Shaxi things to do - Bai Long Tan Spring
At the southern end of the valley, past the ancient Shi'ao (stone turtle) Bridge, and up onto the ridge, is an old growth grove that protects a natural spring which has fed the local villages for many centuries. Venerable oaks and senescent magnolias populate a natural funnel that has over time, forced the boughs down until they lie just above the water's surface. This grove has always been a sacred area for local people, and there is a legend that a white dragon inhabits a deep mountain cavern in the hillside. Newly weds hiked up here after their nuptials, and relatives would place silver bowls at the mouth of the cave, valuable gifts of matrimony from the feared, and yet revered denizen of the mountain.
While there is a small shrine, Bailongtan is really a gateway up into the hills for trekkers and hikers. To the north, persimmon orchards line the banks of the stream, and to the south, elderberry bushes cling to the side of a hill that skirts round into a gully that heads east west. From here there are a plethora of trails leading up into the hills, where pastures and peaks are suitable for all levels of walkers.
Local flora and fauna
Thanks to the diminishing importance of the Tea Horse Road, mules and ponies are no longer the dominant domesticated animals in most of Shaxi. In Duan Village for example, there are almost as many donkeys as there are families, and they play a very useful role in heavy lifting and bringing in the rice harvests. Of the estimated 41 million donkeys in the world today, China has more than a quarter of these. In the mountainous areas, goats are more popular, but here in Shaxi, the good pasture has already encouraged locals to begin investing in dairy cows.
In the wooded area of the valley, local wildlife thrives. Much of this is due to the nature reserve at Shibaoshan, where bird life is especially abundant. Species such as the Mustached Laughing Thrush, the Yunnan Nuthatch and the Crested Finchbill are commonplace, while more patient twitchers will likely be rewarded with glimpses of the Spot-breasted Parrotbill, the Beautiful Sibia and even the Pale Blue Flycatcher.
The trees themselves are alive with brown squirrels. With the opportunity to can breed twice as year in this favorable climate, it is commonplace to see tight family groups of two security conscious parents, and three or four reckless juveniles, racing around the oak and chestnut groves.