In February of 1996, Lijiang was hit with a magnitude 7.2 earthquake which destroyed close to 200,000 buildings, injured thousands and killed 392 people. The earthquake had a bright side in that the rest of the world discovered Lijiang and tourism boomed. There were less than a few hundred tourists per year before the earthquake. Now, each year, over four-million tourists visit Lijiang.

The entire field course visits many of China's most spectacular localities. Our excursion to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yu Long Xue Shan) is one of the most incredible. The mountain sits above Lijiang at an elevation of 5,596 meters (over 18,300 feet). It's pretty cool to be walking in a city of over 300,000 and looking at this gigantic mountain. We'll ride a cable-car ride up to the base of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain's glacier. You'll be at a 4,506 meter elevation, 28 meters higher than the top of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. A boardwalk trail allows you climb another 100 meters higher. You'll be enjoying the view at an elevation of over 15,000 feet. After the ride down, you can ride a Yak in a glacial-melt water stream called Bai Shue He. The name means whitewater river because pulverized rock-flour gives the water a milky white appearance.

Lijiang is the home of the Naxi ethnic minority. You'll learn about their culture and sample some local Naxi food.