Skip to main content


Qingnatong – A Village in the North of Yunnan

Having bid adieu to Jiasheng Village, 1 continued my tour, proceeding northwards along the Nu River, and I came to a stockaded village called Qingnatong. Actually it is an “administrative” village, which is composed of four “geographical” villages. One of the villages called Chugan is at the extreme north of Yunnan and populated mostly by the Nu people. If you set out from Chugan, cross a perennially snow-capped mountain, and walk for a solid day, you are bound to be in the Chawalong region in Tibet.

Qingnatong is a place noted for its abundant production of walnuts. The Nu people here build their bouses in the shade of the walnut trees their forefathers had planted. The roofs of the bouses of the Nu people are usually covered with stone slabs for tiles; the architecture of their buildings is uniform. They are neat and quaint in their own way. The cliffs and rocks in the mountain here are also unusual. They are formed of vertical, rather than horizontal, strata, and the strata look like books placed vertically together on a shelf. A big chunk of such stone can readily be carved off a cliff and can be easily ripped asunder. The thinness of such a stratum may be less than half a centimetre. Ail the strata of such a chunk of stone will be cut into different sizes and shapes to suit the needs of roofing. These stone slabs, when used for tiles, are laid on the rooftop in a herringbone pattern. Such a stone slab does not crack or break even if a hale is bored into it or a nail is driven through it.

I was told that formerly some French missionaries had corne to the. Nu River Valley and built their churches with such stone slabs.
The space between the roof and the ceiling of a Nu people’s bouse is used for storing the unprocessed food grains of the,latest harvest. A bouse here generallv contains several rooms; the parents and their children live in separate rooms. There is a guest-room in the house exclusively for receiving visitors. There is a fireplace in the guest-room, around which the family members eat their meals at ordinary times. Under the floor of the bouse is an excavation about one mette in depth. The excavation is used as a pigsty or cattle shed.

When a hoe or some farm tool is seen hitched to the door of a house, it means all the household has gone to a distant place to do farm work. If the docir of a house is only roughly fastened on the outside, it means that the owner of the bouse is certainly not far off.

Before my visit to Chugan, it was virtually an unknown land to all outsiders. So I got an unusually warm reception there. The villagers, who had heen strangers to me before, became my close acquaintances in the few days I stayed with them. Each day of my sojourn in the village, the villagers came to my lodgings to give me eggs and food as gifts and fervently asked me to visit them at their homes.

Each evening during my stay in their village my place was overcrowded with the villagers. We sat around the fireplace, singing, dancing, and playing bamboo mouth organs, and talking about the legends and folk-tales of the Nu people. Though few of these villagers knew my tongue, and could only communicate with me through an interpreter, still our intimacy grew and grew despite the linguistic impediments. Honest and innocent people naturally attract and are held to one another in feeling, it seemed to me. 


All the villagers gathered to see me off the day I left Qingnatong. An old couple, who were over 8o, took my hands and asked me ta stay in the village for a few more days. They were so passionately bent on keeping me that I, normally a very tough guy, was almost moved to tears. Some of the villagers gathered around me, while others earnestly hustled me to their homes. I could not help but drop in at one villager’s house for a Little chat and at another’s for drink ing a toast. The whole morning passed in simply enjoying their sincere hospitality. When I fmally swung into the saddle and turned back to wave good-bye to them, I noticed that many old men and women were rubbing the tears off their cheeks with the backs of their hands. I feel from the bottom of my heart that though the seclusion of their gullies and ravines has barred these villagers from access to the outside world, yet their isolation contributes to preserving in them the beautiful virtue and sincere feeling peculiar to the unpolluted primitive mankind.

Laden with the sorrow of parting, I bade farewell to the Gongshan Autonomous County of the Drulg and Nu nationalities and drove southwards along the Nu River; our car seemed racing against the rol I ing billows in the river. It took me four hours to reach Fugong County, a place densely populated by the Lisu people.

Fugong is a mountainous county and criss-crossed by many streams. To the east of the county is the perennially snow-capped Biluo Mountain; to the west is Gaoligong Mountain. Both mountains are over 4,000 metres above sea level. The Nu River and the I ,ancang River carve two trernendous longitudinal canyons between these two mountains. The Lisu people consciously call themselves “the masters of the Lancang River, the Nu River, and the Gold Sand River.”

The ancestors of the Lisu people had settled before the 8th century in the areas adjacent to a river, which is now called the Yalong River in Sichuan Province, and also adjacent to that segment of the Gold Sand River that separates Sichuan Province and Yunnan Province. After the r6th century, repeated and large-scale migrations took this nationality, through graduai penetration, into areas surrounding the Lancang River and the Nu River. This development has resulted in a peculiar population distribution widely scattered localities of concentrated inhabi-tation. There are over 466,900 Lisu people in China. Over i86,000 of them live in the Nujiang Autonomous Prefecture of the Lisu nationality, while the rest are scattered in less than ao counties in the two provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. The tribes of this nationality distinguish themselves by the colour of their dresses. The Lisu people are divided into three tribes: the White Lisu Tribe, the Black Lisu Tribe, and the Variegated Lisu Tribe. Fugong County is inhabited by the Black Lisu Tribe.

There is a colossal round hole in one of the rocky pcaks of Gaoligong Mountain. The bote looks litre a full moon. The Lisu people call it “the petritied moon.” A legend sacs that a divine sitepherd, Adeng bc naine, fell in love with Ala, the daughtcr ceche Dragon King (the legendary reigning god of the sea) of the Fast Sea. Ignuring the obstruction imposcd hy the Dragon King to their nuptial union, thev came down from heaven to earth. The offended Dragon King tried to flood the earth with billowv surgcs rushing inland from the sea to drown them and sink them to the hottom of the sea. When thc sca water %vas about ro submefge Gaoligong Mountain, Adeng rock out bis magie how and slun a magie arrow through one of the rocks e’ peaks of th mountain. The inundating sca water rushcd elsewhere h rough the hole’ in the rocky peak where the magie arum had penetrated, Thus Adeng and Ala surv i yeti die deluge and were united. Thau is \vbv t here is the colossal round hole in the shapc of a full moon in the rocky peak.