Shuhe Ancient Town – China’s Hidden Village
Shuhe Ancient Town may get less attention than its big brother neighbor Lijiang, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in charm. Located just 2.5 miles from Lijiang and closer to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, it makes the perfect home base for the region.
Shuhe Ancient Town’s Deep Roots
Shuhe Ancient Town is one of the earliest settlements of the Naxi people and was a key stop for the ancient tea trade. When you visit Shuhe, it feels like stepping back in time as you walk along the thousand-year-old(!) stone paths. The Naxi people are still a very large part of Shuhe and can be spotted in the village wearing their characteristic blue caps, and the hotel I stayed in even put on a traditional Naxi dance.
Shuhe Ancient Town is also known for its craftspeople. with leatherwork being a specialty in addition to textiles and woodwork. You can see these for yourself if you take a walk down Sifang Street, the market section of Shuhe. While you’re at it, be sure to buy some dried yak meat for a tasty treat.
What To Do In Shuhe Ancient Town
There are so many things to do in and around Shuhe Ancient Town that a person could spend weeks there and not see everything. Here are a few suggestions for the area, starting with the obvious…
Visit Lijiang Ancient Town
Shuhe actually was once the center of Lijiang Ancient Town, but things change and it is now more of a satellite to the bustle of Lijiang. There are daily shuttles departing from Shuhe to Lijiang, or you could just take a taxi at any time to get there.
Lijiang is a much larger town than Shuhe, with considerably larger crowds to go along with it. Personally, I found it to be a bit touristy and overrun with shops and people, but if you want to go souvenir shopping then this is your spot! There are also some beautiful sights around Lijiang as well, including the view from Lion Hill.
Relax At Black Dragon Pond
One of the most iconic views in all of China, Black Dragon Pond is just a short walk to the north of Lijiang Ancient Town, making it an easy stop while you’re there. The reflection of the Moon Embracing Pavilion in the pond’s waters with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the background is unforgettable.
When I was there in 2013 I didn’t have the pleasure of witnessing this beautiful reflection because the pond was totally dry. As a slight consolation, I did at least get the rare opportunity to walk around on the dry lake bed and see the pavilion and bridge from a unique perspective. Luckily, the pond is now full again so new visitors can treat themselves to the view that made this location famous.
Summit Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
If you enjoyed the view from the Black Dragon Pond, why not take it a step further and enjoy the opposite view from the top of that very mountain? Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is about 30 minutes north of Shuhe Ancient Town and there is a cable car (the second highest in China) from the visitor center that takes you nearly to the summit of 15,000 feet!
From the cable car you can hike the stairs to the summit of the scenic area for magnificent views from the top. If you feel winded, you can even rent oxygen at the top of the mountain to help make your hiking a bit more bearable.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain also makes up one side of Tiger Leaping Gorge, an incredible multi-day hike in the region. If you only want a glimpse of the gorge you can catch a tour bus from Lijiang, but that’s not really the same, is it?
Rent A Bicycle
There are several bike rental places in Shuhe Ancient Town, although you’ll probably need a translator like I did to help you get one. Once you have your rented bicycle, you can take your time and bike down to Lijiang Ancient Town to explore, or to the nearby villages like Baisha, which I’ll get into in more detail next.
Get Healed By Dr. Ho
Legend tells of a wise healer who lives in Baisha Village, just north of Shuhe Ancient Town and easily reachable from a rented bicycle. You can spot his place by the signs out front that tell of the “Most Revered Man.” I parked my bike off to the side and stepped inside to see what all of the fuss was about.
Dr. Ho’s shop/clinic is unlit and filled to the brim with newspaper clippings and other assorted articles and paperwork. It was a bit difficult to communicate with Dr. Ho (which I was used to in China by now), but I was eventually able to tell him about my asthma and lymphedema.
After taking a look at my affected foot and discussing pain levels, Dr. Ho prescribed me two different herbal mixtures that he gathers himself in the mountains surrounding Baisha. His first concoction was meant to be mixed with rubbing alcohol for a soothing rub to help with pain. My second prescription was an herbal tea to help with my asthma.
The price was a little more than I expected, but it was a nice novelty and the tea is actually delicious (although I’m not so sure how much it has helped my ailments). I still have plenty of both at home and drink the tea whenever it gets cold outside or I feel under the weather.
If you visit Dr. ho you’re sure to get an interesting experience, and at the very least you’ll walk out with a large supply of some delicious herbal tea.
Where To Stay In Shuhe Ancient Town
When I visited Shuhe, I stayed at the Huifeng Inn and loved it. The rooms were very well priced at just under $50 USD/night and the Inn, while slightly hard to find initially, was centrally located near all of Shuhe Ancient Town’s restaurants and attractions.
However, despite being well priced and super charming, the best part of the Huifeng Inn was the owner (or was it the manager?). Not only did he meet us at our taxi to make sure we found the entrance, but he also cooked us a traditional Naxi meal from scratch that night, which was delicious!
Every evening there was something going on at the Inn, from cooking lessons to traditional Naxi dance lessons. It really felt like a community even though we were only there for a few days. If you do stay here, keep in mind that they only accept cash so come prepared. I had to make a last minute ATM run to pay my bill!
If cozy, charming inns aren’t your style, here are five other suggestions for places to stay in Shuhe:
- Huifeng Resort Hotel: This is the newer hotel from the creators of the Huifeng Inn. It seems to be VERY well reviewed on TripAdvisor and I’d expect it to be fantastic based on my experience at their inn.
- The Bruce Chalet: Super inexpensive and the #4 hotel in Lijiang on TripAdvisor (but still located in Shuhe), it seems like the best of both worlds!
- The Bivuo Hotel: Personal attention seems to be the name of the game in Shuhe Ancient Town, and this hotel seems to be no different. A more upscale, boutique hotel with modern design and amenities.
- Arro Khampa Lijiang: Luxury European style hotel with spacious, comfortable rooms and, like the rest, attentive service.
- The Banyan Tree: The Splurge. Very upscale hotel (and upscale prices to boot!) with absolutely magnificent grounds and rooms. You only live once, right?
Shuhe Ancient Town is an amazing attraction in itself, and when you add in all of the attractions surrounding it then it becomes a must-visit destination in China. I spent 3 days there and it still didn’t feel like enough. If you’ve been there or have any questions, weigh in below with a comment and I’d love to hear from you!
Disclosure: The hotel links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I will get a commission if you purchase the products they link to. I only link to places I would stay myself and have no incentive to plug one hotel over another.