They are elegant middle-aged women who move with an easy grace in long, gray-blue pleated skirts. These ethnic Naxi women come to town and dance, after finishing morning chores around their homes and farms, to earn a few tourist dollars.
As you stroll down the cobbled lanes that wind their way alongside brooks fed with fresh spring water from Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, north of Lijiang, an enterprising woman peddles wild strawberries picked that morning.
Down an alleyway en route to the heart of the old town in Sifangjie (Square Street), where visitors to Lijiang gather to feel the pulse of this World Heritage Site, a map-seller calls out in several foreign languages, while her sister hawks sightseeing tours.
If you are a keen shopper you will note the tiny stores lining the narrow streets are run by women shopkeepers and sales assistants, weaving shawls or tidying up native handicraft on the shelves.
When you tire after meandering up and down this hilly town gawking at intricately carved wooden doorways and cornices of two-story Naxi-designed wooden houses, it's time to find a restaurant and eat some fresh food, like the five mushrooms hotpot I tried at a restaurant run by women.
Then, just when you think you will not be surprised any more, you wander into a busy market where only the locals roam and find rows of meat stalls staffed by robust cleaver-wielding Naxi women known as the "lady butchers".
And so it goes, until the light comes on and you realize that almost everything in this old town - rebuilt painstakingly from a devastating earthquake in 1996 - is "manned" by the women folk.
It is not only the Naxi women who run the economy in these parts. The same goes for the spectacular mountainous region known as Tiger Leaping Gorge.
I was met by a 50-something grandmother from the Bai minority group, who was to be our mountain guide, after a bumpy ride in a minivan along a hazardous rocky mountain road.
Our guide had infinite patience as she waited for me to struggle forward on the steep and at times perilously narrow ledge perched above the raging Yangtze River below. She had time to light up a cigarette and make a phone call on her mobile each time I stopped to catch my breath in the thin mountain air.
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