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None of the provinces of China has as much diversity

and as many attractions, physical, cultural and

ethnic, as the South Western province of Yunnan.

A legend says that when a prince of Dali visited

the Tang-dynasty court (618) he told the Emperor

that his land was south of the rainy weather. The

Chinese Emperor then named that territory Yunnan,

-meaning South of the Clouds.

The title refers to the fact that rapid change in China

is destroying forever aspects of rural life in China that

should be loved and cherished. With all the news

about China’s rise to global power, most people in

the West are barely aware of the fascinating tapestry

of small rural communities in the different parts of

that huge country.

Chinese in many rural areas are trying to revive local

cultural practices including theater, dance, song,

puppetry, local arts and crafts that had even been

suppressed under the Cultural Revolution. In many

cases this is difficult, because funding is not available,

younger people do not want to learn the old

ways, and many artifacts have been lost or destroyed.

Still encouraging progress in rural revival can often

be noted. In different regions there are distinctive

architectural forms which often reflect the local

building materials, climate, weather, customs and

lifestyles. These fascinating old buildings are often

symbols of the past, like archaeological treasures.

Especially temples fallen into disuse offer insights

into the past.

For centuries the outside world has yearned to

understand the mysterious land of China. Since the

late 1970’s-when China again opened her doors to

foreign tourists and businessmen- millions of visitors

have flocked into the “Middle Kingdom,” sampling

her sumptuous food, photographing her scenic

beauties, and experiencing her bustling marketplaces.

Few, however, have been fortunate enough

to experience the “hidden” China.

Woven into the mosaic of the largest population

on earth is a rich thread. China’s ethnic minorities,

though numbering more than 100 million people,

are largely lost amid the vast ocean of 1.2 billion

Han Chinese. Although numerically the minorities

of China account for only 6.7% of China’s population,

they live in 62.5% of China’s territory.

Within Yunnan’s single province and dwelling among

a stew of border markets, mountains, jungles, lakes,

temples, modern political intrigue and remains

of vanished kingdoms, are 28 recognized ethnic

groups, the greatest number in any province. These

ethnic minorities live together over vast areas in the

region while some live in individual concentrated

communities in small areas. The residences of the

ethnic minorities are various and characteristic;

their clothes are colorful and distinctive; some of

them have their own languages and writings. Each

of these tribes carries on several thousand-yearold

traditions, handing down festivals, languages,

beliefs ranging from animist to Islamic, folklore,

ethnic handcrafts, hundreds of varieties of colorful

dress, and food.

Yunnan’s cultural life is one of striking contrasts.

Archaeologists have discovered sepulchral mounds

containing magnificent bronzes at Jinning, south of

Kunming, dating to the Han dynasty (206 BC–220

BC). At Zhaotong, in the northeastern part of the

province, frescoes belonging to the Dong (Eastern)

Jin dynasty (317–420 CE) have also been uncovered.

Other historical landmarks of Han Chinese culture

in subsequent ages abound. At the same time,

the cultural traditions of Yunnan’s non-Han ethnic

minorities also are very much alive.

The cultures of these peoples remained virtually

unchanged until the mid-20 th century. Although

some minority practices were abolished, such as

slaveholding by the Yi and headhunting among the

Wa, the post-Mao Zedong policy that has encouraged

the expression of minority identity has permitted

many local customs and festivals to flourish again.

In contrast to the period of the Cultural Revolution

(1966–76), when religious practices were repressed,

Yunnan has come to tolerate and even celebrate its

cultural diversity.

Mountain ranges dominate nearly every part and

are home to a great variety of plants and animals. It

is bounded by the Tibet Autonomous Region to the

northwest, the provinces of Sichuan to the north and

Guizhou to the east, and the Zhuang Autonomous

Region of Guangxi to the southeast. To the south

and southeast it adjoins Laos and Vietnam, and to

the southwest and west it shares a long border with

Myanmar (Burma). The provincial capital is Kunming,

in the northeast-central part of Yunnan. Although

richly endowed with natural resources, Yunnan

remained an underdeveloped region until relatively

recent times; for centuries the ethnic, religious, and

political separatism of the province posed obstacles

to the efforts of a central government to control it.

Yunnan has numerous famous mountains, lakes,

rivers and cultural relics, and tourism has flourished

in the province since the late 1990s. The historical old

town section of Lijiang, which embraces a mixture

of several cultural traditions, was designated a

UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The watersheds

of the three major rivers of western Yunnan were

collectively named a World Heritage site in 2003.

