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Lijiang -- A Fairyland in Yunnan Provice


Splendid landscapes, the exotic ways of the Naxi ethnic group and the precious Dongba Culture make up the unique city of Lijiang. Each year it attracts a great number of visitors from home and abroad. To find a fairyland far from the bustling metropolises, please do not hesitate to come to Lijiang.

In many travelers' minds, Lijiang refers to the Old Town which is an essential part of the whole Lijiang City. In the 800 years from the Southern Song Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, the local governors and their subjects inhabited this city which has an advantageous geographical location not requiring a city wall. They created the famous Dongba Culture and the Naxi Ancient Music, and left a large group of unique Naxi buildings in this area. Standing at Square Street, in the center of the Old Town, you will be deeply impressed by the charming town and the locals' quiet life, much like the meandering streams that wind through the town. Please slow down your steps here, and immerse yourself in a fairyland on earth.

There are a number of places of historical interest and natural scenic spots here, awaiting your exploration. Mu's Residence (Mufu), once the palace of the supreme ruler Chieftain Mu of Lijiang, was reconstructed by the World Bank in 1996 in the northwest part of Old Town. It is the best place for visitors to enjoy the splendid architectural heritage of ancient Lijiang. Jade Spring Park (Heilongtan Park) is a wonderful place about one kilometer (about 0.62 miles) away from Square Street, combining natural beauty and historical sites harmoniously. The best place to see the full extent of the Old Town is Lion Mountain Park which is just 250 meters (about 0.16 mile) from Square Street. With an altitude of 2,500 meters (8202 feet), the park has a tranquil natural environment. It also has a typical Naxi building-Wan Gu Lou (Aeon Tower) on the mountaintop and some fine Lijiang Murals.

Eight kilometers (5 miles) to the north of the Old Town, you can see the architectural complex of Residential Houses of Baisha Town. In the Song and Yuan dynasties, Baisha was the political, economic and cultural center of Lijiang. It is the embryonic form of the subsequent Lijiang Old Town.The Old Town of Shuhe is another ancient town in Lijiang, which is just 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the northwest of the Old Town. The largest stone arch bridge in Lijiang was built here: Green Dragon Bridge. Both of these towns can be reached from the Old Town by foot or bicycle.

Outside of Lijiang City, there are a great number of splendid natural attractions hosting more and more adventurers from home and abroad. The most famous one is Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which is about 15 kilometers (about 9.3 miles) to the north of Lijiang City. More than 5500 meters (about 18,045 feet) above sea level, this mountain is noted for its precipitous slope and charming beauty. White Water River is a river formed by runoff from the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. At the east foot of the mountain exits an attraction, Dry Sea (Ganhai) . It had been a highland glacial lake before the 1940s and was formed after the water had dried up. And the Spruce Plateau (Yunshan Plateau) located at the foot of the mountain as well, is a large meadow hiding behind a primeval forest. At the southern foot of the mountain, you can find the famous Yufeng Temple , which is surrounded by the flourishing forest and a never-dried river. All this makes it a really good place to visit. As famous as the mountain, Lugu Lake, which is about 184 kilometers (about 114 miles) to the northeast of Lijiang City, is a must for visitors. The Mosuo People there who still maintain a matriarchal clan society today will introduce you to another one o f the Chinese minority cultures.

Finally, Lijiang also prepares a series of splendid natural scenic spots for brave travelers. Three Parallel Rivers in Yunnan Protected Areas, Stone Drum and the First Bend of the Yangtze River and the Tiger Leaping Gorge are surely to astonish everyone who enjoys this majestic view.

Approach Lijiang


Nestled in a high mountain valley, Lijiang's charming Old Town has long been a center of Naxi culture and in recent years has become a major tourist attraction. Declared a UN World Heritage site after a 1996 earthquake and developed in the years since with tourism in mind, Lijiang, once a remote backpacker getaway, now attracts some three million tourists a year.

