We had a very comfortable night in our cabins and woke up early to hike up the mountain to see the rare Yunnan Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey (滇金丝猴) in the White Horse Snowy Mountain (白马雪山) nature reserve. Here we studied both the diversity of the land as well as the culture. In contrast to its name, the Tibetan Plateau is actually home to many ethnic minorities. The dominant group around Baima Xueshan is Lisu (傈僳). As we learned during our stay, the Lisu live in squat (with a five-foot entryway), wood, one room houses. Most of a family’s tools and possessions are hung on the wall or kept in storage containers up against the wall. Like most people adapted to living in cold weather, the Lisu sleep around a large hearth in the middle of their dwelling. Traditional Lisu clothing is colorful but mostly utilitarian. The men wear simple cloths that are easy to move in, as most were hunters. The women wear shirts, vests and long skirts to keep warm.
On our second day at Baima Xueshan, which is a 2,000km nature reserve, we saw the endangered golden snub-nosed monkey. Despite its name, the monkeys are actually large black and white animals. Interestingly, they are the only other species besides humans that have red lips.
We did not have to walk far to see them because this particular troupe had been trained to live farther down the mountain and to be comfortable around humans. The monkeys get their name for their slit-like noses—adaptations to the lack of oxygen at their high altitude. We watched many of the younger monkeys climb the trees and wrestle with one another while the older ones tended to sit back and eat their breakfast. There are four sub-species of Snub-Nosed Monkeys, all found in China. Each species is found on a separate mountain range separated by the others by a gorge. For this reason, scientists suspect there is an undiscovered fifth sub-species on the fifth mountain range. Local rangers maintain the park and feed the monkeys every morning. As we made our way down the mountain, we ran into some cows with two young women herding them. One of the cows mooed aggressively and the woman told us to stay back and that I in particular attracted the angry cow with my red hair and my pink jacket, so we all hid behind a tree. Finally the cows were taken away and we returned to our cabins. That afternoon, we heard an information session at the nature center about the monkeys from the manager of the park.
After lunch most of the group went on a hike through another portion of the reserve. We got see a relatively untouched virgin forest, which - unknown to me at the time - is extremely rare in China.