Other national-level tourist spots include Lake Dian

at Kunming, the Shilin (“Stone Forest”) karst landscape

at Lunan Chongsheng Temple (with its three

pagodas) and Lake Erhai at Dali, the volcanic and

scenic landscape around Tengchong, and the natural

landscape and access to the Dai culture centered on

Jinghong in the Xishuangbanna region.


According to the Han historian Sima Qian, the

Chinese warrior prince Zhuang Qiao founded the

pastoral Dian Kingdom in eastern Yunnan during

the third century BC. The Dian were a slave society,

who vividly recorded their daily life and ceremonies

involving human sacrifice in sometimes gruesome

bronze models, which have been unearthed from

their tombs. In 109 AD the kingdom was acknowledged

by China: the emperor Wu, hoping to control

the Southern Silk Road through to India, sent its

ruler military aid and a golden seal. However, the

collapse of the Han Empire in 204 AD was followed

by the dissolution of Dian into private small states.

The Dali and Nanzhao kingdoms

In the 8 th century, an aspiring Yunnanese prince

named Piluoge, favoring Dali for its location near

trade routes between central and southeastern

Asia, invited all his rivals to dinner in the town,

then set fire to the tent with them inside. Subsequently

he established the Nanzhao Kingdom in

Dali, which later expanded to include much of

modern Burma, Thailand and Vietnam. In 937, the

Bai warlord Duan Siping toppled the Nanzhao and

set up a smaller Dali Kingdom, which survived until

Kublai Khan and his Mongol hordes descended

in 1252.

The Muslim Uprising

Directly controlled by China for the first time, Yunnan

served for a while as a remote dumping ground for

political troublemakers, thereby escaping the population

explosions, wars and migrations that plagued

central China. However, the Mongol invasion had

introduced a large Muslim population to the province,

who, angered by their deteriorating status

under the Chinese, staged the Muslim Uprising in

1856. Under the warlord Du Wenxiu, the rebellion

laid waste to Kunming and founded an Islamic state

in Dali before the Qing armies ended it with the

wholesale massacre of Yunnan’s Muslims in 1873,

leaving a wasted Yunnan to local bandits and private

armies for the following half-century.Modern times

Strangely, it was the Japanese invasion of China

during the 1930’s that sparked a resurgence of

Yunnan’s fortunes.

Blockaded into southwestern China, the Guomindang

government initiated great programs of railand-road

building through the region, though it’s

only recently that Yunnan has finally benefited from

its forced association with the rest of the country.

Never agriculturally rich – only a tenth of the land

is considered arable – the province looks to mineral

resources, tourism and its potential as a future

conduit between China and the much discussed, but

as yet unformed, trading bloc of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand

and Burma. Should these countries ever form

an unrestricted economic alliance, the amount of

trade passing through Yunnan would be immense,

and highways, rail and air services have already been

planned for the day the borders open freely.


Yunnan’s population is noted for the great

complexity of its ethnolinguistic groups. Out of the

total population, the Han (Chinese) form the bulk of

both the city dwellers and the agricultural population

on the plains and valleys devoted to rice cultivation.

Descendants of the conquering armies and

immigrants who arrived through the centuries, have

both pushed the non-Han peoples into remote areas

and intermarried with them.

There are a large number of Hui (Chinese Muslims),

the descendants of the immigrants sent in by China’s

rulers to help govern the province after the 13 th

century. The non-Han population of Yunnan remains

substantial; in addition to the Hui, it comprises

more than 50 recognized ethnic minority groups,

accounting for more than one-third of Yunnan’s

population. In distribution, these groups are highly

intermixed; not one county is inhabited by a single

minority. The Yi are the largest minority group.

Once the rulers of large parts of Yunnan, the Yi are a

hill people with subsistence agriculture and proud

warrior traditions. Linguistically, they belong to the

Tibeto-Burman group. Second largest in population

are the Bai, in northwestern Yunnan. Long Sinicized,

the Bai are rice cultivators who are among the original

inhabitants of the region. Other peoples in the

Tibeto-Burman linguistic family are the Hani, Lisu,

and Lahu of the Yi sub-group; the Naxi, who are a

branch of the Xifan subgroup; the Tibetans, who

inhabit the far northwest corner of the province and

practice Tibetan Buddhism; and the Jingpo, who

speak the same language as the Kachin of Myanmar.

