梨 village near Fengyu, Eryuan County 洱源县凤羽镇.

Yunnan Snubnosed Monkeys 滇金丝猴

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This endangered species inhabits the high forests of North-West Yunnan. North of Tacheng 塔城 in Weixi County 维西县 a protected area has been established where a small group used to humans can be quite easily seen.

Shibaoshan Monkeys 石宝山的猴子

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Rhesus Macaques have settled the forest around Shibaoshan's Baoxiang Temple, thriving on ample tourist handouts.

Shaxi Ouyang Residence 沙溪欧阳大院

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The crumbling courtyard of the Ouyang Family, just near Shaxi's famous market square, is one of the last unaltered compounds from the caravan era.

Qingyuan Cave Temple Fair 青源洞庙会

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Once a year, on lunar June 13th, the Bai gather at the spring that feeds Fengyu 凤羽 valley.

The Bai Village Show 白族小村的表演

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A Bai folk music show in the small lakeside village 马久邑 near Dali as part of Raosanling 绕三灵.

Tomb Sweeping Day 清明节

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Qingmingjie is a day of remembrance and ancestor worship celebrated in early April, here photographed on the slopes of Cangshan.

Men and Benzhu 男人与本主

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Who says Benzhu worship is only for old Bai women? Images from the 接本主 (挖色, 大年初八,初十).

Slaughtering the New Year Pig 杀年猪

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The slaughter of a pig for Spring Festival is a happy occasion, with family and friends invited for the event. Raw skin, raw meat, even raw liver are considered delicacies in Bai communities around Erhai Lake.

Songshan 松山

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The Nujiang halted the 1942 Japanese advance from Burma further into China and after allied troops crossed the river again in 1944 Songshan became the site of fierce battles until the Chinese Expeditionary Force finally blew up the Japanese fortifications on the mountain top in August 1944.

Pudacuo National Park 普达措国家公园

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Shangri-La's premier attraction, Pudacuo National Park, is a riot of colours in autumn. Just do not expect any solitude.

Super Moon 超级月亮

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A so-called Super Moon coinciding with Mid-Autumn Festival in 2015. Yes, it is Kitsch.

Lanterns on Cibi Lake 茈碧湖海灯会

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A week after Ghost Festival boats set out at dusk on Cibi Lake to make offerings to the Dragon King.

Dengba Festival 登巴节

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Tibetan midsummer festival celebrated around the full moon day of the seventh lunar month.

Cock Fight 斗鸡

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Cock fighting is a popular pastime in the countryside, particularly with the Dai.

Little Cannes in Yunnan 嘎纳小镇

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Being a film star in Europe: near Dali a field with flowers and a fake movie set, dubbed 嘎纳小镇, makes it possible.

Longpeng Mushroom Festival

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New business, new festivals. Mushrooms, once a free addition to the local diet, are now big business in Yunnan. In the mountains north of Shiping the mushroom season now has its own festival, mixing Yi and Han influences.

Shiping Tofu

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Stinky Tofu from Shiping 石屏臭豆腐 is a Yunnan delicacy. Here we have a look at how it is made. Bon appétit.

Art of Yabajie

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The Mute God or Yaba 哑巴 ceremonies in Xiangyun county have evolved into an elaborate Gesamtkunstwerk with dance, body ornamentation, sculpture and painting involving the entire Yi village. Compared to a few years ago, the imagery has taken on a much more sexualized character, maybe reflecting a need to create ever more outlandish 'traditional' festivals.

Red Cliffs of Liming

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The Danxia, or red sandstone, landforms around Liming, a charming Lisu township north of Laojunshan, are a hikers' and climbers' paradise that is just being discovered.

Along the Nujiang into Tibet

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North of Bingzhongluo the road ends and Tibet begins: a narrow dirt track, still wide enough to carry supply trucks, follows the Nujiang up to Chawalong, a small commercial center for the scattered Tibetan villages beyond. Beyond it, transport is by caravan only. The trail winds perilously along arid slopes, sometimes with spectacular views of the snow mountains, until it reaches Bitu, connected by road to Tibet.

Chengjiang 立夏节

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Revived in 1990, Chengjiang's 立夏节 now marks the official start of the summer season on Fuxian Lake and is celebrated with a large market.

Mengzhun Poshuijie 勐准泼水节

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Watersplashing in a Dai village south of Lincang.

