Nuo Deng: The Salt Town and Confucius Temple
Yun Long County
Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture
June 8, 2014
Now here’s a quote to remember:
"Jan, I am impressed!"
So proclaims my guide Ilian as we reach the top of the mountain.
Ilian may be impressed. But I am not sure whether to feel proud or to feel duped. An hour ago, after breakfast, Illian casually suggests, "Let's take a stroll to see the Confucius Temple." Was I impressed into this vigorous constitutional?
Starting from the charming and lively central square, up and up the steep stone steps we climb. Up and up past mud brick homes, horses, mules, farms. Up and up through thinning air. I stop to catch a breath, to take a drink, to shoot the scenes. (Do I want to shoot my guide?)
I sit at the feet of Confucius. Have I learned anything at all? Confucius say, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”
This is not my first heart-pounding climb here at Nuo Deng. Yesterday we climbed up from the parking area, through narrow paths to the village itself. If not for my strong driver, I would have needed to hire one of the local mules to haul my luggage.
The mountain-side village of Nuo Deng is 2000 years old and at one time was the richest village in China. For two millennia, the Bai inhabitants make their fortune by mining and selling salt. The local salt-cured ham is still a delicacy and prized throughout China.
This evening we will take another steep but short climb to a village home where the lady will prepare a meal for us. But no ham or any other meat tonight. Ilian is a vegetarian and since we share our meals, I have cheerfully and gratefully followed his menu suggestions.
The creative and varied Yunnan vegetable cuisine has produced one healthful result: the waistband on my pants needs to be adjusted. The inevitable and constant climbing in mountainous Yunnan Province has produced yet another corporal effect: my ancient left knee, usually a bit stiff, has readjusted itself and now functions as nature intended.
To my Maphead friends: Nuo Deng is “remote” and is not to be found on my map of South China. I doubt that this salt town appears in the index of any guidebook or atlas. (I only found the town on a detailed map of Dali Prefecture.)
Nuo Deng sits in the Qingshuilang Mountain Range about halfway between Lanping and Yongping, just north of Yunlong and east of the Mekong River.
Finally, something else I have learned to appreciate in my travels in Yunnan. And you can quote me on this:
“Suburban trumps Urban; Rural trumps Suburban. Remote trumps Rural, as long as there’s a donkey for hire.”