Shaxi Ancient Town
Shaxi Ancient Town located at the crossroad of the tea horse road, has a long history that can be tracking back to the Spring and Autumn period in Ancient Chinese history. Shaxi Ancient Town now listed as the most endangered town on the World Monuments Fund.
Being the end of the caravans bringing war horses from Tibet in exchange for Yunnan tea, Shaxi began to lose its prominence as a trading centre and fell into decline. The Friday market still exists and is vibrant, but limited to buying and selling of goods from the area.
Shaxi Ancient Town it is great to see that ancient places are being preserved. The old buildings give you a very good impression of ancient architecture and you can also watch craftsmen doing woodcarving, for example. The ambivalence between ancient buildings and mopeds driving on a 300 year old bridge is quite strange but a very good allegory of China.
Unlike most of the similar tourist areas in China - this one still has not caught on with the crowds - very empty streets on both sides of the river - very few shops open. The old architecture was very well preserved - although a bit crumbling on the river side. Very few shop open for the tourist trade Some very picturesque bridges over the small river.
The old town was restored by a Swiss-led architectural team in 2004 which saw the rebuilding of most of the main structures around Sideng Square including Xingjiao Temple and the main theatre stage. Since that time, many Han Chinese have rented out these buildings as cafes and guesthouses, attracting more and more tourists. The area is a photographer’s dream, with many surviving old buildings, narrow cobbled lanes, and especially during Friday Market, with many tribal women in traditional dress.
Shaxi has agreeable climate, beautiful natural scenery and rich natural resources, which make it a place where the temperature is never too high or too low, and the water is greenish-blue and bluish-green. Shaxi Old Town, as one of the world's 100 most endangered sites listed by the World Monuments Fund is a place where you can breathe in fresh air around-the-clock.
Stone Treasure Mountain and the Friday Market are the two most popular tourist attractions in Shaxi Town.
Stone Treasure Mountain, a fantastic nature reserve and religious site that was designated as one of the first officially protected sites by China in 1982. There are numerous temples and grottoes as well as some fantastic views there.
Shaxi Town was built on the remains of an ancient market town and was once an active trade stop on the Southern Silk Road that connected southwest China's hinterland with Southeast Asia and on to Europe, which is actually older than the more famous Silk Road (in the North), predating it by at least 300 years. The Bai ethnic people from all the villages in Shaxi Valley and the Yi people from the surrounding mountains come here to trade everything from fresh produce to supplies and horses.
In the market day, you can see Minority women dress in colorful traditional costumes, and men will often lead pack mules to carry supplies back to their mountain villages, which much like in the days of the Tea Horse Road hundreds of years ago.