Shilong Yunnan Opera Troupe

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Performances of Yunnan Opera 滇戏 are very rare today, but a small troupe of villagers from Shilong 石龙村 near Shibaoshan continue the tradition. They perform during Spring Festival and on occasion on the old stage in Shaxi.

Mizhi Huadeng

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Big, bold and boisterous: once a year the Huadeng Festival 花灯节 turns sleepy Mizhi密祉 into a giant carnival.

Longwang Temple Fair

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The Dragon King Temple 龙王庙 on the shore of Cibi Lake hosts the largest temple fair in Eryuan county every year at the beginning of autumn.

At the Races in Zhongdian

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Every year, on the fifth of the fifth lunar month, when the rest of China celebrates Duanwujie or Dragon Boat Festival, are the horse races in Zhondian.

Nujiang Semana Santa

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Dozens of churches, thousands of Christians: Christianity in the Nujiang valley is an unlikely, but thriving, survivor of European missionary work. Over the Holy Week Lisu, Tibetan and Nu Christians gather at their churches for services strangely familiar, yet decidedly unique.

Gaiwasa Yabajie

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One of the mysterious Yi ceremonies that have only recently received some attention: masked men creating mischief at night in the village of Gaiwasa 盖瓦洒 in Nanjian county.

Eshan Kaixinjie

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In Eshan 峨山 county, just a short drive south of Yuxi, the Yi mark Spring Festival celebrating the Kaixinjie 开新街, literally the Opening of the New Market. Held consecutively at various market towns, the huge street festival offers the best dragon dances one can find in the province.

Ruili Baobo Carnival

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A cross-border China-Myanmar carnival to tie in with the holiday season with a dressed-up ox-cart (plus girl) procession as its highlight.

Dayanggai Guniangjie

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An invention to drive photographers to this remote township in Honghe county? If so, dressing Hani girls and women in hotpants has certainly worked, but the annual Girls' Festival is still one of the most enjoyable events in the province.

Yaba Festival

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The Yaba Festival 哑巴节, which has been declared part of China's intangible heritage, is slowly developing into a carnival.

Banqiao Autumn Fair

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The Autumn Fair marks the beginning of the harvest period in Banqiao and is a good opportunity to see some of the Bai Yi in full dress.

Chengzi Village

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Chengzi 城子 is a beautiful Yi village in Luxi 泸西 county with hundreds of adobe dwellings nestled together on a hillside. In summer the red of the houses contrasts with the green of the rice fields below, while in autumn the yellow maize drying on the flat roofs gives a different dash of colour.

Tiaogong Festival

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The Yi Tiaogong Festival remembers victory in a protracted war after the Yi had to hide in a bamboo grove. But now, where most young people from the village have become migrant workers, the festival is slowly dying and will maybe not be celebrated again.

Cangyuan Monihei

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And now for something completely different: that is what Cangyuan's tourism advisers must have said when they came up with the Cangyuan Sigangli Monihei Carnival. The meaning of the words has 'long' been lost, but locals seem to love it and the festival has acquired quite a following in the region.

Third Month's Fair

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Running a thousand years and still going strong: Dali's Third Month's Fair is the biggest market in Yunnan, drawing traders and shoppers from all provinces particularly to buy Tibetan and Chinese medicine.


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One of the most beautiful villages in Yunnan is Puzhehei with its spectacular setting amidst the karst hills of northern Wenshan. The best time to come is in August when the Lotus flower is in full bloom and the skies can be dramatic.

Husa Valley

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Is this Yunnan's most beautiful valley? High up from the steamy lowlands of Dehong, nestled between two mountain ranges lies Husa Valley, home of the Achang. The Achang, one of Yunnan's smallest ethnic groups, are believers in Buddhism as the many temples dotted around the valley testify. Exploring the villages you are bound to be invited into their home, for the Achang are proud to show off their customs and must rank as some of the most hospitable people around.

Weishan Yi

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Not far from Dali, the market at Dacang in Weishan County regularly boasts a good number of Yi

Good-bye Zhaotong

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As the wrecking-ball has arrived with a vengance in Zhaotong and the last bits of the old quarter are scheduled to fall by spring 2010 we take a last look at the city's urban culture, its unique shops and markets. With Zhaotong's old centre the last of Yunnan's large cities is being turned into modern China blandness. Good-bye Zhaotong.