A second major linguistic family represented in

Yunnan is the Tai group. Most of the Tai (in China,

called Dai) peoples inhabit the semitropical

lowlands, raise paddy (wet-field) rice, and practice

Buddhism; they are ethnically related to the Shan

tribes of Myanmar and the Thai (Siamese) of Thailand.

Another important linguistic group is the Mon-

Khmer, represented by the Wa, former headhunters

who inhabit several counties along the border with

Myanmar. The Hmong (called Miao in China) and

Mien (called Yao in China) peoples of southeastern

Yunnan make up a separate linguistic group; they

are hill dwellers whose traditional shifting method

of clearing land for cultivation has been replaced

by more sedentary farming practices. The Miao

until relatively recently had no written language.

Finally, a significant number of Zhuang inhabit the

southeastern part of Yunnan, adjacent to Guangxi.


Yunnan’s topography is determined by a series of

high mountain chains that, starting close together,

branch out from the Tibetan border southeastward

across the province in fanlike fashion.

The province consists of two distinct regions separated

by the Ailao Mountains—the canyon region

to the west of it and the Yunnan-Guizhou (Yungui)

Plateau region to the east. In the canyon region

the great mountains descend from an elevation

exceeding 5,500 meters above sea level in the north

to about 1,830 meters in the south. Flowing through

the deep V-shaped valleys between these mountains

are the three major rivers of the province: the

Salween (Nu; the Mekong) and the Black.

The eastern Yungui Plateau region is separated

from Sichuan by the Yangtze River. Yunnan has the

greatest variety of biological resources among the

Chinese provinces, and it includes plants from tropical,

subtropical, temperate, and alpine growing

zones. Of some 30,000 species of plants found in

China, more than half are in Yunnan. These include

more than 6,000 species of medicinal herbs and

some 2,500 species of endemic flowers and ornamental

plants. About half of Yunnan’s total area is


The gorgeous colors of azaleas, camellias, roses, and

fairy primroses make the mountain meadow country

a gigantic flower garden and a popular destination

for botanists and other researchers. Yunnan is also

foremost among the Chinese provinces in its variety

of animals, with some 250 species of mammals,

360 of fish, 140 of reptiles, 90 of amphibians, and

780 of birds. In the tropical forests of the south,

mammals—including monkeys, bears, elephants,

and porcupines—are found in large numbers.




Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, is known as

‘the City of Eternal Spring’ for its pleasant climate

and flowers that bloom all year long. With a history

of more than 2,400 years, it was the gateway to

the celebrated Silk Road that facilitated trade with

Tibet, Sichuan, Myanmar, India and beyond. Today

it is the provincial political, economic and cultural

center of Yunnan, as well as the most popular tourist

destination in southwest China. The city is also the

focal point of Yunnan minority culture.

Kunming boasts a long history. As early as 30,000

years ago, ancient tribes inhabited the area around

Dian Lake. During the 3rd century BC, Zhuangqiao

of the Chu (in the middle reaches of the Yangtze

River led his men to the area around Lake Dian and

established the Dian Kingdom. In 109 BC, during

the reign (141–87 BC) of the Xi (Western) Han

emperor Wudi, the Dian Kingdom became part of

the Han territory and was named Yizhou prefecture,

with Dianchi county as its seat. It was then an

important traffic center, connecting China’s hinterland

with the southern branch of the ancient Silk

Road to the west. Via Yunnan, it also connected

present-day Sichuan to Vietnam. During the Sui

dynasty (581–618), it was renamed Kunzhou.

From the 8th century onward, it was known to the

Chinese as Tuodong city in the independent states

of Nanzhao and Dali. It then came under the control

of the Chinese central government with the Yuan

(Mongol) invasion of the southwest in 1253. In 1276

it was founded as Kunming county and became the

provincial capital of Yunnan.

It is considered by scholars to have been the city

of Yachi, described by the 13th-century Venetian

traveler Marco Polo. During the Ming (1368–1644)

and Qing (1644–1911/12) dynasties, it was the seat

of the superior prefecture of Yunnan. It reverted to

county status in 1912, under the name Kunming,

and became a municipality in 1928.

Kunming’s transformation into a modern city

resulted from the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese

War in 1937. In the face of the advancing Japanese

forces, great numbers of Chinese flooded into

southwestern China and took with them dismantled

industrial plants, which were then re-erected

beyond the range of Japanese bombers. In addition,

a number of universities and institutes of

higher education were evacuated there. When the

Japanese occupied French Indochina in 1940, the

links of Kunming with the west, both via the newly

constructed Burma Road and by air, grew increasingly

vital. Industry became important in Kunming

during World War II. The large state-owned Central

Machine Works was transferred there from Hunan,

while the manufacture of electrical products,

copper, cement, steel, paper and textiles expanded.

