Author Archives: Ilian

Shaxi: Shibaoshan Cave Temples


IMG_1502 Yunnan Province


June 6, 2014

Dear Friends,

I should have known better.   I should have looked at my map.  I should have been more aware of my surroundings.  I should have taken my hiking stick!

My guide Ilian and I decided on an early morning drive to the remote Shibaoshan Cave Temples – a complex of grottoes just north of Shaxi.  We invited Nicole to join us.

A grotto is a small cave or cavern or a man-made shelter that resembles a cave.  Did I assume that the grottoes are easily accessible?

 As Ilian has observed and I have already experienced, “Yunnan Province Is Mountains.”  The Shibaoshan Grottoes are IN the mountains, high in the mountains, and from the parking lot, one helluva trek up the mountain path.  Ilian is young and strong so he had no problem strolling up 500 meters..

Nicole, a very young and agile Chinese woman we met in Shaxi Town, skipped up the trail as nimbly as the Macaque monkeys who greeted us.

Yours truly, albeit a tad slow, managed the climb quite well, thank you very much! (Almost one-third of  a mile at Elevation: 2455 meters or 8054 feet.)

The one thousand year old grotto and temple complex at Shaxi Shibaoshan is one of the best preserved treasures of ancient Buddhism in China and are a national heritage site.   And yet, one website calls the site “Shrouded in Mystery.”  In fact, there is no mention at all of the remarkable caves and temples in any of my three China guidebooks.

Few travelers venture to Shaxi and fewer still hike to the grottoes.  The good news is that Ilian, Nicole and I were there alone.   Except for one family with a little girl – cute as a monkey.

A bit out of breath,


大理 Dali “City Of Great Principles”

 大理 Dali  “City Of Great Principles”

dali 3 pagoda





A brief his-story of Dali the ancient capital of Yunnan Yunnan was territory of State Dian in ancient times. It came to be known as Nanzhao in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and Dali in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Kublai Khan’s conquest of Yunnan in the second year (1252) of the Xianzong era of the Yuan Dynasty, conquering Dali Kingdom and establishing Yunnan (1271-1368) and Yunnan Province was formally proclaimed here in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which has remained unchanged until now.

The Bai People Of Dali

The superb architectural skill of the Bai people is represented by the three pagodas at the Chongsheng Temple in Dali. Built during the Tang Dynasty, the 16-storey main tower is 60 meters high and still stands erect after 1,200 years.

Dali – Also Known As The Hippie Capital Of China!

When Dali first opened up for international travellers, it was the backpacker hippies that made it first, on the Katmandu-Lasa-Lijiang-Dali-Yangshuo trail aka the pizza trail. Today in Dali there is a mixure of both tourists, long term residents (of whom many artists), backpackers and just experimentalists. A great place to see some of the local scene is Renmin road also known as “hippie street”

TL&Molly daliHippie, occasionally spelled hippy, refers to a subgroup of the 1960s COUNTERCULTURE LIFESTYLE that began in the United States, becoming an established social group by 1965 before declining in the 1970s. Hippies, along with the New Left and the civil rights movement, are considered the three dissenting groups of the 1960s counterculture movement. Hippies were part of a youth movement, composed mostly of white teenagers and young adults between the ages of 15 and 25 years-old.? Inheriting a tradition of cultural dissent from the bohemians and the beatniks, hippies rebelled against established institutions, criticized middle class values, opposed the Vietnam War, embraced aspects of non-Judeo-Christian religions, promoted sexual liberation, and created intentional communities, leading some to describe hippies as a new religious movement. Hippies were against “political and social orthodoxy”, choosing a “gentle and nondoctrinaire” politics that favored “peace, love, and personal freedom.” Hippies perceived the dominant culture as a corrupt, monolithic entity that exercised undue power over their lives. They often called this culture “The Establishment,” “Big Brother,” or “The Man.” Hippie opposition to the Establishment spread around the world through a fusion of early rock, folk, blues and psychedelic rock, with the dramatic arts and the visual arts in tow. The word hippy as a term African Americans used to describe a specific type of white man who “acted more Negro than Negroes.”

Hani Rice Terraces – A World Wonder

Hani Rice Terraces – A World Wonder

Hani Rice Terraces - A World WonderTerraces of Yuanyang are some of the most spectacular rice terraced land scape in China, however in recent years mass tourism is taking place and aggressive groups – big groups of camera men are starting to sadly disturb the local hani peoples communities. We advise never to join big groups and so to respect and not disturb the local cultures and communities. Yunnan has other less known terraces that very few travellers know of, explore Yunnan with Rural China and see what others won’t.

Rural China© - The Hani peoples rice terraces - a world wonder