Lijiang Old Town, also called Dayan Old Town, is a well-preserved ancient town for Naxi ethnic group. Old Town of Lijiang was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, including Dayan Old Town, Shuhe Old Town and Baisha Old Town. It is one of the four best-preserved ancient cities in China, along with Langzhong Ancient Town in Sichuan, Pingyao Ancient City in Shanxi and Shexian Ancient Town in Anhui.
The old streets are the network of the old town, flowing water is the blood, the bars and shops are the temperament and the Naxi folk customs are culture are the soul of Lijiang Old Town. You can not only explore the amazing ancient town with hundred years’ history, but also experience the spirit and feel romantic, relaxing charm of the town without city walls.
Lijiang Old Town is located on Yungui Plateau, at an altitude of 2400 meters. This ancient town is adjacent to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It faces Elephant Hill and Jinghong Hill in the north, Lion Hill in the west and farmer land in the southeast.
For the location of Lijiang Old Town, it is good to spend half day wandering and exploring in the old town. To get out of Lijiang Old Town, you can use our private service with private guide and car for visiting Shuhe Ancient Town, Baisha Mural Painting and Former Residence of Joseph Rock for half day tour.
Lijiang Old Town was first built in the late Song Dynasty and early Yuan Dynasty, with a history of more than 800 years. From the beginning to the reign of Yongzheng in Qing Dynasty, Lijiang Old Town was under the rule of Mu Family, local commanders during that time in Lijiang. The name of the Mu family has close relationship with Lijiang Old Town without a city wall. If the Chinese character “Mu” is put into frame (represents the city wall), you gave the character “Kun” which means “siege” or “predicament”. This would means the Mu Family and their descendants would always be trapped like rat in a hole. Hence, Lijiang Old Town was built without a city wall.
The architecture in the whole town is a little different than most parts of China as it reflects the local Naxi style, one of the 56 ethnic groups of China. The Naxi architecture is mostly influenced by a number of groups such as Han, Bai and Tibetan. Houses in Lijiang have roof tiles and made of soil and wood or soil and stone. Usually, there are two basic types, one is a courtyard enclosed by three sets of apartment and a wall; and the other is a big courtyard enclosed by four sets of apartments and five wells. At present, there are more than 6200 households, 25,000 people living in Lijiang Old Town. And about 30 percentages are Naxi ethnic.
Lijiang Old Town features wide cobbled streets ambling over stone bridges and waterwheel-driven canals filled with huge goldfish and lined with shops, small family-run hotels and hostels, cafes and bars.
Sifang Square is the center of the old town. There are four streets stretching from Sifang Square, namely Xinhua Street, Wuyi Street, Guangyi Street and Qiyi Street. Countless lanes extending in all directions form a network and connect every corner of the town. There are about 354 bridges, like wind and rain bridges, stone arch bridge, slab bridge, plank bridge, etc. These bridges make the old town more poetic and elegant. In 1997, Lijiang Old Town was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with Shuhe Ancient Town and Baisha Old Town.
Ticket: 60 Yuan per person
Open Hours: 09:00~17:00
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1-2 hours
Tusi Mu was under the ruler of Naxi Ethnic Group during Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The Mu’s Residence is the Tusi Mu’s Yamen. In the heyday of Tusi Mu, it was consisted of 100 buildings. Hence, there is a saying “there is Forbidden City in the North, Mu’s Residence in the south”. Mu’s Residence was called the miniature Forbidden City. Looked from a far distance, it likes a grand imperial palace and it is famous for the grandness and architectural buildings. Enter into the residence, you’ll see Zhongyi Hall, Yi Gate, Wanjuan Tower, Hufa Hall, Guangbi Hall, Yuyin Hall, Sanqing Hall, Corridor, etc.