Diqing Autumn Impressions

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In October Diqing, the Tibetan Autonomous Region in Yunnan's northwest, bursts out in a sea of colour with deep blue skies above. It is the best season for hiking here with almost always sunny weather that helps to lift the temperatures up into the twenties from nights that can already get quite chilly.

Zhoucheng Old Town

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Zhoucheng in Binchuan County is another town that history forgot: stripped of it status as county town in the 1950s (its name means 'old town'), nothing much happened here since: Mao still adorns the walls of the ancient tower, the temple is rotting away and a dog is still waiting for its turn at the dog butcher.

Shibaoshan Singing Festival

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Every year at the end of the seventh lunar month, the Bai of Yunnan come together at the holy temple mountain of Shibaoshan to honour their gods and to have a good time with song and dance.

The Tropical Gardens of Lujiangba

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Where once the carvans crossed the perillious Nujiang valley on their way from China to Burma and beyond are the tropical gardens of Lujiangba, a major fruit and coffee growing area of Yunnan inhabited by Dai, Lisu, Miao, Yi and Han Chinese.

Dai Watersplashing Festival in Yongping

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The Dai Watersplashing Festival in Yongping is one of the most traditional in Yunnan. Not much throwing water, but lots of worship at the temples.

Miao Caihuashan

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The Miao of Ailaoshan celebrate the new year with a song, dance and competition.


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Menglian, on the border to Burma, has one of Yunnan's most interesting ethnic mixes. This slideshow shows some details of the Akha, Lahu and Dai in the county.

Hongwan Fireworship

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The Axi Yi fireworship festival is the grandest carnival in Yunnan and rapidly becoming extremely popular with tourist and photographers.

Awakening Ceremony 开光节

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In Dali's Sanwenbi village 三文笔 a new statue in honour of Wenchang 文昌 is brought to life by painting chicken blood onto the statue's eyes, ears, heart, lips and fingernails.

Heqing Caohai 鹤庆草海

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Caohai is a wetland area north of Heqing's county town.

Azhali Follower Congregation 阿吒力教教会

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Azhali is an ancient Buddhist sect dating back to the Nanzhao Empire when Buddhism was adopted as state religion. It survives in Bai areas, particularly in Jianchuan.

Chairman Mao Quotations in the Old Bai Farmhouse 老白族农舍的毛主席语录

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On the upper floor of an old Bai farmhouse in Shangcang Village, Binchuan County 宾川县上沧村, next to the ancestral altar quotations from Chairman Mao have survived since the Cultural Revolution.

Wumu Naxi Village 吾木纳西族村

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East of Jade Dragon Mountain 玉龙雪山 high above the Golden Sands River 金沙江 lies Wumu Village 吾木村, a traditional Naxi village.

Fengyu Torch Festival 凤羽火把节

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The Torch Festival in Eryuan's Fengyu region is a small neighbourhood affair.

Eighteen Altar Temple Fair 十八坛庙会

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Bai Azhali Buddhist rituals performed at Jianchuan's Caishen Temple.

Yunlong "Erzige" 云龙耳子歌

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"Erzige" is an ancient Bai folk play, traditionally performed at weddings and at the completion of a house.

Fengxiang Paper Charms 凤翔甲马

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For New Year, Bai paper charms, called 甲马, are commonly pasted over doorways and shrines in Fengxiang (Fengyu, Eryuan)

Bai Chuichuiqiang 白族吹吹腔

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Chuichuiqiang 吹吹腔 is a form of Bai Opera with elaborate costumes. Here are some of the costumes from the Yunlong County 云龙县 area.

Yangbi Walnut Festival 漾濞核桃节

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The Walnut Festival promotes Yangbi's delicious walnuts in September. An entirely fake ceremony held in the walnut grove of Guangming 光明 village kicks off the event.

Hands of the Bai Gentry 白族士绅的手

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Hands of the members of the Dongjing Association at Dazhuang Benzhu Temple.

Future Yi Master Weavers 未来的彝族编织大师

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A weaving Yi family in 吊草 village, just south of Xiaguan.

Rice Transplanting 插秧

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After the Beginning of Summer 立夏节 early May, rice transplanting begins near the old town of Dali.

Benzhu Festival in a small Yi village 小彝族村的本主节

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Yi villages surrounding Dali are heavily influenced by the Bai. Here the Yi of 吊草 village worship the Benzhu on the first full moon of the year.

