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Naxi villagers endeavor to preserve Dongba painting in Lijiang

Updated:2018-04-21 17:14:22   XinHua

Leaning Dongba painting is never easy, but Naxi villagers in Xinzhu of Lijiang have committed themselves to passing on this cultural legacy of their people.   

Hidden in the Mountain Laojunshan in Yulong Naxi Autonomous County, Lijiang, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, the little-known village of Xinzhu is a place where the national intangible cultural heritage of Dongba painting is well preserved. Inheritors in the village are committed to passing on this special and characteristic artistic legacy of the Naxi people.



Dongba literally means “wise man” in Naxi language. They are Naxi people’s sages or priests. When a Dongba holds rituals, he needs to paint images of gods, humans, animals and plants. And those paintings are called Dongba painting which is dubbed “living fossils” of Naxi culture. 



Dongba painting is passed down from fathers to sons or from masters to apprentices traditionally. This time-honored art is never easy to learn. “At the beginning, I couldn’t even draw a line. Our master then asked us to write the Naxi characters first because he believes one would never know how to create a Dongba painting if he didn’t know how to write Naxi characters,” said Yang Zhengyuan, a Dongba painting inheritor.


According to the inheritor He Shengdian, in order to learn the painting, he basically followed experienced painters wherever they went, even to their farmlands. “Dongba painting is one of the three major legacies of Lijiang. I study and teach it mainly because I wish our culture can live on forever,” said He Shengdian. As a teacher of the intangible cultural heritage training base established in the Xinzhu Village in 2004, He Shengdian has taught more than 100 students so far. He said that he hopes his students could have a better grasp of the Dongba culture than him. 

Keywords:   Dongba Lijiang