Ticket: 50 Yuan per person
Open Hours: 07:00~20:00
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1 hour
Wangu Tower is located on the top of Lion Hill and belongs to the back hill of Mu’s Residence. The tower itself is at 33-meter high and has five floors. Standing on the top the tower, you can have panoramic view of the whole Lijiang Old Town and rivers to the east, the new town of Lijiang to the west and the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range to the north and Naxi villages and farmland to the south. The structures and design of the tower are worth your attention. You can observe them carefully and appreciate the artworks of Wangu Tower.
Ticket: including Lijiang Old Town Maintenance Fee
Open Hours: 07:00~21:30
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1 hour
Black Dragon Pool Park, also called Jade Spring Park, was built during Qing Dynasty in 1737. Located in the north of Lijiang Old Town and at the foot of Elephant Hill, Black Dragon Pool Park offers spectacular view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain over its white marble bridge. A short visit to the park, travelers can see some exquisite temples, pavilion and bridges over the pool, including the Moon-Embracing Pavilion, Dragon God Temple and Five-phoenix Tower.
Ticket: 30 Yuan per person
Open Hours: 08:00~18:00
Recommended Visiting Time:about 1 hour
Dongba Culture Museum, situated in the north end of Black Dragon Pool, is a museum presenting the Dongba culture of the Naxi people. Built in 1984, this museum has more than 12,000 Dongba cultural relics, like unearthed cultural relics, paintings, calligraphy of all ages, Dongba scriptures, religious articles, etc. This museum is designed by the development of Naxi dwellings, from the cave, nest building, tent, wooden building to three sets of apartment and a wall, four sets of apartments and five wells. The main building is built according to the traditional Naxi architecture with four sets, surrounded by mountains and waters. Travelers can learn Dongba culture from the relics, architectures and scenes of Dongba folk customs and religion.
Travelers can visit Lijiang Old Town through the South Gate, on the way, you’ll pay visit to Mu’s Residence, Lion Hill and Wangu Tower and wander through the old streets and lanes to enjoy leisure feel of the old town. This may take you half day to explore.
Spend another 2 hours to the north of Lijiang Old Town by visiting Black Dragon Pool Park and Dongba Culture Museum. If time permits, you can enter Lijiang Old Town through Black Dragon Pool Park and see the symbol of the town – Large Water Wheels and walk straight to Sifang Square to enjoy the evening performance held by the Naxi people.
When visiting some places in Lijiang, travelers should show the staff the Maintenance tickets. Those places include Lijiang Old Town, Wangu Tower, Mu’s Residence, Shuhe Old Town, Baisha Mural Painting, Black Dragon Pool Park, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, etc. This ticket is valid for a week when you are in Lijiang.
Show Time: 20:00~21:30
Place: Naxi Concert Hall
Naxi Ancient Music is known as a “living fossil of Chinese music”. According to research, this ancient music originated in the 14th century. It originally included three parts, 'Baisha Fine Music' (Baisha Xiyue), 'Dongjing Music' (Dongjing Yinyue), and 'Huangjing Music' (Huangjing Yinyue), however, the last one has long been lost in the river of time. To know more about Naxi, you can spend one night enjoying Naxi ancient music.
Bangbang Festival: January 15 on lunar calendar
Sanduo Festival: February 8 on lunar calendar
Torch Festival: June 25 to June 27 on lunar calendar
July Festival: middle July on lunar calendar
In Lijiang Old Town, travelers can taste the local Naxi snacks, like Salad of Jidou Pea Jelly, Lijiang Baba, Mabu, Preserved Fruit, Buttered Tea, Er Kuai, December Ribs, Naxi Copper Pot, etc.
Travel light when strolling in the old town. Bring a camera with you that you can take photos along the way. Sunlight is very strong in Lijiang, wear sun protection such as hats, sunglasses and use sun block, etc.
To shoot some amazing photos of Lijiang Old Town, photographers should not miss Sifang Square, Stone Archway, Five-Phoenix Tower, Naxi architecture and Naxi Ancient Music performance. It is better shoot in the early morning and late afternoon. To get more photography tips, go and check Lijiang Photography Guide & Tips.
Top 3 Lijiang tours chosen by most customers to explore Lijiang in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.
Kunming / Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La
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