The Village Feast 农村宴

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Significant events call for a big communal meal, reinforcing the community. Here the villagers of the three villages of Shengjiu 生久三村 celebrate the consecration of a new Benzhu temple with a feast for over 1000 people.

Benzhu Offerings 本主祭品

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The Bai people neatly arrange the offerings to their local saints, the Benzhu, and other deities, making sure that even the lesser spirits are not forgotten.

Yunling 云岭

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Southwest of Deqin 德钦, between the snow mountains Mt. Taizi 太子雪山 and Mt. Baima 白吗雪山, the Mekong has cut a deep arid gorge, with only isolated settlements along the river or in the verdant side valleys, such as Hongpo 红坡.

Lisu Achimugua Portraits 傈僳族阿尺木刮肖像

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Lisu dress up for the Achimugua 阿尺木刮 or Goat Dance festival in Yezhi, Weixi County 维西县叶枝镇.

Making Rushan 制作乳扇

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Rushan is a Bai cheese traditionally served only at special occasions. It is made by heating cow's milk with sour milk, stirring it with large chopsticks until it curdles into the consistency of mozzarella, before being stretched across bamboo frames to dry for a day. It is eaten usually grilled or fried, but is also an ingredient in the Bai Three Course Tea 三道茶.

River of Golden Sand Rainy Season 金沙江雨季

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Panorama along the 金沙江 between Tuoding 拖顶 and Jinjiang 金江 during the rainy season.

Butchers of Shangri-La 香格里拉的肉贩

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The central meat market in Zhongdian.

Mangkuan Scenery 芒宽风光

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Where the Nujiang first opens to a broader valley lies Mangkuan, home to one of the northernmost Dai populations, with Lisu, Yi and Miao living in the mountains to either side.

On the Road to Dali

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Lianxiangguan 炼象关 is a historic village on the old trading route from Kunming to Dali.

Domestic Splendour: Residential Woodcarving in Shiping

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The merchants of Shiping grew rich on the tin trade at the beginning of the century. Their family fortunes did not survive the times but some of their residences did. The communist revolution saw the families turned out of their homes and those that took their place were often too poor to modernize the buildings, leaving them largely intact. Today a number have been converted into lifeless museums, but others are inhabited by families who can claim them as home for half a century.

Xiaoshuijing Christian Miao Village

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Xiaoshuijing 小水井 is the largest Miao village in the Kunming area and predominantly Christian.

Wuyin Pilgrimage 五印朝山节

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The old temple complex on 五印山 is the destination of the annual pilgrimage up the mountain for the 朝山节 of the Yi in Weishan county. This year they were collecting donations to build a new temple.

Bisezhai Station 碧色寨站

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Bisezhai, near Mengzi, was once the second most important train station in Yunnan: passenger services between Kunming and Hanoi stopped here overnight and later a branch railway connected to the mines near Gejiu and Shiping. A fuel depot, ware-houses, accommodation for railway personnel, even a Greek-run guesthouse all developed around the station.

Matsutake Market

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Late July is the season for the tasty Matsutake or 松茸. To this market on the outskirts of Zhongdian locals come to sell their pickings to the highest bidders, every mushroom assessed individually, the best morsels fetching more than 20Y.

Laoheipeng Dagehui 老黑棚打歌会

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Laoheipeng is a small Yi village in western Weishan, right on the border to Changning county. The annual temple fair is not only an opportunity to get the Lusheng out, but also for some strange Taoist rituals.

Taowa Dragon Worship

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Mile County's Yi seem to specialize in a novel kind of festival: exclusively performed for paying photographers with a competition between the villages of who can host the most outrageous event. Hongwan went first and now a number of other villages have followed suit. This one here in Taowa eschews nudity but compensates with a not so novel use of big gourds. But everyone seemed to like it.

Dragon Feast

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At the end of the Dragon Worship, which is now largely a paid-for performance for the benefit of photographers, each household in Taowa village receives a tray of food, each different. Here are some of them.

Masked Dances at Zhamei Temple

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In honour of Tsongkhapa, the monk whose teachings are the foundation of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism, masked dances are performed in front of Zhamei Temple in Yongning at the beginning of winter.

Huayao Yi

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The Huayao Yi in Shiping are some of the best dressers in the province. Here they are seen at the Longpeng Mushroom Festival.

Faces of Zhongdian

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Backstage at the dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony of the Horse Races in Zhongdian, sorry Shangri-La.

