Muli is known as a county-level town in Sichuan. It is by far the most remote place I have traveled in Sichuan. Its remoteness consists of two factors, first is the road and the second is the people. And yet its beauty is obvious.
To get to Muli you will have to get to Xichang, which is a big city in Sichuan and easy to get to by flight, train and car. By car it is 7 hours from Chengdu. So from Xichang, a Yi people place to Muli, it is another 8 hour’s drive through the gorges and over the mountains. The people that live along the driving road include Chinese, Yi, Tibetans and even Mongolians. The town of Muli itself is not very big but very interesting. It stands on side of a mountain facing the river. Driving into from the mountains feels like a surprise to first time visitors.
The people are taller in Muli and it is difficult to tell weather they are Chinese, Yi or Tibetan. Their skin is more tanned probably because of the sun. And the women there are very beautiful. Everyone feels friendly and it seems they all are sharing the town of Muli and the atmosphere. There is a square in the biggest park in the town and people come here to dance every day at 7.00pm. The dancers are Tibetan, Chinese, Yi or Mongolians. I don’t think Chinese people are good dancers but here I was wrong.
Muli is probably famed, if it is, by Muli Monastery, which is a hundred-year old Buddhist monastery that Joseph Rock described in his book and had a photo of the head monk of Muli monastery on the cover of National Geography in America. Muli Monastery is however not located in the town of Muli but hours’ driving from the town.
Muli is beautiful and far. Muli is not so far if you have the time to explore it.
One person is critical for the destructions made by the end of Ming dynasty (around 1600BC), his name is Zhangxianzhong. By the end of Ming dynasty, lots of farmer rebellions raised up and were fighting against the largely corrupted government. The government army was failing and at the same time, the Manchurians came into China and took into control immediately. One group of rebellion was led by General Zhangxianzhong and they fled to Sichuan during the chaos. According to history books, Zhang was a very brutal man and he liked to watch people tortured and got brutally killed or beheaded. Also according to the history books and also from verbal stories passed down by generations from local people, Zhang was responsible for the massacre and destructions in Sichuan. Over 90 percent of the people were killed or starved during Zhang’s stay in Sichuan, let alone over thousand of temples and monasteries destroyed.
The story says that Zhang had had hatred towards Sichuan people during his trip to Sichuan when he was still a child. He and his father were not well mistreated by a Sichuan people. So when he became the general and was in Sichuan, he slaughtered the people there. In the books described: blood has redded the river, no sigh of lives in a hundred miles, and trees growing in the streets in the city of Chengdu. Wherever he traveled to, people got slaughtered by him.
However there was another side of the story which believed that the crime was made by the Manchurians. Most of the history books that have records of Zhang were written in Qing dynasty. And there are plenty of precedents of this re-writing history tradition in every dynasty. Another fact pointed out by some historians is that the Manchurians didn’t take over Chengdu until over 10 years after Zhang’s death. So if all the people were killed by Zhang, who were there to defend Chengdu?
But if the massacre and destructions were made by Manchurians, why there are so many unofficial stories from local people that Zhang was responsible, because in some way it would be difficult for any government to make people to believe in lies. And also the reconstruction of most monasteries and temples in Sichuan were led and founded later by Manchurians.