Dali Ancient Town is about 13km away from Xiaguan in Dali City and is one of Dali’s Three Ancients-ancient city, ancient pagoda and ancient steles. History of Dali can be dates back to 1382 during the Ming Dynasty and it has been listed among the top historic cities of China.
Unlike any other Chinese town, the traditional Bai ethnic folk houses give the town distinctive feel. The town’s 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 town, which has remained unchanged to this date. Besides the Bai houses, the houses with gray-green roof tiles, peculiar workshops, temples, schools and churches with antique flavor are scattered. Traditional marble artworks, like pencil vases, striped screen, and a variety of woven handicrafts of fine straw are laid chockablock on both sides of the street to be appreciated and purchased. Its grand city wall, traditional Bai houses and marvelous scenery have been attracted many visitors.
Dali is also famous for the many types of marble it produces, which are used primarily in construction and for decorative objects. In fact, Dali is so famous for the stone that the name of marble in Chinese is literally Dali Stone.
Dali’s newly finished administrative district that houses the newly opened Dali International Convention Center is in Longshan District. The Dali government’s urban planning keeps its old and new districts separate, so those coming here for the first time often feel they have entered a time tunnel.
The new city is known as Xiaguan and is south of the old city. The old city was built during Ming Dynasty emperor Hongwu’s reign (1368–1398). Owing to the distance between them, the old city is still peaceful and quiet.
What to See
Dali Ancient City roads are still maintained the chessboard type grid structure since the Ming and Qing dynasty, known as the nine streets and 18 lanes. The north-south two gate towers have been restored. A street across the city from south to north, deep and quite street lane is criss-cross from west to east. The whole city is full of grey tiles dwellings with cobblestone wall.
• The first gate of the ancient city—Wenxian Buiding
Wenxian Building is located in 1 km away from the south gate of Dali Ancient City, which is known as the first gate of the ancient city, and is the landmark of Dali Ancient City. It was established in the Qing dynasty emperor Kangxi period. Horizontal inscribed board of the building was written “historic town with rich culture” by Piantu, the chief commander of Yunnan Province in Kangxi period fortieth year (AD 1701). Wenxian Building stretch across the road which leads to Dali Ancient City from the south, and on both sides of the road lined with willow trees which is quite picturesque. Wenxian Building is two floors of gable and hip roof type, it has typical Bai architectural features.
Wenxian Building has gone through damage and reparation for several times in the history, and Wenxian Building reconstruction work started on November 28, 1998, completed on April 29, 1999. After reconstruction, Wenxian Building is 60 meters wide from east to west, 30 meters long from north to south and the main building is 24 meters high with a building area of 1600 square meters.
• The world’s first building of ancient Nanzhao kingdom—Wuhua Buidling
Wuhua Building is state guesthouse of ancient Nanzhao king, also called to Five Flowers Building. Since Nanzhao, Wuhua Building was burned down for many times, and rebuilt many times, but it was smaller after rebuilding over and over. Today the area of Wuhua Building has formed a certain scale of calligraphy and painting market, operating varieties include calligraphy, Chinese paintings like landscape flowers and birds painting and figures painting, etc., and leather trade and oil painting sale is very active.
• Foreigners’ Street—Huguo Road (Nation Protection Road)
The east-west Huguo Road in the Dali Ancient City is known as the “foreigner street”. One by one Chinese and western restaurants, cafes, tea houses and gift shops here, their signboard and advertising is written in English, attracting blond foreigners lingering here and looking for ancient archaic Chinese rhyme, gradually the street become a unique scenery.
• Dali Christian Church
Dali Christian church is located in road intersection of Dali Ancient City Fuxing Roand and Heping Road, was founded in June 1904, which was called “Chinese Christian church” at that time. In 1956, it changed its name to “Dali Christian unity council “. In 1980, it changed its name to “Dali Christian zion”. Again in 2004 changed its name to “Dali Christian church”. In 2008 it was listed as the municipal cultural relics protection unit. The major structure of church is timberwork, hip roof, which maintained the style of the western church, but also has strong Bai architectural characteristics that is a combination of Chinese and western church.
Festivals and Activities
• The March Festival
The March Festival is held during every lunar calendar March 15th to 21st or so, so it was named March Festival. The festival is held in Zhonghe Peak east side of Cangshan Mountain, the west of Dali Ancient City. It is said that during Tang dynasty Yonghui period March 15 avalokitesvara subdued the prince of devil who endangered the Bai people, people appreciated the merits and virtues, so they burned incense and offer sacrifice every year, and then the activity developed into a trade fair. Now whenever “March Festival”, the domestic and foreign businessmen gathered here, and folk sports activities are held, the March Festival has become the economic and cultural exchange event.
Dali Bai Raosanling is held from April 22 to April 24 in lunar calendar, which is meeting the god competition of Bai nationality during slack farming season, and it popularizes in the surrounding areas of Erhai Lake in Bai Village in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province. It is the local Bai people’s spring outing song and dance assembly before busy farming season, more than one thousand years so far. The first day will move round the “Buddha” near Chongsheng Temple Dali, the second day will move round the “divinity” in Qingdong Xizhaou, and the third day will move round the “immortal” at the beach.