Bingzhongluo Fairy Festival 丙种罗仙女节

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The Nu people in northern Nujiang celebrate the arrival of spring with worship at a small cave near Bingzhongluo where they collect water dripping down from the stalactites.

Manlong Hualuo

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The Hualuo of Manlong village in Xichou county are another very distinctive small Yi community in Wenshan. They celebrate their annual Buckwheat Festival 荞菜节 in lunar April.

Maguan Caihuashan

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The Caihuashan Festival is the Miao's way of marking the New Year - and even the Han Chinese admit that the Miao have the most lively celebrations. In Maguan the annual get-together has also become an occasion to show off in elaborate dresses, many costing several thousand yuan. Traditional the costumes may not be, but who is to begrudge the Miao, historically one of the poorest ethnic groups, their participation in China's growing wealth?

Nansan Minorities

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Nansan 南伞 right on the Burmese border has some colourful minorities -- Dai, Deang and some very well-dressed Miao -- who attend the five-daily market.

Fengyandong Cave Village

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Until the end of the 1990s Han settlers in a remote area of Guangnan county lived in a village built inside a karst cave, their houses built without roofs.

Yiwu Baishijia

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A festival of the Yi people around Yiwu township in Mengla county in honour of a local hero, celebrated with dance and performances.

Tianpeng Market

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Tianpeng 田蓬 right on the Vietnamese border in Funing county has one of the best varieties of ethnic minorities in Yunnan: many Miao, two groups of Yao, Yi, Zhuang, plus some people who come over from Vietnam. But what the area is most known for is that here even the Han dress up.

Wuding Yi

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The mountains of Chuxiong's Wuding County, just two hours' north of Kunming, are home of some colourful Yi groups.

Bailuo Buckwheat Festival

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The Bailuo Yi of Chengzhai village in Malipo county are some of best dressers in the province. Here come a few snaps from their annual buckwheat festival, held on the first dragon day in the fourth lunar month.

Trading Horses in Dali

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Chama gudao, the old Tea Horse Road: an ancient trading route, a modern tourism romanticism - and still a way of life. Here a Hui family from Weishan county is selling their horses at Dali's Third Month's Fair.

Menglian Holy Fish Festival

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Another one of those crazy festivals in the mysterious province of Yunnan. Just before Dai New Year the people of Menglian celebrate the Holy Fish Festival, a part religious event with the illumination of Menglian's Golden Pagoda, part entertainment with a mass fishing event in the Nanlei River. And if you then do not have enough, the festival is immediately followed by the Watersplashing Festival.

Sword Pole Festival

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Ever climbed up a swaying pole over thirty-six sharpened machete-blades on your bare feet? Well, if not you are not cut out to be a Lisu man. In Lunma village, every year the Hua Lisu men climb the sword pole on the occasion of the Daogan, or Sword Pole, festival. Yes, it hurts. No, no-one really get's injured. How come? Well, you have to be a Lisu man to do it.

Nanjian Temple Carvings

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Nanjian's temple, on a hillside on the eastern side of the town, has on its doors some of the nicest carvings you can find in Yunnan province. While the temple was badly damaged during the Cultural Revolution the carvings seem to have survived the tide of times.

Limi Yi of Wumulong

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Whoever said there was nothing of ethnic interest in central Lincang should take a close look at Wumulong, a small township below the mighty Daxueshan in Yongde county. Young and old, (some) men and (many) women don the traditional garb, complete with silver breast-plates.

Huize Wetlands

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The wetlands of the Daqiao Reservoir north of Huize are one of the few wintering grounds for the extremely rare black-necked cranes. At 2500m above sea-level, the weather is often cold and grim, but the stark scenery makes up for any hardship endured.

Shengjingguan: Gateway to Guizhou

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Shengjingguan 胜境关 is the old border crossing from Yunnan to Guizhou near Fuyuan. The archway with the four stone lions described by many early explorers still stands, as does the (now renovated) stone gate. From here a narrow path leads down into a peaceful valley, presenting the modern-day traveller with views that have changed little since the caravan days.

Mosuo Zhuanshan Festival

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Every year on the 25th day of the seventh lunar month the Mosuo who live around beautiful Lugu Lake bring their offerings to the mountain goddess.

Guandu Old Town

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The small town of Guandu is perhaps the last relic of what was once known as 'Old Kunming': narrow streets lined with small houses, temples abound, people walking.

