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Dali Ancient City

Dali Ancient City

Dali Ancient City, one of Yunnan's most popular tourist destinations, is located 13 kilometers (about 8 miles) away from Xiaguan in Dali City. It is one of Dali's ‘Three Ancients’-ancient cities, ancient pagodas, and ancient steles. The city’s history can be traced back to the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In 1982, it was listed among China’s top historic cities. Nestled between the Cangshan Mountains to the west and Erhai Lake to the east, the beautiful city has been attracting a large number of Chinese and foreign visitors, with its splendid city wall, traditional Bai ethnic minority folk houses, and fabulous scenery.

The ancient city of Dali served as the capital of two ancient kingdoms, the Nanzhao Kingdom and The Dali Kingdom. It also was a gateway to the Silk Road in Southwest China. With its proper geographical position, it became a major trading center to promote commercial and cultural communication between China and India, as well as a major military barracks for Yunnan Province. The city was surrounded by an ancient protective wall which was over 6 kilometers (3.73 miles) in length, 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) high, and 6 meters (19.7 feet) thick. On the wall stood four city gates in four directions, upon which sat a gate tower. Four further towers were also placed at the four corners of the city wall.

City Wall Of Ancient Dali
City Wall Of Ancient Dali
Due to centuries of erosion, and conflict, only the base of the city wall can be seen today. In 1982, the northern and southern city wall towers were rebuilt. Standing on the towers, visitors can glimpse the grandeur of the ancient wall, and explore the mystery at that period of history. The city layout was uniform, with five main streets from south to north and eight main streets from east to west, while marketplaces were neatly arranged within the city, which has remained unchanged to this date. Strolling along the ancient streets paved with cobbles to experience the sense of primitive simplicity and elegance.


Bai Minority Village In Dali
Bai Minority Village In Dali

Dali Ancient City was traditionally settled by the Bai minority group. Different from other ancient cities of China, the city features the traditional Bai ethnic minority folk houses. This kind of typical house includes a main room facing a large wall screening, and two wing rooms. In the afternoon of a sunny day, the sunshine is reflected back to the courtyard and light up the whole house. The houses are built with four sides; and four courtyards in the joining parts of the houses' corners and one big courtyard in the center. In a word, this traditional folk house can be described as ‘3 rooms and a wall screening' and '4 joints and 5 courtyards'. Besides the well-designed structure of the houses, the decoration also shows its distinctive feature. Each house has a main gate tower covered with delicate carvings. The building’s windows, doors, and wall screening are adorned with Jianchuan woodcarvings, colored patterns, marbles and wash drawings. The construction may be superior to other folk residences in Southwest China no matter from the structure and decoration.

Dali Ancient City is well known for its traditional arts and crafts. It is particularly famous for its marble and hand-woven handicrafts. Dali is so famous for its marble, that the Chinese name for marble is literally Dali Stone. On the Foreigner Street lined with Western-style restaurants and bars, visitors can appreciate and buy various snacks with the traditional flavors of the Bai ethnic minority. The famous ‘Three-Course Tea’ ceremony can also be enjoyed. This typical tea-drinking includes three courses of teas: bitterness, followed by sweetness and finally an aromatic aftertaste. This ceremony originated from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and is currently used for receiving guests.

Erhai Lake Nearby Dali
Erhai Lake Nearby Dali

Dali Ancient City boasts historic sites, ancient buildings and temples, nearby beautiful Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, local crafts, and the " Foreigners' Street" Tourists visiting the area can see temples and architecture 1000 years old, buy beautiful souvenirs and objects of art, learn about the history of the area and of the native peoples, and go on excursions to the nearby lake and mountain.

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