Of course, the tourism boom has changed the city and it's now common to find traditional wooden Naxi houses converted into shops run by Han Chinese who cater to the needs of tour groups. This has changed Lijiang's character, replacing much of its authentic (if occasionally dilapidated) charm with the convenience and relative luxury that the tourism industry requires, but it is still possible to find areas of the Old Town free of the theme-park feel that dominates elsewhere.

The New City, whose flimsy modern buildings fared worse in the earthquake than the old city's Naxi wood and stone houses, is not worth too much time, though hotels tend to be cheaper than in the Old City. Beyond Lijiang, the beautiful countryside beckons. Not far from the city you'll find the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge, monasteries, Naxi villages and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Lijiang is also an excellent spot for a few days of relaxation before or after treks in Tibet or eastern Yunnan.

Lijiang's Old Town


Lijiang's Old Town, also called Dayan, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that 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 quick-moving channels of alpine stream water rushing 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, 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 feeling you might be able to pick up in Dayan's whimsically angled rooflines and brushstroke-like streets and canals.

How to get there

Lijiang City 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.

Baisha Frescoes


Temples throughout Lijiang and the surrounding countryside are famed for their frescoes. Sadly, many of them are in poor condition, largely thanks to vandalism by overzealous Red Guards. Baisha, a charming Naxi town some 8 km (5 miles) north of Lijiang, is home to the best remaining frescoes, and the town is worth a visit on its other merits. Baisha, which was actually the capital of a Naxi kingdom prior to absorption into China, makes for a great day trip from Lijiang; most visitors arrive by bicycle after a pleasant ride that takes about an hour.

If you're looking for frescoes, head to Dabaoji Palace, Liuli Temple and Dading Ge. You'll find scenes depicting various figures and feats from Buddhist and Taoist lore, rendered in glorious if often faded colors. Aficionados will note the unique mix of Tibetan, Han and Naxi styles; amateurs can simply enjoy the images of various saints, demons and mythological creatures. When you're done, spend some time exploring Baisha, where you'll find relaxed locals (including, perhaps, the now-famous and outgoing Dr. Ho, known thanks to numerous mentions in travel guides as an expert Taoist physician), pleasant restaurants and tea houses (try Caf�� Buena Vista for its refreshments, travel information and art gallery) and architecture reminiscent of Lijiang, but with fewer crowds.

How to get there

You can bike there in a little over an hour from Lijiang. You can also take bus no. 7 (Y2), which picks up at the intersection of Minzu Lu and Fuhui Lu. Numerous Lijiang travel agencies offer one-day tours, though you might find yourself rushed through a host of regional attractions if you don't book a private guide.

Naxi Ancient Music

When walking on the ancient streets of Lijiang Old Town, you will undoubtedly hear the wonderful Naxi (also spelt Nakhi and Nahi) Ancient Music, the traditional Naxi classical music that is regarded as a 'living fossil of Chinese music.'

Naxi people must enjoy special favor in the eyes of the divinity, for they seem to be born with artistic qualities and poetic minds. Great talents in the areas of poetry, calligraphy, painting, and music have all come from this rich and captivating culture.

A crystallization of Taoist rite, Confucian ceremony, and the literary lyrics, poetic topics and musical tones of the Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties, Naxi Ancient Music has developed its own unique style and traits - the result of 500 hundred years of evolution. It originally included three parts -'Baisha Fine Music' (Baisha Xiyue), 'Dongjing Music' (Dongjing Yinyue), and 'Huangjing Music' (Huangjing Yinyue), the last of which has long been lost in the river of time. Played on venerable Chinese musical instruments such as flute, shawm, Chinese lute, plectrum, and zither, Naxi Music has the power to cleanse the heart and relax the mind.