Bai Raosanling

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Raosanling, a temple fair taking place at three villages around Dali in the fourth lunar month, is the most important religious festival in the calendar of the Bai people of Yunnan.

Dai Flower Street

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The Huayao Dai of the Red River valley celebrate their Flower Festival early in spring.


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The Angry River as Nujiang translates from the Chinese remains to this day a remote region inhabited mainly by Lisu, Nu, Tibetans and Dulong.

People of Wenshan

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The southeastern region of Wenshan is home to a number of minority people, amongst them Miao, Yi, Yao. This slideshow documents some of their traditional dresses.

Red Soil of Dongchuan

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The colourful fields and erosion formations of Dongchuan have become a must-see travel destination for photographers

Sanwenbi Benzhu Festival

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Just a few old ladies of the Lotus Pond Society 莲池会 in Sanwenbi 三文笔 village attending the festival in honour of the local Benzhu 本主 is perhaps a sign of a slowly dying ancient religious culture.

The Ancestral Altars of the Abandoned Village 被废弃村庄的神龛

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In the abandoned Ming dynasty village of Like 利客 in Weishan 巍山 the ancestral altars of the 郑氏 Zheng clan remain.

Shaxi Livestock Fair 沙溪牲畜贸易会

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Around the time of the Taizehui in the second lunar month is also Shaxi's annual livestock fair, where on the far side of the river all sorts of domestic animals are traded.

Bai Sword Ladder Festival 白族刀山节

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On the fourth day of the Chinese New Year the Bai of Qingshan Village near Shuanglang 双廊镇青山村 celebrate their Benzhu Festival 本主节 with a wild Daoist ritual climbing the Sword Mountain 刀山.

Lanterns on Erhai

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On Ghost Festival Day 中元节 the Bai in Longkan 龙龛 near Dali put lanterns on the lake to remember the ancestors.

Fengyu Bai Wedding Customs 凤羽白族婚俗

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Bai weddings in Eryuan's Fengyu still follow a strict traditional ritual rich with meaning.

Ancestor Worship of the Bi Family 彝族毕氏的祭祖仪式

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The Yi of the Eastern Mountains in Weishan County retain Daoist rituals dating back generations.

Shijing Guanyin Worship 市井观音会

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In Yunlong the old women of Shijing Village worship Guanyin with some rarely seen rituals.

Nanjian Cherry Flower Valley 南涧樱花谷

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Early in December the cherry trees flower in a tea plantation in southern Nanjian county.

Dharma Master Cave 达摩祖师洞

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A beautiful pilgrimage path leads up to the Dharma Master Cave 达摩祖师洞 high in the mountains of Weixi county.

Azhali Buddhist Ritual 阿吒力蜜教的仪式

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Azhali Buddhism was prevalent in the Dali region from Nanzhao times, until suppressed by the Ming and Qing dynasties. In the Shaxi area it lives quietly on.

Haidong Dragon Boat Races 海东赛龙船

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Every three years, on Torch Festival Day, the villages of Haidong compete in a great Dragon Boat Race.

Eternal Raosanling 永恒的绕三灵

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The events for Raosanling the in lakeside Bai village of 马久邑 have little changed over a century.

Bai Antiphonal Singing 白族对歌

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Bai people love their antiphonal singing, a improvised playful competition between men and women, full of innuendo and sometimes outright dirty. Here pictures from perhaps the nicest 对歌, held annually on 三月三 at 保和寺 near 湾桥.

Xiaojizushan Pilgrimage 小鸡足山朝山节

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Annually, on 正月十四,the Yi of Weishan make the pilgrimage up to Small Chicken Foot Mountain.

Welcoming the Benzhu 接本主

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Shuanglang 双廊 does not have a proper Benzhu, but once a year the Benzhu from nearby 红山庙 is brought into town with a great parade.

Longling "Comfort Station" 龙陵慰安所

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During the war, Japan forced many women into prostitution at so-called "Comfort Stations" 慰安所. In Longling 龙陵 the building, once the home of a wealthy family, has survived and is now a museum and memorial.

Kaihaijie 开海节

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A picturesque, but invented for tourism, ceremony at Hongshan Temple 红山庙 north of Shuanglang 双廊. The temple's real festival, once referred to as 海神会, is held on the full moon of the fourth month.

