China - Yunnan
Shaxi town on the Tea Horse Trail, is the last remaining ancient market town of its kind on this ancient trading route. Although developing as a tourist destination, Shaxi retains its original character and charms partly due to its remote border location. In 2001, the marketplace in Shaxi, was nominated by the World Monument Fund as one of the globe's 100 most endangered sites, and international aid organizations stepped in to help rebuild the heart of the town, to establish a drainage system, and to support the community in creating a plan to improve their lives by embracing traditional lifestyles, rather than losing their cultural identity.
The central market square now has a mix of traditional and tourist shops. The Tea Horse Road museum (in the restored theatre building) has an interesting collection of materials, please note much of the explanatory information is in Chinese. A series of cobbled alleyways lead you away from the main square.
Shibao Shan, is a collection of 9th C temples and hermit caves built into the Shibao mountains just above the Shaxi valley. They were overlooked during the destruction of the Cultural Revolution, and are amongst the oldest “non-restored” temples in China.
There are hiking trails to the east and west of Shaxi, options for kayaking on the Heihui river, horse-riding in the surrounding area and rock climbing.
On Fridays minority peoples of the Yi and Bai come down from their mountain villages dressed in their finest traditional attire to attend the Sideng market. The event serves both as both a social gathering point and a place to trade. Pigs, cows, goats, sheep, ducks, and chickens are traded openly in a large field adjacent to the main road. Harking back to ancient times men will often lead pack mules to carry supplies back to their mountain villages.
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