Baisha Fine Music: It is said that Baisha Fine Music was an honoraria from the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty-Kublai Khan. When this brave conqueror was on his expedition to Dali, which is not far from Lijiang, he met danger while crossing the Golden Sand River and received help from Mailiang, the leader of the Naxi people. To show his pure-hearted appreciation, Kublai Khan left half of his band and many musical scores as a gift before leaving. Baisha Fine Music is one of ancient China's few large-scale, classical orchestral forms of music and has 24 'qupai' (tunes) which are archaic, simple and elegant in style, and exquisite, euphonious and energetic in character.

Dongjing Music: This is a type of Taoist music which was introduced to Yunnan from the central Plains during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Deeply rooted and widely spread among the Naxi people, Dongjing Music became the most well-preserved musical form in all of China. Besides its intrinsic stateliness, purity and elegance, Dongjing Music incorporated the local musical elements, styles and the skills used

in performances of the Naxi ethnic group-creating a feeling of transcendental artistic conception and charming folk flavor which can be easily appreciated. It was originally an enjoyment reserved for the noble class, but these shackles were eventually broken because of the Naxi people's passion for music.

At least four unabridged orchestras exist in and around Lijiang, and these characteristic bands are famous for their 'three-olds': first, old men (most of the players are over 70 years old); second, old musical instruments (many are antiques dating back more than 100 years, some of which can not be seen in other places); third, old songs (all are antiquated classical music). Members of the bands are drawn from all kinds of occupations including teachers, artisans, farmers, butchers, clerks, etc. Naxi Ancient Music Bands have been invited to perform in Hong Kong, Great Britain, America, Holland, Belgium and Norway, exercising great influence and gaining attention from all over the world.

Generations of national musicians devote themselves to Naxi Ancient Music and make it a part of Naxi culture. Music can represent a nation's spirit and offer a better way to know the people who play and enjoy it, so take the opportunity to hear Naxi Ancient Music; it is guaranteed to be an unforgettable life experience.

Admission Fee:
CNY 140 (A Ticket)
CNY 120 (B Ticket)
CNY 100 (C Ticket)

Recommended Time for a Visit: Two hours

Local Delicacies


Most of the good restaurants in Lijiang are located in the old town, and many have very high standards of cooking, producing a wealth of tasty local specialties.

As the tourist industry develops, more and more restaurants have begun serving western food, and their cooking standards are fairly good. Among these places, the Bridge Cafe serves good western food and the best coffee, and the Old Market Cafe is popular with foreign travelers and is the best place to get access to travel information.

Lijiang delicacies are characterized by refreshing tasting dishes and mellow soups. The biggest restaurant in the old town, the Gucheng Restaurant serves up authentic Lijiang cuisine and the Qinyun Naxi Specialty Restaurant is the best place to sample authentic Naxi specialties such as eggplant good with peanuts and Naxi fried rice.




For hundreds of years, Old Market Square (Sifang Jie) has been the center of Old Town's busy market life. Today, Sifang Jie is the best place for buying local goods like the area's renowned bronze ware and woodcarvings, though its previous vitality as a center of the Naxi community has been altered, as local officials mandated removal of a number of Naxi produce and butcher shops to make more room for souvenir and arts & crafts boutiques.



The square's buildings are beautifully restored and it remains a lovely place for browsing and souvenir shopping, despite the somewhat sanitized and controlled feel. Prices are also higher here than in outlying areas. Most of the handicrafts are authentic, though in many cases non-Naxi shopkeepers are selling Naxi goods rather than the Naxi themselves. Nearly anything emblazoned with pictographs (try Grass Root House for pictograph t-shirts).

Naxi women's knitted shawls and capes are popular with women, and anyone can appreciate a good bell-Bunang bells come from horse bells used during the days of trade caravans through Lijiang, JiXiang bells, or 'lucky bells' derive from traditional Naxi religious practice.

Off the square, the small streets of Old Town are cluttered with additional souvenir shops and boutiques. If you're planning on visiting outlying Naxi villages or have time to explore town, hold off on purchases to give yourself time to compare, shop and bargain.


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