At a Lisu Home 在傈僳族的家里

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Tongle Village 同乐村 is a Lisu village near Yezhi Township in Weixi County 维西县叶枝镇, entirely built from wood and protected from development. Inside life is like is has been for ages, if one ignores the poster of Xi Jinping on the wall.

Dongjing Music at the Benzhu Temple 本主庙的洞经古乐

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Bai people perform ancient ritual music at the Benzhu Temple in Dazhuang, south of Dali.

Up the Zhubaluo River 朱巴洛河上

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Beautiful scenery along the Zhubaluo River, a Jinsha tributary disgorging from the slopes of Mt Baimang.

Faces of the Mangkuan Torch Festival 芒宽火把节之面孔

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Far from being just a celebration of the Yi people, in Mangkuan the Torch Festival is enjoyed by everyone.

Double Rainbow Bridge 双虹桥

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Horse caravans still cross the Nujiang on one of the oldest chain bridges in Yunnan.

Tonghai Xiushan 通海秀山

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Tonghai's Xiushan is one of Yunnan's oldest Taoist temple mountains, a retreat once very far from the realms of Han civilization. Today, Xiushan remains a beautiful collection of temples facing the Tonghai plain and lake.

Xihu Harvest Season

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Xihu 西湖, a 坝子 in the south of Eryuan county, with its seasonally fluctuating lake is one of the last remnants of mixed aquatic and dry agriculture which must have been quite common in Yunnan before Ming and Qing dynasty settlers drained most valleys.

Xizhou Town 喜州镇

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History has left its marks on this hometown of many wealthy Bai merchants.

Snow over Dali

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Once a decade snow falls on the Dali plain, dusting not only the Cangshan mountains, but also the old city and its beautiful pagodas in white.

Shaxi Fire Devils

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Fire-throwing is part of the Bai Torch Festival in Shaxi.

Dali Torch Festival 火把节

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Like the Yi, the Bai celebrate the Torch Festival at the end of summer.

Nanmei Lahu Xiang 南美拉祜族乡

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Nanmei, on the slopes of a large valley not far from Lincang City, is the center of Lincang's Lahu and possibly the only place in Yunnan where the Lahu still wear traditional dress in everyday life.

Shaxi Taizihui 沙溪太子会

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Shaxi's principle festival is in honour of the Taizi, one of the many deities in this small Bai town. On festival day, 'the Prince' is taken from his resting place inside the Benzhu Temple, strapped onto a horse and paraded around town in a grand procession.

Kunming Cherry

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March in Kunming is cherry flower time and there is no better place for taking a snap than Kunming Zoo on top of Yuantongshan.

Midu Huadeng 弥渡花灯

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Huadeng is a form of Yunnan Opera: musical plays most often performed during the spring festival. Midu county, south of Dali, is one of the centers of this art form and its recognition as intangible heritage has led to increased interest and innovation in recent years. The photos here are from the Midu Huadeng Festival Week in October 2012.

Benzhu Worship

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The Benzhu is the protective spirit of Bai villages and in the Dali area every village has at least one Benzhu shrine. In Heyijiang, south of Xizhou, the Benzhu has its special day on the full-moon day in lunar June.

Charming Bingzhongluo

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Bingzhongluo, at the northern end of Yunnan's stretch of the Nujiang, remains a charming backwater wedged between the snow mountains of Gaoligongshan and Biluoshan.

Guanyin Temple Fair

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Guanyin is the most important figure in the Bai pantheon and on the 19th day of the second lunar month her birthday is celebrated at the biggest Bai temple in Dali.

Yimen Play Meeting 易门二月二戏会

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The second day of the second lunar month is the day the dragon raises it head 龙抬头 or the dragon spring festival 春龙节, so it is appropriate that Yimen's Dragon Well Temple 龙泉寺 holds its annual temple fair on this day. Over time this had evolved into an event dominated by local plays, but sadly the drama now plays second fiddle to shopping and eating.

Xingmeng Nadam Festival

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After more than 750 years in Yunnan, the Mongolian community in Xingmeng, Tonghai County, still retains its ethnic identity. Every three years, in December to commemorate their official recognition as Mongolians in Yunnan, they celebrate the Nadam Festival and honour Kublai Khan as their ancestor.

