White Water Terrace: Holy Land for Naxi People

September 18, 2016
By Lei HuEditor: Amanda Wu
White Water Terrace: Holy Land for Naxi People

White Water Terrace [Women of China English Monthly]


White Water Terrace (baishui tableland) is located in the foothills of Haba Snow Mountains, in Baidi, a village in Shangri-la, a county in the Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in southwestern China's Yunnan Province. White Water Terrace is the birthplace of the Dongba religion, which is followed by people of the Naxi ethnic group.

White Water Terrace is called shibuzhi in the Naxi language. Shibuzhi translates literally to "growing flower." The tableland has a history of more than 200,000 years. The locals call it "a field left by fairies." It has long been (even back in the Tang Dynasty [618-907]) considered one of the most attractive destinations in Yunnan Province.

The tableland resembles a terraced field. The variegated landform is the result of the continual deposition of calcium carbonate (contained in the spring water). The tableland is composed of limestone. Spring water flows through the tableland. After the water is evaporated by the sun, the calcium bicarbonate in the water is transformed into calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate deposits formed on the land and, gradually, the land was transformed into the terraced structure.

A moon-shaped layer is to the left of the tableland. It is said the moon-shaped layer is where fairies get dressed and apply their makeup. To the left of the moon-shaped layer, the shape of the limestone looks like a pregnant woman. Naxi people worship the goddess of reproduction beside the limestone.

According to legend, Dongba Shiluo, the first saint of the Dongba religion, was attracted by the fascinating scenery of White Water Terrace in the 11th century. He studied doctrine, attained wisdom and preached the doctrine on White Water Tableland. Later, the tableland became a holy site of the Dongba religion. Each year, on the eighth day of the second lunar month, the local people of the Bai, Yi, Naxi, Lisu and Tibetan ethnic groups, who are adherents of the Dongba religion, gather on the tableland. They offer sacrifices to their gods, and they celebrate their traditional festival by singing and dancing all day and night.

Li Xiufang is an inheritor of Dongba culture in Baidi Village. Every morning, Li goes to the tableland to worship her god at sunrise. It is a rule inherited from her ancestors. Before daybreak, Li climbs to the top of the tableland.

She puts on her ethnic group's traditional clothing while she is looking at her reflection in the pool, which is on the top of the tableland.

Then, Li goes to the forest behind the tableland. She carries sacrificial offerings to the ancient sacrificial altar in the forest. She uses joss sticks to worship heaven. She uses pine needles to worship earth. She uses a handful of rice to worship the god of water.

Villagers from Baidi also worship — according to the Chinese zodiac — at the altar. In the Naxi's culture, each day is represented by an animal on the Chinese zodiac. As such, the locals need to worship at the altar on the day of their animal. For example, on the day of the rat, the villagers who were born in the year of the rat need to worship at the altar.


White Water Terrace: Holy Land for Naxi People

White Water Terrace [Women of China English Monthly]

White Water Terrace: Holy Land for Naxi People

Li Xiufang is an inheritor of Dongba culture in Baidi Village. [Women of China English Monthly]


(Source: Women of China English Monthly July 2016 Issue)


Please understand that womenofchina.cn,a non-profit, information-communication website, cannot reach every writer before using articles and images. For copyright issues, please contact us by emailing: website@womenofchina.cn. The articles published and opinions expressed on this website represent the opinions of writers and are not necessarily shared by womenofchina.cn.