After 1949, Kunming developed rapidly into an

industrial metropolis and remained a major cultural



In the western suburbs of Kunming lies Western

Hills. They are also called ‘Sleeping Buddha Hills’,

for looked at from a distance, they have the appearance

of a giant sleeping Buddha. Here, there are

wonderful scenic spots such as Huating Temple,

Taihua Temple, Sanqing Pavilion, and Dragon Gate.

Huating Temple is one of the largest Buddhist

temples in Yunnan Province.

Daxiong Baodian Hall, Tianwang Hall and Kwan-yin

Hall are some of the features in the temple. In the

temple you can see three golden Buddha figures

with kindly expressions, 500 life-like arhats which

are vivid just like real people, and golden figures

of Laughing Buddha. Besides, there are abundant

colored clay figures depicting vividly various images

of mythical animals. Taihua Temple gained its name

for it is located on Taihua Hill. Originally built in the

Yuan Dynasty (1206 - 1368), the temple is the oldest

one in Western Hills. Daxiong Baodian Hall, Piaomiao

Pavilion, Sizhao Hall are in the temple. The

temple is famous for the beautiful rare flowers on

the grounds.

There is a saying - ‘If you do not visit Western Hills,

you haven’t visited Kunming; if you do not come

to Dragon Gate, you haven’t been to Western Hills.’

Being the outstanding scenic place in Western Hills,

Dragon Gate is a big exquisite stone carved edifice.

The stone paths, stone rooms, stone grottos, and

stone Buddhist figures are all carved with excellent

craftsmanship on a large natural rock. Like Sanqing

Pavilion, Dragon Gate was also built on cliff. You can

stand on the edge of the cliff holding the railing,

looking downward to experience the steepness of

the hill and enjoy the spectacle of Dianchi Lake.



A grand and original ethnic dance musical. It fuses

the beauty of Yunnan’s ethnic minority dances

and songs with the power of modern stage exhibition.

Chinese folk dance first appeared over 5000

years ago and is a by-product of long historical

development and profound artistic culture. All the

performers are genuine Yunnan ethnic minorities

who left their villages to participate in the theater

and all the costumes are real. It tells audience about

the universe, nature, culture, and the pursuit for

the origins of life, the praise of life and the wish for

everlasting life.

The performance captures the essence of original

rural songs and classical folk dances by means of

the artistic director’s reorganization and recreation,

combining beauty of Yunnan ethnic minorities

dance and songs with the power of modern stage

exhibition. Therefore the richness of the culture of

Yunnan minorities is born again on stage with startling


This is the first production produced, directed and

choreographed by the famous dancer, Yang Liping,

one of China’s best-known dancers. Twenty years

ago, Yang Liping won first prize in a national dance

competition by performing her solo dance “The

Spirit of the Peacock”. She gathered over 60 highly

capable aboriginal dancers and singers from the

lost corners of the world over several years.

These aboriginal performers dance for life. They use

the enthusiasm from their hearts, dances from the

union of their bodies with nature and natural vigor

for celebration to create a powerful artistic force.


Yuantong Temple is at the foot of Yuantong Hill

in the northern part of Kunming. With a history

of more than 1,200 years, it is one of the grandest

as well as the most important Buddhist temple in

Yunnan Province. King Yimouxun of the Nanzhao

Kingdom built it during the late eighth century as

a continuation of Putuoluo Temple, and the restorations

performed from the Qing Dynasty onward

had not changed its unique mixed architectural

style of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties.

Unlike all other Buddhist temples, which are built

on an ascendant, you enter Yuantong Temple from

above and descend along a gently sloping garden

path. The view before you starting your peaceful

walk beneath the gigantic cypress trees that line the

garden path to the temple with its extensive array

of flowers and foliage is deeply restful and impressive.

A memorial archway with four Chinese characters

-Yuantong Shengjing (Yuantong Wonderland)-

is standing on the halfway; you can see the entire

temple from here.

The temple complex is built around Yuantong Hall

(Mahavira Hall), which is known as the Fane on the

Water for it is surrounded by a very large pond filled

with limpid water and fish.

A delicate stone bridge which has an elegant

octagonal pavilion stands in the center connects

Mahavira Hall and the temple entrance. The pavilion

is connected to the rest of the complex by various

bridges and walkways.

