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Lijiang Old Town

About Lijiang Old Town

Lijiang Ancient City is also known as Dayan Old Town, located in Lijiangba, Yunnan Province, is an ancient town inhabited mainly by the Naxi minority people. The town was founded in 1127. The roads in the town are paved with colored pebbles produced in Lijiang, and there are many stone bridges and memorial archways built during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Most of the residences are made of earth and wood. Palace murals depicting religious themes were painted during the Ming dynasty. The traditional Dongba Culture of Naxi ethnic group has been preserved in Lijiang.

Founding History

In AD 1256, Kublai Khan, grandson of the notorious Genghis Kahn and the founder of the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty, set out on an expedition with his troops to conquer Yunnan. After crossing the Jinsha River they came to what is now Lijiang, establishing an administrative office and later the Lijiang Military and Civil Protectorate. From then on the city became known as Lijiang.

Why Lijiang Old Town Has No City Wall?

The people who inhabit Lijiang have always been the Naxi minority and from the time of its settlement, the hereditary rulers of the town were all members of the Mu family. Lijiang is聽 the only ancient town in China that not to be surrounded by city walls, and common folklore has it that the Mu family name might be the reason for this: To have Mu锛堟湪- a Chinese character means wood锛塻urrounded by a Kuang锛堝彛-a Chinese character means a frame or surrounded by something锛墂ould be Kun锛堝洶- means predicament or siege锛, therefore, the town was left without a protective wall.

Archway Dance Wwith the Naxi People Dongba pictographs
Archway Dance Wwith the Naxi People Dongba pictographs
Lake and snow mountain Local restaurants Lijiang  mural
Lake and snow mountain Local restaurants Lijiang mural
Lijiang  mural Lijiang Old Town The oracles of Dongba religion
Lijiang mural Lijiang Old Town The oracles of Dongba religion

What to see in Lijiang Old Town?

Lijiang was listed as the world cultural heritage site by the UNESCO for its unique things such as ancient architecture, old business sites, ethnic folk customs, and the mystic Dongba Culture.

1.Architecture

Lijiang has preserved many ancient buildings whose construction began over 800 years ago. Most of the dwellings are structures made of brick and wood with carved doors and painted windows. The town has a very unique layout. At the heart of the town lies Sifang Street (Sifang Jie), with the entire city spreading out in all directions from that point the street is lined with small shops and residences. From this street all other streets spiral outwards, and five major ones connect all the road and lanes in the town. The town is also crisscrossed by narrow canals and rivers. Architectural styles are borrowed from the Han, Tibetan, and Bai people. The streets and houses have been built in such a way as to follow the lay of the land and flow of the rivers. Transportation is facilitated by more than 350 tiny stone bridges - such a large number as to warrant the name City of Bridges. Many of the bridges were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The folk houses of Lijiang Old Town display a combination of architectural styles resulting in two unique structural styles known as one courtyard with five skylights and three rooms with one screen wall. The latter of these styles is more commonly used in Lijiang. The main room of the house, flanked by the left and right wing-rooms, combines to form a three-sided courtyard with a screen wall positioned opposite the principal room. The main room often faces south and is slightly higher than the others, as it is reserved for senior members of the family. The east and west wing-rooms are for junior members, each room contains three partitions and two stories. Apart from the houses in the downtown, there are two famous complexes of the ancient folk houses: one is the Baisha Folk House Complex which is only 8 km from the downtown; the other is the Sushuihe Fold House Complex which is only 8 km from the downtown. These houses have strongly vernacular characteristics their architectural styles are very different from those of the other Chinese areas.

The other style known as one courtyard with five skylights has the rooms arranged slightly differently so that the principal room, the servants' room and the wing-rooms form a closed courtyard. Besides the main skylight in the center, there were four smaller ones positioned at the four corners. The courtyards were often feats of artistic eloquence, decorated with flowers and miniature trees and elegant pillars.


Besides the common houses, Lijiang also boasts the Mu Residence (or Muwangfu) and many religious buildings, the latter located eight kilometers north of the ancient city. These temples are particularly remarkable for their murals, painted in the 13th and 14th centuries, and discovered in thirteen of the temples, including the Liuli Temple (the Glazed Tile Temple). The murals blend classical Tibetan Buddhist stories with Taoism, and feature depictions of Central China, Tibet and Dongba.

2.Old Business Roads and Site

Lijiang was an important trade route on the ancient Silk Road, primarily between Yunnan and Tibet, making it a center of commercial and cultural exchange. Many ethnic groups have contributed to the town's prosperity, including the Tibetans, the Hans, the Bais, the Yis and the Naxis. The later Tea and Horse Roads, two other ancient trade routes, converged in Lijiang's famous Sifang Street (Square Street). During the early years of the Yuan dynasty about 1000 families inhabited Lijiang Ancient Town. The town continued to grow and reached its peak during the Ming (1368-1644 A.D.) and Qing (1644-1911 A.D.) dynasties. Visiting these old business roads or site, you will know something about the ancient southwest China business; you will be told many true stories about the businessmen and their horses or donkeys along the ancient steep Tea and Horse Roads鈥

3.Ethnic Folk Customs and the Mystic Dongba Culture.

Lijiang is usually selected as one of the top places to see Chinese ethnic folk customs because the many minorities live in this picturesque town such as the Bai, the Tibetan, Mosuo, the Yi and the Naxi etc. Especially you can learn some about the Dongba culture of the Naxi people, this ethnic group still keep and use the oldest pictographs in the world, they have the mystic Dongba Religion, the primitive or ancient dances, tuneful Ancient Naxi Music, unique garments and a lot of other things that the world people want to discover.

 

The famous world cultural heritage site Old Town of Lijiang boasts the cradle of the mystic Naxi civilization, which is the optimum tourist destination to experience the Yunnan local history, culture and flavor of the Chinese minorities. The old town should not be missed if you plan a Lijiang tour.

Naxi folk houses
Naxi folk houses
Naxi Girl
Naxi Girl
Naxi Old Man
Naxi Old Man
Naxi-style architecture
Naxi-style architecture
Night scene of Lijiang
Night scene of Lijiang
Snow mountain by Lijiang old town
Snow mountain by Lijiang old town
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