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The Naxi (纳西) are an ethnic group in the foothills of the Himalayas north-west Yunnan Province, China.

Their culture is partly based upon Buddhism and is an influence from Tibet. The Naxi are thought to have descended from Tibet, and until recently maintained overland trading links with Lhasa (and thus India). They were brought to the attention of the world by two men, the Americann botanist Joseph Rock, and the Russian Daoist doctor Peter Goullart, both of whom lived in Lijiang and travelled throughout the area during the early 20th century. Peter Goullart's book Forgotten Kingdom describes the life and beliefs of the Naxi and neighbouring peoples, while Joseph Rock's legacy includes diaries, maps and photographs from the region.

The Naxi form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. The official Chinese government classification classes the Mosuo (摩梭) as part of the Naxi people, however despite proximity and similar origins in Tibet, the two groups remain culturally distinct. Notably, the Mosuo are a matriarchal society.


The Naxi have used a variety of scripts in the past, however they eventually developed an intriguing pictographic script of their own. Although beautiful, the Dongba script is difficult to interpret and takes many years to learn. In the past, the Dongba (Naxi scholar-priests) learnt the script, and would pass it on to future generations. The script is now in danger of extinction.

The Present

The ancient Naxi town of Lijiang is now a major tourist destination, and its cobbled paths and running waters are extensively photographed by tourists. Some Naxi run shops catering to tourists, such as those serving traditional Naxi bread (baba).

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