Ancient City of Dali (Dali Old Town)

Dali, China

Dali old town is equal parts gifted with serene landscape and imperial town planning that would rival modern cities. Inhabited by the minority of Bai ethnicity, the town is a neat little grid of streets, once surrounded by a defense wall, with the Erhai lake on one side and the Cangshan mountain on the other. For this reason, tourists flock here to enjoy the ancient feels and soak up the peaceful environment.

The touristy old town is located 13kms from the modern Dali city center and can be easily accessed via public buses. If going in a tour group, visitors will have to pay RMB30 each. However, if you’re travelling independently and don’t plan on going to any paid attractions in the city, you won’t have to pay the protection fee. The best time to go is March - April because of the flowers but also to catch the couple of festivals that are in effect during the time when farming work is limited and weather is excellent. The town is small, but visitors spend a couple of days to explore the nearby mountain and lake. UV rays are strong out there so come prepared!

Since it was built in a planned way and is a small town, the whole expanse of it can be covered by foot. Some points of interest within the old town are the Wenxian Building, Wuhua Building, Foreigners street, Dali Municipal Museum, Dali Christian Church and the four symmetrical gates leading to the town.
The Southern Gate or the Cheng'en Tower is the most dated construction in Dali, claiming a history of 6 centuries. It is the icon of Dali Ancient Town. You can get to the Three Pagodas from the North Gate, Cangshan Mountain from the West Gate and Longkan Pier of Erhai Lake from the East Gate.
The town also boasts historical religious buildings of various faiths such as the Dali Christian Church and Catholic Church along with many minority specific temples by the locals.

History of this town survives in its streets and houses but also in its museums such as the Dali Museum and Dali Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum among others.

Yangren (Foreigners) and Fuxing Street present store fronts and houses that may harbor modern citizens and items on sale, but the decorations and style are preserved from imperial times. This brings a delectable contrast and tourists don’t mind the blend of commercialization supplemented with these gorgeous buildings.

But the Bai people haven’t left the culture in the construction only. There are many festivals that are being held for centuries and are something looked forward to even today. As already mentioned, these are few springtime festivals such as the March Festival and the Dali Bai Rosanling. The Torch festival in June and the Caicun Village Erhai Music Festival in September are also big events that gather crowds from not only neighboring villages but also from across the country. Visiting during these times provides a different depth of understanding of minority culture.

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