Sakymuni, Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha,

all Yuan Dynasty statues, are found in the main

hall. The surrounding 500 Buddhist Arhats who are

carved in the walls are rare treasures noted for their

perfect proportions and lively appearances.

Also in this hall are two ten meter high pillars from

the Ming Dynasty that are each engraved with

a dragon - one yellow and one green - who are

trying to extend their bodies and claws into the

air as if they are ready to fly. Like the Arhats, they

impart the feeling that at any moment they could

spring into action. Outside, on each side of the

main hall, there are stone staircases that are carved

out of the mountainside and wind their way to the

top of the hill. As you climb these stairs, there are

ancient inscriptions along the way and various tone

artworks that are considered the most important

historical relics in Kunming.


The relics in Yunnan Provincial Museum mainly

include bronze vessels, Buddhism relics, cultural

relics of local ethnic minorities, art works, calligraphies

and paintings, and porcelains.

Among them, the gilding Knight-shaped shellcontainers

unearthed in Jinning Shizhai Mountain,

Tiger and Ox shaped bronze case unearthed in Lijia

Mountain, the Golden Kwanyin Statue from Dali

Kingdom, golden tuinga with jewels of the Ming

Dynasty (1368 - 1644AD), and the ‘Travel in Xishan

Mountain’ painted by Guoxi in the Earlier Song

Dynasty (960 - 1127AD) as well as some others are

regarded as national treasures.


The related collections mainly include Bronze

Oxhead Ornaments, Chime of the King of the Dian

Kingdom, Bronze Lantern with Three Branches,

Gilding Horsewoman Ornaments, Ox-shaped

Bronze Reed - pipes, etc.

Those bronze vessels reveal people’s daily lives of

that time period vivid. In addition to the bronze

vessels, metal crafts showed in the museum include

gold vessels and silver vessels, all of which came

from the Han (202BC - 220AD) and Ming Dynasty.


It is the home of the Taoist Hall of Supreme Harmony

and is the largest copper temple in China. It is also

known as the Bronze Tile Temple and by its popular

name, the Golden Temple.

The history of the Golden Temple starts during the

Ming Dynasty and the reign of the Emperor Wanli in

1602. At that time the governor of Yunnan Province

was a devout Taoist who built this temple to honor

the Taoist hero-god Zishi. In 1671 during the Qing

Dynasty, Wu Sangui, the governor of Yunnan Province,

built an exact duplicate of the original one.

This temple was undisturbed for almost two

hundred years until the Muslim rebellion of 1857,

during which it suffered some damages. Emperor

Guangxu ordered its complete repair and in 1890,

using 250 tons (246 gross ton) of solid bronze, the

entire temple was again rebuilt. Except for the staircases

and balustrades, which are made of marble,

the walls, columns, rafters, roof tiles, altars, Buddha

statues, wall decorations and the banner near the

gate tower are all made of copper.

The temple hall is 6.7 meter high, weighs 250 tons,

and is the largest copper architecture in China. All

of the beam columns, doors, windows, roof tiles,

Taoist statues, wall decorations, the banner near the

gate and couplets, and so on, are made of bronze.

The burnished bronze gleams like gold under the

shining sun, and makes the temple the most famous

Taoist shrine in Yunnan Province.












Dali is located in western Yunnan, approximately 250

km northwest of the provincial capital of Kunming.

It is situated in the transition area between the

dramatic valleys of the eastern Tibetan Plateau and

the distinctive mountains of the western Yungui

Plateau. The county-level city surrounds Erhai Lake

between the Cangshan Mountain to the west and

Mount Jizu to the east. This plain has traditionally

been settled by the Bai and Yi minorities.

Dali Ancient Town is one of the most famous ancient

towns in China. As a major stop on the Ancient Tea

Horse Road, or Southwest Silk Road, it is a town full

of historic sites and traditional culture.

DALI ANCIENT CITY is one of the ‘Three Ancients’

(Ancient Cities, Ancient Pagodas and Ancient Steles)

of the Dali Scenic Spot. With Erhai Lake to the east,

and Cangshan Mountain to the west, its grand city

wall, traditional Bai ethnic minority folk houses

and marvelous scenery has been attracting many

visitors. The traditional Bai ethnic minority folk

houses give the city distinctive feel, unlike any other

Chinese city.

