Yunnan & Xizhou, China
China is recognized as the oldest continuous civilization in the world, with 5,000 rich years of history. At various times past and present, China has been the most advanced nation on the planet. Now the largest population in the world, most Chinese are of the majority Han ethnic group, but there are over 50 minority ethnic groups scattered across the country. The resulting language and cultural differences weave a fabric of almost incomprehensible diversity.
Yunnan is home to more ethnic minorities than any other China province, and boasts an unrivaled heritage. Linked to Eurasia, India and Southeast Asia by trade routes, Yunnan has been an integral part of regional trade of goods and ideas for centuries. Famous historically for its place on the South China Silk Road, which was developed centuries prior to the North China Silk Road, Yunnan is at once remote but still connected to other Chinese groups. Yunnan Province is one of the last virgin lands where one can find undisturbed but welcoming cultures with nearly pre-historic ties.
The resulting customs and traditions reflect significant influences from many nationalities and backgrounds. Holidays, religions, and family celebrations such as weddings and funerals evidence this colorful background, as do the localized architecture, artisanship, legends, and other forms of expression. Even the cuisine and cooking techniques are a testament to the borrowing and assimilating of an array of cultures that harmonize so beautifully in this special part of the world.
Surrounded by mountains on the East, West, and South, with Er Hai Lake in its center, Dali is a concentration of over 20 ethnic minorities that exude a unique cultural heritage from the area’s picturesque surroundings. The Dali Valley was an early center of economic and cultural exchange that is still thriving today, and was a natural choice for the location of The Linden Centre – we seek to highlight and share these rich cultures.
The people of the Dali region have blended Han and Bai culture alongside other migratory and regional traditions to strike a relatively peaceful balance between indigenous values and external influences. The region stretches North to Jian Chuan and South past Wei Shan, and is known primarily as the homeland of the Bai nationality. Beginning in the Tang Dynasty, the Nan Zhao Kingdom of Dali had close relationships with the Chinese government in the North between 738-902 A.D. After entering into a political union with the Yi of the Nan Zhao Empire in the 8th-10th centuries, the Bai people ruled the Dali Kingdom from 937-1253 A.D. Since then, the Bai people have a history of peaceful coexistence with outside groups and loyal defense of their territory.
Economic prosperity through trade created wealth and political power in the Dali valley. The Village of Xizhou was an important trading center in this early Nanzhao Kingdom and later, during the Dali Kingdom, Xizhou was the capital of the regional government. By the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Xizhou was integrated into these regional trade routes while developing an exquisite collection of exemplary Bai-style architecture. It was in this rare environment that we found the perfect property in which to launch the Centre.