The Shaxi Cultural Center and Training Program

We have been leading student groups to the Bai minority village of Shaxi, located in Jianchuan County, for rural homestays since 2001 for students from a wide variety of universities, from top-name schools to small colleges. In the process we encountered the Shaxi Rehabilitation Project, conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, who have been working since then to restore in a traditional way the decaying but beautiful Bai houses, temples and other structures around the historic square of what was once a center of trade on the ancient tea and horse caravan route linking Southeast Asia, Tibet and on to India. Shaxi lies just below the forest covered hills of Shibaoshan, famous for its Indian influenced rock hewn sculptures and its Buddhist temples that date from the time of the Nanzhao and Dali kingdoms (649-1053). After completing much of their work the Swiss are now leaving and Shaxi is becoming a new, if off-the-beaten track tourist destination, now a World Monuments site.The Center for Cultural Learning and Development established the Shaxi Cultural Center for the study of Bai culture and to serve as a venue for local and visiting group meetings, conferences and workshops in a courtyard structure we meticulously renovated in the traditional style using only traditional building techniques and materials.  Even the stain is comprised of walnut leaves and local earth, without the use of petroleum or chemical components. This small complex contains the only library and lecture room in Shaxi and is used by our student groups as well as local government officials for lectures, conferences and meetings.  It is fully equipped with wireless Internet and video projection equipment. In this meeting room we conduct information sessions for the local Bai and Yi people on their options for creating a truly sustainable development model for Shaxi that benefits them as much as outside entrepreneurs.  The most important step has already been taken, at our urging, by the local government, which has created a protected preservation zone within which outsiders are forbidden to buy land or structures, only to lease them, insuring that the most historic area of Shaxi, Sideng Square and the surrounding neighborhood, will remain in the possession of the local Bai people in perpetuity.  This building will serve as a testimony to Bai culture and, replete with a library, serve as a resource center for scholars of the Bai and the ancient Nanzhao Kingdom. The greatest testimony to this vital link between India and China is best exemplified in the rock-hewn grottoes and temples on Shibaoshan, which lies in the mountains adjacent to the villages of the Shaxi Valley. We hope by increasing awareness of their rich history among the local residents to avoid the type of mass tourism found in nearby Dali and Lijiang whose primary beneficiaries are outside entrepreneurs. In order for visitors to experience even more remote Bai and Yi communities, we have delineated a three day hiking or horseback trail connecting Shaxi with the Bai mountain village of Mapingguan, and the temples of Shibaoshan. Further trails will be demarcated and mapped out to other remote mountainous Bai and Yi villages, where visitors can not only experience the natural environmental beauty in the hills surrounding the Shaxi valley, but can experience local culture in settings similar to that these peoples have lived in for centuries through overnight stays with local hosts, thus bringing in greatly appreciated funds to these impoverished communities. In all of these activities we have the full support of all relevant government officials and, most importantly, the local people. Click here to view a PowerPoint presentation regarding the Shaxi Cultural Center and Training Program.