With a history of over a thousand years, Shuhe Ancient town is a well-preserved example of a town along the ancient Tea-horse Road and one of the earliest settlements of the ancestors of Naxi people. Located four kilometers northwest of the Old Town of Lijiang in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, Shuhe Ancient town has a far more authentic feel than Lijiang Old Town, being not so commercialized and not so busy.
In the Naxi language, Shuhe means “a village at the foot of a peak”. It was built along the mountainside and faces the river. There are two rivers on each side of it that go through the whole village. Channels were dug so that the water would pass by each house. People use stones in the nearby mountains to make the walls of their houses. Compared to those in the Lijiang old town, the houses here are even more natural.
Qinglong Bridge, with a history of more than 400 years, is the landmark building in Shuhe Ancient Town. The entire bridge was built with stones. In early spring, the old bridge is decorated by verdant willows, which form a famous scenic spot in Shuhe.
The central square of Shuhe is Sifang Street. Ambling along the Street, you will feel time slowly flowing backwards. This square is the most populous place in Shuhe, especially during the market-day when Shuhe residents and people of neighboring small towns and villages will come here to buy and sell their articles for daily use. In the evening it comes alive with music and dancing. The street is surrounded by shops, all of which have archaic wooden facades. Here you can buy various handicrafts, such as unique ornaments and costumes reflecting ethnic styles, leather products particularly cobblers. Suhe is a famous cobbler town. The cobblers here are as skillful as those in Italy. The leather products that they make are the best seller in Tea-horse Road.
Shuhe is also called Town of Springs. Walking northward along Shuhe Street for one hundred meters, there is a deep pool called Jiuding Dragon Pool or Jiuding Dragon Spring. It is surrounded by tall and old trees, with the clear reflection of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the lake when it is windless. The locals regard it as a sacred spring, from which the overflowing water winds through the village. Beside the pool, people built a Dragon Spring Temple to enshrine and worship the founder of cobbler handicraft.
Fishes in the pool are appreciated by every tourist. They often swim towards you and fight with each other for the food when you come to feed them. A broken stele erectting on the bank makes some ringing-like sound when hit by a stone. You can have a try, which could be fun.
On the edge of dragon spring stands the Three Saints Temple. Master leatherworking is enshrined here, which is the most unique part of the temple. The best time to stop by here is clear nights when the moon hangs in the sky. Standing against the wooden railings, you can have a bird’s eye view of the village presenting a poetic rural idyll.
There are some popular attractions in the town. The Museum of Ancient Tea Route is the first museum studying the ancient tea routes in China as well as the first museum researching Pu’er tea culture in Lijiang. Dajue Palace is part of the Shuhe Yard buildings of the Mu family in the Ming Dynasty and contains 6 important frescos. And the Dongba Palace displays the Dongba culture including dancing and singing performances.
Shuhe is a place where you can seek the traditional way of local life, as you walk along the original cobblestone streets and admire the old architecture while quite often running into locals still dressed in traditional costume.
An outdoor coffeehouse near a body of still and clear water enhances the laid-back lifestyle of Shuhe Ancient Town.