Use in Lijiang
Both the Naxi and the Dongba Language are intricately tied to Lijiang. This connection means that, like the city and its rivers, they continue to change constantly. In ancient times one would have been most likely to find the language only in the presence of a Dongba. More recently one would have sought the pictographs within universities or academic circles. Today however, it can be found everywhere in the city alongside both Chinese and English.
With all changes come difficulties however, and Lijiang is no exception. Modernization altered the viewpoint of traditional Naxi culture, and destruction through commercialization was a growing concern in the past. Many local residents had begun to sell their homes to move to more modern neighborhoods while the Dongba language was endangered due to the loss of its roots within Dongba practices. For a time many feared the Naxi would lose their cultural capital.
In the end, the dedication of the Naxi proved stronger than those fears. The subject was addressed in the form of cultural preservation committees and partnership with groups such as UNESCO. A community planning program was initiated, regulations for the preservation of Dongba culture were implemented, and traditions such as that of lantern floating down the river channels have been revived (UNESCO Bangkok). Currently 20,000 Naxi live in the old town sector, roughly 70% of the total population there (Global Heritage Fund). Only time will tell the final story of Lijiang and the Dongba language, but for now it seems that it will continue on to the tune of bells and rivers.