The Naxi Orchestra is an established part of Lijiang’s tourist scene. Using antique instruments, the orchestra performs Song-dynasty tunes derived from Taoist scriptures, a tradition said to have arrived in Lijiang with Kublai Khan, who donated half his court orchestra to the town after the Naxi chieftain helped his army cross the Yangzi. The orchestra regrouped after the Cultural Revolution, though the deaths of many older musicians have reduced its repertoire. To counter this, the orchestra’s scope has been broadened by including traditional folk singing in their performances.
The orchestra plays nightly in Lijiang in the well-marked hall on Dong Dajie (8pm; ¥120–160; some agents offer discounted tickets). The music is haunting, but introductory commentaries overlong; try to catch the orchestra practising in the afternoon in Black Dragon Pool Park, for free.
Also on Dong Dajie, another hall, called the “Inheritance and Research Base of China”, hosts a song and dance troupe who put on spirited nightly performances to a small audience (8–9.30pm; ¥80). Expect to be dragged on stage at the end. Similar audience participation is encouraged in the nightly dances that start around 7pm in Sifang Square.