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  Home >> Northwest Yunnan >> Lashihai - Wenhai Watershed

Lashihai-Wenhai Watershed

Situated along the southeastern slopes of the towering Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (5500 meters) and surrounded by mountains on all sides, the diamond-shaped basin of Lashihai Watershed is a spectacular setting for exploring the intricate relationship between the abundant natural resources of this land and the people who live off it.

At an elevation of 2500 meters, Lashihai (Lashi Lake) is the largest highland lake in Lijiang County, and an important habitat for over 57 species of migratory birds, the highest waterbird species diversity of any lake in Northwest Yunnan. During the winter months, the lake is home to tens of thousands of migratory birds, including protected species such as the black-necked crane, whooper swan and black stork. The birds come to Lashihai to feed on its abundance of local crops, aquatic plant species and 7 different species of fish. The Class III protected water lily is one of the 47 aquatic plant species found in the lake.
Wenhai Lake, a sub-alpine lake within the Lashihai Nature Reserve, is another habitat for migrating birds, most notably the endangered black stork. Each year, for reasons not yet completely known, Wenhai undergoes a transformation from sub-alpine lake to grazing grasslands. Beginning in early spring, the lake gradually disappears, believed to drain through underground limestone formations to Lashi Lake, about 500 meters below. Then, with the return of the summer rainy season, Wenhai Lake begins to fill again. By fall it reaches its full size, ready for the arrival of migratory birds in late December.

The watershed’s highland forests support a wide variation of plant and animal species, including protected raptors, forest wildlife, traditional medicinal plants and treasured fungi. In spring, the region’s famous rhododendrons – over 15 species -- burst into bloom, creating mountains of colorful flowers.

Lashihai - Wenhai Watershed is also home to a population of over 20,000 Naxi and Yi people living traditional rural lifestyles and dependent upon the watershed’s resources for their livelihood. The Naxi culture — predominant around both Lashihai and Wenhai lakes — generally remains very traditional in its customs, music, dance, and architecture. Although hints of modernity are found in the growing numbers of solar water heaters, tile doorways and biogas pits, the Naxi language is spoken, most women wear traditional clothing, and traditional folk customs such as the Qilin dance and Guqi song are still intact.

Traditional Yi communities are found in the areas higher upland on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. For centuries, the Yi were known as a fierce, slave-owning society, but in recent decades they have given up their slaves to live peacefully with their Naxi neighbors. Living in more isolated areas, the Yi generally do not have much contact with outsiders, although they are very friendly and welcoming to guests.

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   About the Area

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This web site is a project of the Northwest Yunnan Ecotourism Association and has been developed to introduce you to unique ecotourism opportunities around Lijiang and beyond. By developing and promoting ecotourism in Northwest Yunnan, our goal is to support environmental protection, preserve the areas’ diverse cultural heritage and contribute to community development.  Read more about this project.

Copyright © 2002 Northwest Yunnan Ecotourism Association