In Yunnan province, forty-five million people live in 400,000 square kilometers, an area almost one and a half times the size of Italy, and of them, one third belong to national minorities, i.e. non-Han peoples. Twenty-five of China's fifty-six national minorities are represented in Yunnan.
The number of Naxi is small, less than half a million people, but Swallow thinks it's probably set to rise a bit since national minorities are not bound by the one-child policy of China. She, however, married a Han Chinese and therefore is stuck to one kid! :-( She says there are quite a few who break the rule. In this case they have to pay 300,000 Rmb (about 30k euro) for a fine. Alternatively, some couple just don't declare their second born. This can be difficult in a city but is relatively easy in the countryside. A third option is to sell the child to couples who can't have any. Finally, quite a few end up aborting their second child.
At 20:30 we get a chance to listen to a concert of traditional Naxi music in the town's concert hall. This is no tourist trap, but an amazing group that resurrected an old musical heritage that had been destroyed to near extinction during the 1950s after the repressions of the "One Hundred Flowers" campaign in 1957.
The musicians are almost all octogenarians, with a few exceptions, among them a lady harpist and an amazing lady singer. They are led by Xuan Ke, who was imprisoned for twenty-one years (until 1978, after Mao's death) for his key role in founding the orchestra. He was allowed to restart it in 1984, and today the ensemble plays some original instruments which were saved from destruction at the time of One Hundred Flowers and then during the Cultural Revolution by some brave locals who hid them from the Red Guards at their own risk.
Xuan Kue after the concert, he has no bitterness, just an incredibly strong will to keep Naxi musical tradition alive, and he is sorry that it is difficult to find young people to learn how to play it. He claims this is China's oldest music and must be preserved for posterity. So at 81 y.o. he keeps performing with his group every night to packed audiences of locals and tourists.
Leitoto (goodbye in Naxi)!