Lijiang Old Town (Dayan)

Admission:

RMB 80

Hours:

24 hours daily

How to get there:

Lijiang is divided into two parts: the New Town and the Old Town. The Old Town is a large area, so you won't miss it. It is at the foot of Yulong Xue Shan.

Phone:

(86 888) 510 5612

When people talk about Lijiang Old Town, they're usually referring to Dayan (Dàyán Gǔchéng, 大研古城). The UNESCO World Heritage Site Lijiang Old Town, also includes the nearby villages of Baisha and Shuhe as well as Dayan. This area survived a 1996 earthquake that leveled most of the modern buildings in town. In the wake of the disaster, Dayan gained fame as a quaint and authentic outpost of Yunnan culture and architecture and went from backpacker secret to tour package feature.

Since then, it has struggled to retain its millennium-old identity in the face of mounting crowds, hype and development. Many local Naxi have left their distinctive homes as hotels, restaurants, night clubs and boutiques have moved in, changing the fundamental character of this lovely mountain town while maintaining much of its outward charm. Nonetheless, wandering through the narrow cobbled lanes and along the quick-moving channels of alpine stream water that rush through town is exhilarating, and the upside of the tourist boom is that there are a range of options when it comes to dining, entertainment and bedding down.

Long an important Naxi political center, once ruled by the Mu Clan, the town reflects the architecture and culture of various regional peoples, including Tibetans and Bai, along with the Naxi. The town's original name reflects its perceived similarity to a jade ink stamp, a comparison that can be sensed when gazing at Dayan's whimsically angled rooflines and brushstroke-like streets and canals.

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