Donglianhua Muslim Village

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Donglianhua 东莲花 is a delightfully well-preserved Muslim village in the Weishan valley, only about a kilometer from Yongjian. Many Muslims made their money in the caravan-trade and often carry the surname Ma. The village, built around one of the largest mosques in Yunnan, has many impressive court-yard houses, decorated with images and mementos from far-away lands.

Yinyuan Migan Festival

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Far from their Dali homeland, the Bai of Yinyuan have preserved a distinctive costume and a particular dish: Migan, flat rice noodles, eaten like Mixian. In April, they celebrate the Migan Festival.

Yangzong Incense Festival

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A traditional Han festival in a small town just outside Kunming: the Yangzong temple fair starts off with a colourful procession through town carrying 'the world's largest' incense sticks up to the Longquan Temple on the day before Lantern Festival.

Yi Kids of Muxiang

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Kids dress up for the Yi New Year celebrations in Muxiang 木香 village in Funing county on the full-moon day of the sixth lunar month.

Backstage Gaoqiao

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It is not Glastonbury, but the excitement is real when Gaoqiao's kids get ready for their big day at the annual Flower Mountain Festival.

Wengding Wa Village

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Most Wa people have now been resettled in modern villages near the road, but one village is holding out: Wending village in Cangyuan. Well, actually Wengding is a modern tourism attraction, but besides the entrance fee, the museum and the cultural activities (on holidays), it remains a living village where life goes on as it has for ages. Well, minus the head-hunting, but the old men smiled when asked about it.

Dali Horse Races

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Bare-back riding to exhaustion, dead-sheep polo and professional jockeys: what would Dali's Third Month's Fair be without the races? More exciting than Ascot and you do not even have to be an aristocrat to get in!

Mangxin Bainian

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To see the old year out, for three days before their New Year, the Dai of Mangxin, a small township near Menglian, pay their respects to the old year by travelling to three temples in the vicinity. At each temple they celebrate with dance, food, offerings and just a little bit of watersplashing.

Jingpo Munao Zongge

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"Let's get together and dance": this is not only the translation of the name of the main Jingpo festival in Yunnan's southwestern Dehong region, it is also the programme. From near and far, Jingpo come together in one of the many festival grounds in the major towns and townships for a few days of dance and merry making. The dance, in two winding columns around four poles symbolizing the mountains and rivers, is said to represent the Jingpo wanderings in search of a good home.

Zhizuo Costume Festival

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On the 15th day of the new lunar year, the Yi of Zhizuo village, in the mountains of Yongren county, hold the Costume Competition Festival 赛装节, a splendid display of their traditionally embroidered dress.

Wumeng Market

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Winter in the Wumeng Mountains is a grim and miserable affair, acerbating the grinding poverty. Travelling here sets one back a decade or more as little of China's recent progress has arrived here. It is a living museum of mankind - would you want to live in it?

Lisu Costumes

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In Yunnan, the Lisu do not just live along the Nujiang, but also in sizeable groups in Dehong and Tengchong as well as in Weixi. Here we present a collection of the Lisu's finest costumes - shot at a Lisu cultural festival in Weixi, attended not only by Yunnan Lisu, but also groups from Sichuan and Myanmar.

Gugan Shui Township

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Gugan 古敢, a remote township surrounded on three sides by Guizhou province, is the home of Yunnan's Shui ethnic minority. In their villages, in the beautiful Huangnihe Valley below towering karst mountains, time seems to have stood still: houses are built from rough unhewn stone, hot-springs provide warm water and not even the wheel seems to have been invented: bullocks and buffaloes pull sledges not carts.

Songgui Temple Fair

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Songgui, a township in Heqing County in Yunnan's northwest, hosts a small but interesting temple fair on the 22nd day of the seventh lunar month.

Hani Kuzhazha

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The Hani celebrate the Kuzhazha festival at the beginning of the fifth lunar month.

Nuodeng Salt Village

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Salt was once the most precious commodity in Yunnan. Essential for the preservation of food, but quite rare in Yunnan, it made the villages where it could be produced rich. Nuodeng, nestled in the mountains of Yunlong county, is one of the atmospheric and friendly villages in Yunnan.

Luoping Rapeseed Flower

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Early spring paints the fields of Luoping a golden yellow.

People of Daliangshan

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The Yi of the Cold Mountains are some of the most marginalised people in China and very little acculturated into the Chinese way of life.

Heijing Old Town

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The old salt town of Heijing not far from Chuxiong is one of Yunnan's best preserved old towns.