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Home China Travel   China Travel Guide   Yunnan Province    Lijiang Old Town

China Travel Guide: Yunnan
Lijiang (Old Town of Lijiang)


Old Town of Lijiang,  Yunnan Province

Lijiang, in south China's Yunnan Province, is the only Chinese city listed on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list. With a history of 1,300 years, it is generally referred to as the Old Town of Lijiang, home to the ancient Dongba culture and a major scenic area in China.


yunnan location in china
Yunnan Location


 lijiang location, yunna lijiang location map
Location (Map source: China Daily)

Lijiang is heavily populated by people of Naxi nationality. It is the county seat of the Naxi Autonomous County. It is situated on a plateau at an elevation of 2,600m and is impressive because of its scenery and lush vegetation. With the Jade Dragon Mountain as backdrop, the old town has adapted itself harmoniously to the natural scenery. The architecture is especially noteworthy for the blending of elements from several cultures that have come together over many centuries. Lijiang maintains an ancient water-supply system of great complexity and ingenuity that is still functioning effectively.

 lijiang old town of yunnan province
Location (Map source: China Daily)

Set off from Dali, take the Yunnan-Tibetan Highway, drive northward for 400 km, and you will reach the old town of Lijiang, another ancient city of historical and cultural heritage. It is a land of mystery and elegance.

Dayan Town, the center of Lijiang, is surrounded by the Lion Mountain to the west and by the Elephant Mountain and the Golden Rainbow Mountain to the north. To its south and east stretch fertile fields for miles on end. It is an intact ancient city inhabited mostly by people of the Naxi ethnic group. (The people of Naxi, while developig their land of snow-clad mountains and turbulent river since ancient times, have to their credit the "Dong Ba Culture" seen as one).

Naxi Girl

A birdís eye view at the top of the Lion Mountain gives you a full picture of the city spread four main streets which then split into dozen of streets and lanes, creating the pattern of a web. In the center of each street or lane lies a space that serves as the neighbourhood fair in the daytime and as the resting place for the mornings and evenings. Paved with natural colourful stone slabs, the streets neither get muddy on rainy days nor turn dusty in dry weather. The branches and blossoms stick out from the roofs or walls of the shops and houses, projecting mottled shadows on the stone-paved lanes. Stone is the common foundation of the house and timer as the material. Most houses have a screen wall in the front and some have a quadruple courtyard.

Lijiang is favoured with plentiful sunshine, an easterly wind and clear spring water within easy access to every family. Willow trees and flowing springs make you imagine that you might be in a city by the water in Southeast China. Occasionally, couples of Naxi women can be seen walking along the streets, wearing broad-sleeved-and-broad-waited blouses, long trousers inside frill and boat-shaped embroidered shoes.

Naxi People

The ancestors of the Naxi ethnic group created the mysterious Dongba Culture focused on the Dongba Religion. According to the legend, the founder of the Dongba Religion, with his supernatural abilities learned from the deities, killed the monster and the ghosts, bringing peace to the local people. Dongba believer practice witchcraft and are skilled in medicine. The Dongba Culture in turn fostered the world-renowned Dongba Civilization, as can be found in the Dongba Script reputed as the only surviving hieroglyph in the world. Various aspects of the Dongba Civilization such as the appealing Dongba music, the vivid and romantic Dongba literature, the unique Dongba paintings and the wild and warm Dongba dances are all evidence to its profoundness. So tourists interested in folk customs will not be disappointed by the city.

In the eyes of the Naxi folks, happiness is derived from a unity with nature, and the chief pursuit lies in music and painting. As the Naxi women do most of the labour, the men have plenty of free time to develop their abilities in music, painting and poetry. In the twilight, a group of elderly Naxi people can be found singing in the streets by the river. One man dose the solo and all the others serve as the chorus. Through the Naxi language is beyond the comprehension of outsiders, their love of life is clearly written all over their faces.

The Yulong Snow Mountain that pierces into the sky is a permanent background of the city. With its altitude above 4,500 meters, the north-south mountain has 12 peaks, the main peak reaching 5,596 meters.

The best place to appreciate the Yulong Snow Mountain is the Spruce Ground, a highland ranch with breath-taking beauty. The green grass, yellow flowers and straight spruce trees seem to whisper to you an ancient legend. It goes like this: On the Yulong Snow Mountain lives a couple of gods of love who dominate a kingdom of love. True lovers who cannot be united in the earthly world can go to the Spruce Ground and cry out the name of the gods of love who will then take the lovers to the flower land and grant them an everlasting happy life.



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