snaking through the hengduan mountains of China´s southwestern province of yunna, a breathtaking gorge stretches more than 300 hilometers, averaging 2000 meters in depth.A measures 3500 meters at its eddpest point,far deeper than the grand canyon, carved to a mahmum depth of 1830 meters by the cotorado river.This is tje Stunning Nujiang Canyon with a secluded,mysterious atmosphere created by majestic mountains flanking torrential flows of water the canyon has become a mecca for hikers and explorers.
Several years ago, a Yunnan friend recommended Nujiang Canyon to me. "You will see Gaoligong Mountain, famous for incredibly diverse vegetation, on your left side, and magnificent Biluo Snow Mountain on the right," he illustrated. "Beneath your feet the Nujiang River will roar, and when looking down, you might tremble with fear. Of course, if you´re brave enough, you can follow the ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road, but make sure you don´t fall into the river from the narrow trail, which is less than one meter wide."
His words remained in my memory as clear as yesterday when I finally made an excursion to the canyon. However, upon arriving I was surprised to discover a dense cluster of churches - a rarity in the rest of the country. Christianity was already introduced to Nujiang Canyon in the late 19th century. Historically, the Lisu people inhabiting the Nujiang River valley followed primitive pagan religions,.worshipping various gods and ancestors. In 1888, a French missionary´constructed the first Catholic chapel in the area, and in 1913, British missionaries introduced Protestant Christianity to the Lushui and Bijiang river valleys. In the following years, missionaries from Switzerland, Germany, and the United States continuously streamed in, and by 1949 there were 213 Christian churches operating in the Nujiang area, claiming more than 20,000 followers, or about one-fourth of the local population. Many ofthe nearly l,000 clergy serving the churches were Lisu.