Donglianhua 东莲花

An old Muslim settlement in central Yunnan.

Here are some photographs from Donglianhua 东莲花, an ancient village near Weishan. It is inhabited by people of the Islam-adhering Hui minority (回族). The name of the village literally translates as “East Lotus Flower”.

Historians generally assume that most of the Muslims of today’s Yunnan descend from the Muslim regiments of the Mongol army that conquered these lands in the 13th century. That would mean that local families are rooted here since many centuries. Donglianhua’s most prosperous years were those at the end of the 19th and in the first half of the 20th century, which is evidenced in the architectural style.

The mosque is both the central point of the settlement as well as the inhabitants’ life. When I arrived, there was a small crowd in the temple, but prayers must have been just finished as everyone was already leaving. I waited a bit to take photos in silence.

Donglianhua lies on the road from Pu’er to Dali. This route was an important stage of the famous Tea Horse Road (茶马道) that connected tea growning regions of southern Yunnan with Tibet and India. For hundreds of years, merchants were passing through. One large courtyard built by the Ma (马) family during World War 2 today hosts a museum to this phenomenon. Its full name is Museum of the Donglianhua Horse Caravan Culture, 东莲花马帮文化博物馆. It is sometimes also referred to simply as Tea Horse Road Museum (茶马古道博物馆).

There are not many artifacts inside, but infoboards are plenty and decent. They are in Chinese only. Apart from the general history of the region and the aspects of the Tea Horse Road trade, they give insight into local customs, including some local tea-drinking traditions. One is “100 shakes baked tea” 百抖烤茶, a poetic name for baked tea: the leaves are roasted in an earthen jar placed over charcoal fire, which needs to be shaken constanly, or “hundred times”. If you are familiar with Yunnanese culture, you must have heard about Bai ethnicity’s San Dao Cha 三道茶, or “Three-Way Tea”. According to the museum the Huis have their own smiliar (or identical) thing. It is a ceremony conducted while receiving guests and has three courses – the first cup is bitter (roasted tea), the second is sweet (with nuts and fruits), and the last is mellow (green tea with chrysanthemum or jasmine). Three different flavors symbolize life’s 1. hardships, 2. joys, and 3. aftertaste/pondering.


“So much bitterness in this world, pushing your horse and making tofu.”
(A saying describing how hard life on the Tea Horse Road was. Bitter (“ku”) rhymes with “fu” in tofu.)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *