More than ever, it was easy to escape the tourist hordes in Lijiang. While they at times make walking impossible in the narrow cobble-stone streets of the old historic centre, you see much less of them once you turn north along the Yu-He river. Instead, you come across old Naxi men and women, playing games, fishing, or just walking home. After some ten minutes, you hear water rushing down: you have come to the small waterfall, where water flows from the Black Dragon Pool further down into the Yu-He river. When you walk up the stairs, your breath is taken away: in the quiet waters of the Black Dragon Pool, you see the majestic Jade Dragon Snow mountain, the arches of the marble bridge, and the surrounding trees reflected, as well as a small pavillion in the middle of the pool.
Black Dragon Pool, or Heilongtan Gongyuan in Chinese, is a Chinese park; it contains several temples and pavillions, bridges, walking trails, and the Dongba Research Institute. For many locals, it is a place to relax, to enjoy the view and the sun, to play games, or to practice - the famous Naxi orchestra comes here three times a week. For the visitor, the view is stunning, and the quieter the water, the more spectacular the reflection of the white arched bridge, the snow-capped mountain, and the pavillions and trees in the water. Walking around the pool is easy, and takes you past several buildings and to the Moon-Embracing Pavillion, site of a double suicide; in 1950, a high official came here with his lover and, once the moon was up, set fire to the pavillion. The current building dates back to 1962.
The Dragon God Temple has been converted into an art gallery, and there are several shops where you can see good examples of the interesting hieroglyphic language of the Naxi. The arches of the marble bridge form perfect circles in the waters of the Yuyuan, or Jade Spring - so called because of the pale green shade of the water. A little bit behind, you can find the Five Phoenix Hall, probably the most impressive building of the park. This Ming dynasty building was erected in 1600. It is entirely surrounded by trees; after you enter, you are greeted by a nasty looking gold-faced guy on a horse. As you continue walking along the shore of the pool, there are no more buildings, and the park feels more as such. The view does not get better, though, so we returned to the entrance and enjoyed sunset over the Black Dragon Pool and the Jade Dragon Snow mountain from there.
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