• The Torch Festival
The Torch Festival is held on June 25, the people tied a clustering or bouquet of red flowers in all the big tree in the village, which represents a symbol “the red flower firetree is such as torch burning”. The first star appears on the day, people all dance with a lit torch, singing and dancing around the tree.
• Caicun Village Erhai Music Festival
Adhering to the individual character, special and artistic characteristic, Caicun Village Erhai Lake Music Festival is held each year on September 12th in Caicun Village Dali Town. The first Caicun Village Music Festival was held in Dali 1969 sea cafe, and it is held in Dali MTB theme inn every year since 2014, successively invited local and outside artist came together, expressed love and humanity to Dali Erhai Lake in the form of music.
How to Get to Dali Ancient City
Taking bus No.4, No.8 in Xiaguan about 40 minutes to the Dali Ancient City, the fare is 2 yuan. People who take bus No.8 can choose to get off at the east gate. In Yuer road there is touring bus passing Wind Flower Snow and Moon Hotel, Guozi Garden, Bluestone Bridge, Yeyu Road, Yuer Park, Boai Crossing and Cangshan Mountain Gate. In addition, visitors can take the minibus to Dali Ancient Town in Jianshe Road and Cultural Road, about 30 minutes to reach the old city. There are three options of transportation of electro mobile, mountain bike and walk for tourists in Dali Ancient City.
1. Dali Ancient City Yuer Road (Dali Lanlin Pavilion Hotel)—Cangshan Mountain West Gate—214 National Road—Chongsheng Three Pagodas—Erhai Ring Road—Xizhou (Xizhou Mango Cabin Inn) —Shuanglang.
2. Dali Ancient City Yuer Road (Dali Lanlin Pavilion Hotel)—Cangshan Mountain East Gate—Dali Road—Caicun Village MTB Theme Inn—Erhai Ring Road—Xizhou (Xizhou Mango Cabin Inn)—Shuanglang.
1. A lot of festivals and events of Bai nationality focused on March to April each year, travel at this time you will feel rich ethnic customs. And there is a song: “March in Dali has good scenery”, so in the spring, it is suitable whether it is traveling to Dali, or climbing Canshang Mountain, visiting Erhai Lake.
2. If you want to visit Erhai Lake, the ideal way is to go to Erhai pier to take cruise ship in the north side of Xiaguan. Cruise ships usually depart every morning at 8:30, suggest buying the ticket one day in advance.
3. The bus from Kunming to Dali, the terminal is to Xiaguan (Xiguan is the new city zone), not Dali Ancient City. After you go out of the Xiaguan Station you can take bus No.4 to Dali Ancient City directly (about 20 kilometers away from Xiaguan), 40 minutes drive.
4. Dali people is warm and generous relatively, in the place you don’t understand or need information, you may rest assured to ask the people you meet, generally you will get a satisfactory answer.
5. Spring, summer, autumn and winter in Dali seemed like spring all the year round, the temperature difference is not big, the annual average temperature of 15 degrees celsius. In th beginning of March every year in the spring people can wear spring clothing, and at the beginning of May, summer clothing has been popular in Dali, in the middle of October to November period, people can wear autumn clothes, if you are traveling in mid-November to Dali, you have better bring a winter clothes for a rainy day.
6. Dali, temperature difference can be as high as 10 degrees or so, sometimes plateau region has a characteristic, it will be solar heat during the day, but it will be cool when there is no sun in the morning and evening. And in the summer, as long as it rains, it is cold as winter, therefore the local has the saying of “it will run into the autumn with rain”. So coming to Dali, no matter what the season is, it will be likely to meet a big difference in temperature in one day, especially in the rainy season of summer and autumn, people have better to bring appropriate clothing.
7. When the weather is fine in Dali, the sunshine is heated, and ultraviolet light is strong. People should avoid direct sunlight, and the sun hat preparation is required during outdoor activities, a pair of sunglasses will make you comfortable in the trip.
8. The best place for viewing sunrise is Dali Caicun Village. It is a fishing village in the Erhai Lake which is 2.8 km away from Dali Ancient City. The sunrise time of Dali is between 6:35 to 7:45, the best place for viewing sunrise is the ring road of Caicun Village-Erhai Lake, where is 160 meters away from the landmark of Caicun Village—MTB Theme Inn.
【Chinese Name】: 大理古城
【Recommended Visiting Hours】: 6 to 8 hours
【Best Time to Travel Dali Ancient City】: March to April is the best time to visit Dali Ancient City. There are many festivals and activities of Bai nationality during March and April, traveling in March and April, people will experience the rich local folk customs. And Dali in March is very beautiful, whether you want to travel Dali Ancient City, climb Cangshan Mountain or pay visit to Erhai Lake, it is very suitable to travel in March.