Learnings from Naxi friends

Learnings from Naxi friends

Sifting through the moments in China, I see a beautiful gem appear as I remember the precious time spent with a Naxi friend and her family in Lijiang, Yunnan. Walking to their home was a breathe of sweet, fresh mountain air, different from the smoggy thickness of some of the cities that I had spent time in in the East. Their home was surrounded by a verdant isle of green and the occasional grazing pony. Embraced also by the majestic mountains standing tall like noble guards around a fortress, within which lay an interconnected golden web of family life. A golden web of love that gently wove it’s way through the neighborhood of the Naxi community.

And boy, do the naxi people know how to put UNITY into COMMUNITY.

One of my fondest moments from staying with them was walking with my naxi friend’s mum to the market one morning. Walking down the bustling streets at a time in the morning where the air was crisp, alive and enchanting with noise, movement and smell we collected, along the way, friends and neighbors that were all heading the same direction: 菜市场,the fresh market that was filled with a multitude of delicious produce, all of which would be prepared that very evening for a sumptuous and earthy meal. Along the way we conversed with friends, neighbors, family, workers… Although these names had absolutely no meaning, it seemed, in their interaction with one another. It was brother, sister, uncle, aunt… It was family. Family that existed outside the boundaries of the home, or rather it was home everywhere they went: on the streets, in the marketplace, in the restaurants. Simply because, they knew EVERYONE, especially my friend’s mother who’s morning smile and grounding, warm voice which made you feel like you were being embraced by your own mum, listened and conversed with so many. “Let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path” This was a public practice, not an abstract ideological concept, that I learnt the Naxi people knew how to apply into their day to day life.

We have a lot to learn from these wise and noble people. Simply put, I feel I know a little more about what a neighborhood and street should look like. These two words which were… well.. just words a few months ago, jumped off of the pages from the quotation books and into thickets and busy garden of my heart. I live on a street. There are other people around me who live here too. This is a neighborhood. We are all here. You, like me, need to buy food to eat, (though it may not be in a lively wet market like in Yunnan) we have to go around the same chores that the every day throws at us, we share so much in common. How about we share, step by step, a little of our hearts with each other? How about, we learn together what it means to live on a street, to be part of a neighborhood together? Can we tread this path together, like the Naxi people do, the colours of their clothes and the sounds of their voices blended together like the running colours of tie-dye. Can we learn how to put unity into community?

This article originally appeared on Arzhia’s personal blog, Habibi’s Horizons


  1. Ekaterina Elson |

    Having spent time amongst the good Naxi people myself, I know exactly what you mean by brining “unity into community.” Do you think that the new generation of the Naxi minority group will abandon this trend? Is the Naxi community that you experienced the last one left?

    • Hello Ekaterina and Thomas!

      I must apologise for this very very late reply, I’m a final year student at university and it’s been incredibly busy these last few weeks, so I haven’t checked what’s been happening on here! But you’re quite right Thomas, authors should reply!

      So, I will now endeavour to answer your questions! I spent quite a bit of time with some naxi youth whilst I was working in Shuhe, near Lijiang last year, they were about 13/14 years old. All of us went to the ‘huobajie’ fire festival during the summer. I felt that amongst each other there was still this deep connection and common feeling of family. When I walked around the village that I worked in with a particular friend, she would also stop to greet various members of family, friends or neighbours. So from this experience I feel I can say that this beautiful characteristic of the naxi people has not diminished. However, saying this I believe that if this young generation were to move into the bigger cities, where people are many and sincere connections are perhaps fewer, then unity in the community may be a little harder to achieve. Because of the nature of the small village that I worked in, making friends and building community was not a great challenge as we would see familiar faces each day, and of course for the naxi friends, these interactions would have existed most of their lives as that’s where they’ve always been.

  2. Thomas Sampson

    I would like to know the answer to these questions too!

    Authors should respond to comments on their work!

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