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The Baisha Mural of Lijiang

About ten kilometers northwest of Lijiang Old Town, several ancient villages, including Baisha Village can be found. There, the invaluable Lijiang Mural is stored, preserved and displayed in 15 venerable temples, such as Juexian, Wande, Guiyi temples and Sanbi Garden. Altogether, the mural used to include more than 200 pieces of fresco. However, hundreds of years of historical vicissitudes have left only 55 pieces in good condition. The most famous frescos are known as Baisha Mural of the Dabaoji (Great Treasure) Palace and the Colored Glaze Temple (Liuli Dian) in the town of Baisha.

Most of the temples were built from the early days of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and the Lijiang Mural was created at the same time, over the course of about 300 hundred years. In Lijiang, it was an era of rapid economic development, mutual acculturation of multinational culture, and the growth of religions. Accordingly, Lijiang Mural was an artistic representation of this cooperation, communication and progress. The authors of these mural paintings had come from different nations, including the local Naxi Dongba painters; the Taoist painter Zhang from the Central Plain; a Lama artist Guchang; Han painters Ma Xiaoxian and Li Zeng; and many other artists who were unknown to the public.

The originality and figures of the mural paintings reflect the different religious cultures and artistic forms of Buddhism, Lamaism, Daoism and the Naxi Dongba religion, as developed in a Naxi school. Therefore, Lijiang Mural is quite different from other frescos. Each painting includes at least one hundred portraits, but perspective is used very well, and the close, middle and establishing images are clear. The various lifelike portraits are not only Buddhas but also ordinary people such as bureaucrats, criminals, tourists and executioners. Many of the scenes and subject matters are drawn from daily life-people are shown fishing, riding horses, weaving, dancing and casting iron. The painters used different methods of portrayal within the different elements of the fresco, such as flesh, garments, jewelry, weapons and many other components. The style of these true-life frescos is rural and unconstrained; the colors are strong and have intense contrast but are also unified. The Lijiang Mural fully demonstrates the superb artistic skills, outstanding creativity and rich imaginations of these excellent craftsmen. The vivid and exact figures, flowing lines, well-defined colors and powerful effects of the exquisite details make the Lijiang Mural not only the rare treasure of art, but also forceful proof of national solidarity and an important source of information for research on national religions, arts and history.

We recommend visiting Baisha during a stay in Lijiang. Please contact us for visits and tours.