Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Naxi economy varies widely between districts due to the range in elevation, and hence temperature. People in the lowlands grow wet rice and a wide variety of vegetables and raise citrus trees. The highlanders grow mostly wheat, maize, legumes, a more limited variety of vegetables, and temperate fruits (mostly apples and pears). In the highest elevations, even these crops grow poorly, and the people raise mainly potatoes and turnips. The Naxi also depend heavily on pastoral production. This is especially true in the higher elevations where good grass is plentiful and crop yields are low. Goats, sheep, common cattle, and, in the highlands, yak and yak-common cattle hybrids form the bulk of the herds. Woolen- and leather-goods factories operate out of Lijiang. Naxi horses and mules are famous throughout southwestern China and form the basis for two annual trade fairs in Lijiang. Farmyard animals include pigs, oxen, water buffalo, chickens, and ducks. During the last several decades, timber sales to the state have come to occupy a large share of the Naxi external economy. Deforestation is a problem.
Industrial Arts. Most villages support a few individuals with full-time employment as tailors, basket weavers, carpenters, medical personel, shopkeepers, and truck or tractor operators. Some families specialize in raising pigs, chickens, or eggs or sell prepared food products, such as bean curd or cheese. Weaving and knitting are done in the home. The Lijiang area is noted for its copper and brassware.
Division of Labor. Exclusively male activities include herding, plowing, logging, house building, and truck or tractor driving. Spinning, weaving, and knitting are solely female activities. Women do the great bulk of the domestic work, but men sometimes cook and wash clothes, and frequently help with cleaning and child care. Except for plowing, both sexes participate more or less equally in all phases of agricultural production.
Land Tenure. Prior to the 1949 Revolution, land was owned by individual families and divided equally between the sons. Some poorer families rented land, or worked as tenant farmers or agricultural wage labors, but these numbers were not high. As in other parts of China, all land reverted to the state during the land reform period in the early 1950s. People were organized into production teams, brigades, and communes to work the land collectively. In the early 1980s, the "household-responsibility system" was implemented. Under this system land continues to be owned by the state, but people are given individual plots to work, and the household rather than any larger group assumes the responsibility for meeting production quotas (essentially a taxes-in-kind system).