Baisha is a small village on the plain north of Lijiang, near several old temples and is one of the best day trips out of Lijiang. Before Kublai Khan made it part of his Yuan empire(1271-1368), it was the capital of the Naxi kingdom. It's hardly changed since then and though at first sight it seems nothing more than a desultory collection of dirt roads and stone houses, it offers a close-up glimpse of Naxi culture for those willing to spend some time nosing around.
The star attraction of Baisha will probably hail you in the street. Dr.Ho(or He) looks like the stereotype of a Taoist physician and has a sign outside his door:'The clinic of Chinese Herbs in Jade Dragon Mountains of Lijiang'. The travel writer Bruce Chatwin propelled the good doctor into the limelight when he mythologised Dr Ho as the "Taoist physician in the Jade Dragon Mountains of Lijiang.'Chatwin did such a romantic job on Dr Ho that he was to subsequently appear in every trabel book with an entry on Lijiang; journalists and photographers turned up from every corner of the world, and Dr Ho, previously an unknown doctor in an unknown town, has achieved worldwide renown.
The Baisha Murals
This ancient Baisha murals were stored, preserved and displayed in some ancient buildings in the Baisha village, which is located 10km northwest of Lijiang city. The mural was made from 1385 to 1619, employing the eclectic artist energies of Chinese Taoist, Tibetan and Naxi Buddhists and local dongba shamans. This rich fusion had resulted in a tremendously powerful art, heavy in spirit and awe-inspiring in its presentation of the mystical world. Dominated by black, silver, dark green, gold and red colours, the murals in the back hall, overlaid with centuries of brown soot, are doomladen and bizarre, the scenes and figures, some still vivid in detail, are largely taken from Tibetan Buddhist iconography and include the wheel of life, judges of the underworld, the damned, titans and gods, Buddhas and bodhisattvas. There are trigrams, lotus flowers and even Sanskrit inscriptions on the ceiling. The deliberate damage done to the paintings is apparent and terrible, but the loss of the irreplaceable wooden statuary that filled the temple, of which there is no trace, is even more tragic.
Places of Interest in Baisha Village
In the center of Baisha Old Town is a group of temples called "Mudu". There are many ancient buildings such as Dabaji Palace, Dading Pavilion, Jingang Palace and Baisha Frescoes. All of these ancient buildings witnessed the golden age of Baisha Old Town.
Dabaoji Palace and Liuli Temple: At the end of Baisha Old Street, there is a huge group of temples built during the Yongle Period, in the Ming Dynasty. It consists of three yards including the gate of the temples, the dooryard, Sutra Collection Pavilion, the cloister, Liuli Temple, and Dabaoji Palace. Dabaoji Palace is the backyard. The total area of the palace is about 73 square meters. There are 28 fresco groups located in the palace. Among these frescos the painting about Sakyamuni explaining the sutra passages to his disciples is the most famous one. These mural paintings, with their fine and smooth lines, bright colors, vivid pattern, balanced and harmonious composition are a wonderful display of more than 100 figures depicting religious tales and activities from Taoism, Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism. These frescoes are not only treasures of the history of Chinese painting, but also important cultural relics as well.
The fresco group is a collaboration of artists from Han and Tibet nationalities. They represent superb artistic skills, as seen by the flowing lines and well-defined colors. They are a rare treasure. Dading Pavilion, dating back to Wanli period, the Ming Dynasty (1572 AD) is about 10 meters away from Dabaoji Palace. The 16 mural paintings preserved in Dading Pavilion were finished in the Qing Dynasty. Different from those in Dabaoji Palace, the beautiful shapes, in bright colors and precise lines form a sharp contrast. They too are a national treasure.
Baisha Frescos: The 44 pieces of Baisha frescos were drawn in the early Ming Dynasty. Most of the paintings are about religious stories of Taoism, Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism. The murals embodies the artistic characteristics of the Naxi, Tibetan, Han and Bai ethnic groups. Among them the paintings about Kwan-yin and Sakyamuni are the most famous ones. Now Baisha Frescos, also known as Lijing Frescos have become precious data for the study of China's history of arts and religions.
Reviews of Baisha Village & Baisha Murals
The mural is ok (I am not an artist and cannot really tell what is in the painting), but the courtyard and the building structures are beautiful! In addition to the mural there are also quite a few statues of acient figures. Unless most tourist attractions where there were a lot of people, this place is very quiet with just a few tourists (most are non-Chinese). You have the opportunity to take photo and enjoy the place without the disturbance of a large crowd.
You can bike to this place from Lijiang Old Town in less than 90 minutes (my 9-year old did it)! If you have more energy you can bike another 6km to reach Li Shui, another beautiful village. My 9-year old had only enough millage to reach Baisha, so we did not continue to Li Shui. You can stop by Su He on the way (there are people asking for 50RMB but do not pay them, just ignore them and continue)