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Weishan Ancient Town

Dali, China

Among the many old towns that used to dot the Tea Horse Trade Route, people would come upon Weishan Ancient Town after a distance of 50kms from Dali. It was a prosperous town and home to the Yi and the Hui minorities, among the 7 that it harbored in and around its borders. The town is built in an orderly fashion and still holds the dignity and poise of its golden era.

Long-distance buses depart from Dali on a daily schedule and it takes 1.5 hours to reach Weishan. The fare is roughly RMB15 for the bus (there is no charge to enter this town). From Weishan’s stop, you will have to walk an additional 1.5kms until you reach the town gate. Checking out the whole town should not take more then a half a day and you can return the same way. Though the weather is pleasant the whole year round, the temperature variations from day to night are huge and you’d better pack a shrug with the summer garb. Weishan is very much off the beaten track but still during holiday seasons like May and October, the place sees quite an inflow of local tourists and prices of everything seem to creep up. You should plan accordingly.

When approaching the town, you will be greeted by an imposing gate known as the Gongchen Tower. This has two towers which have inscriptions on them. In fact, the original gate of the city was destroyed in a fire and this gate was resurrected in 2015. It was made as close to the original as possible, but the historic value is now lost. When visitors ascend the towers of the gate, they get a panoramic view of the whole town.

The next thing to catch your eye should be the Xinggong Building, which is the epicenter of the city and an arcade building from the imperial times.

Menghua Old House has a nominal charge but gives you the access to go inside an authentic old-school house from the oriental past and freely discover how the folk houses were inhabited then.
The compact town even has a library, which is inside the Mengyang Park. This is the biggest park in town, and you will probably come across it as you stroll the 25 streets and 18 lanes of ancient Weishan. Confucius Temple also rests inside the park.

But beyond the historical buildings is the age-old lifestyle of the residents and the calm atmosphere is what’s most fascinating. The people seem unperturbed by outsiders and will be seen in traditional costumes going about their daily routine, riding their animals around town. Noodles are hung to dry outside shops and seen gently swaying in the breeze. Vegetables, food and trinkets are sold on shops laid out on stores and street sides. And when it is market day, a new vigor can be witnessed with which neighboring villagers are welcomed and bargained with for trade. You will be transported back in the ages for sure!

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