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Descending from the pass, the loveliness of the valley hit me with staggering force, as it always did when I made this journey to Likiang in spring-time. I had to dismount and contemplate this scene of paradise. The air was like champagne; the weather, warm but with a tinge of freshness that came from the great Snow Range dominating the valley. Mount Satseto sparkled in the setting sun, a dazzling white plume waving from its top. Storms were raging high up there and the powdered snow was whirling up into the air like feathers on a cap. Below, everything was serene. Pink and white groves of blossoming peach- and pear-trees, interspersed with feathery bamboos, all but concealed white and orange houses of scattered hamlets. Roses were everywhere. The hedges were a mass of clusters of small double white ones: big white, pink and yellow climbing roses hung from trees and roofs: dwarf single roses spread themselves on meadows and clearings. The scent was overpowering and exciting. The fields were green with winter wheat, and between them ran deep, crystal-clear streams of icy water. Dark water plants waved in them like strands of hair. The water from glaciers divided and subdivided into innumerable streams and canals, and made the Likiang plain one of the best irrigated areas in the world. The gurgling of these swift brooks, the singing of larks and other birds was like the music of gods. The road twisted in and out of hamlets.

Likiang itself could not be seen: it was hidden behind a small hill, on the top of which a red and white temple was clearly visible. Crowds of peasants of the Nakhi tribe that predominated in Likiang were returning from the market: smiling men and women led horses, and we could hear their chattering and singing well ahead. Many of them knew me and their greetings were spontaneous and joyous, their faces red from the customary drink they had taken before returning home. Wine in clay jars was carried on horses and by women in their baskets, to be consumed during the cold evenings in the mountains. A group of young men, clad in short pants and jerkins of deerskin, appeared from behind a bend, playing on reed pipes and singing. They were the Attolays -a mysterious tribe living deep in the heart of the Nanshan range — who greeted me affectionately. There was a jumble of sounds ahead — tinkling of bells, clanging of iron, shouts, and tramping of animals. It was a Tibetan caravan coming from the city. Soon its owners came up on their broad, shaggy ponies. They were two Tibetan gentlemen, resplendently clad in red silk shirts and heavy coats tied at the waist by sashes, and wearing gold-embroidered hats.

From Peter Gollart's 'Forgotten Kingdom', 1957

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