A typical house is characterized by “3 rooms and a

wall screening” meaning that every house has a principle

room and two wing-rooms and facing the principle

room stands the wall screening. The “4 joints

and 5 courtyards” mean that these houses are built

with four sides; and four courtyards in the joining

parts of the houses’ corners and one big courtyard

in the center makes five courtyards. The windows,

doors and the wall screening are adorned with

woodcarvings, colored patterns, marbles and wash

drawings. The delicacy, freshness and elegance of

their construction may be called first-class among

folk residences.


Dali has a long and glorious history. In 738, the

Nanzhao Kingdom was established with Dali as

its capital and covered a large area of Yunnan and

northern Burma and parts of Sichuan and Guizhou.

The original capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom was

located in Weishan and later moved to sites around

Erhai Lake.

The territory conquered was quite substantial and

held over a long period. The kingdom survived

almost 200 years and had 13 kings before collapsing.

After several decades of chaos the Kingdom of Dali

emerged in 937.

Established by Duan Siping was controlled by the

Duan clan and survived until conquered by the

Mongols in the 12th century. The Kingdom retained

a close alliance with the Tang Dynasty, and was one

of the major transit points for the introduction of

Buddhism throughout the rest of China. By 1000,

Dali was one of the 13 largest cities in the world.

These historical events are immortalized in the

Martial Arts literature of Hong Kong author Jin Yong,

giving Dali a fame nationwide. Both the Nanzhao

Kingdom and the Kingdom of Dali had a military

alliance with the Tang Dynasty against the aggressive

Turfan (Tibetan) Empire which made regular

and aggressive incursions into their respective territories.

Many local people in Dali have the surname

Duan to this day.

The rulers of the original Nanzhao Kingdom were

probably precursors to the modern Yi peoples, while

the Kingdom of Dali rulers were precursors to the

modern Bai minority. A huge memorial stele to the

Pacification of Kingdom of Dali was built during the

Ming Dynasty and remains standing today.

The Mongols destroyed the old capital and palace

of the Kingdom of Dali, located just to the south

of the Three Pagodas. Almost all records of both

the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms were burnt or

destroyed, leaving much unknown about these

periods. In addition, the Mongols brutally displaced

many of the inhabitants of the prefecture, with

the result that Bai minority people were forced as

far east as Hunan Province. Many ethnic Han also

moved into the Kunming area during this period.

The old Dali City was rebuilt in the early 1400s by

the Ming Dynasty. Since then, the fortunes of Dali

have declined and its importance as a cultural and

economic center in the Yunnan area have been overtaken

by Kunming, the provincial capital.


Famous in China for their size, beauty, antiquity and

for their preservation. The central one is more than

1,100 years old and is one of the tallest pagodas

ever built in China, representing a period when Dali

was a Buddhist Kingdom. The other two were built

about 100 years later, probably by the Kingdom of

Dali. They are made of brick. They stand at the foot

of one of the high peaks of nearby Cangshan Mountain,

named Yinglo Peak. The main pagoda is called

Qianxun. It is said that it was completed about

the year 840 AD by a Nanzhao King named Quan


Square faced, it has 16 stories, stands 69.6 meters

high and it is one of the tallest pagodas ever built in

China. At the bottom, the walls are about 3 meters

thick. It looks like a typical Tang Dynasty pagoda,

and it is said that architects from Xian, which was

the capital of the Tang dynasty, designed this

building. To the east of it stands a stone wall which

is engraved with the words “govern the mountains

and rivers forever”.

The other two pagodas were built about 100 years

later. It is thought that they were built by rulers

of the Dali Kingdom that succeeded the Nanzhao

Kingdom. Each one has ten stories, are slimmer and

are about 42 meters high. One of them is interesting

because it leans like the Tower of Pisa in Italy.

DALI CATHOLIC CHURCH. Including 9 chapels, it

was originally built in 1927, by a French bishop Ye

Meizhang and covers 470 square meters, about 36

meters long and 13 meters wide. The complex is a

typical post and lintel construction; its lower and

upper eaves both employ corbel arches and flying

eaves, and every arch has four buttresses engraved

with Chinese traditional auspicious animals and

birds such as Dragon and Phoenix. In the east of

the church, an altar has been built for Virgin Mary;

while in the west, it’s a gate tower modeled after Bai

minority traditional residence, whose top is a vestry

roofed with eaves at four corners.

The gate tower also employs multi-layer corbel

arches and flying eaves, all of which are of superb

workmanship. As a whole, the church complex

adopts wooden structures of Bai minority style and

thus is deemed as a combination of Chinese and

Western architectures.

XIZHOU VILLAGE 20 km north of Dali has almost

200 national heritage listed private houses dating

from the Qing Dynasty. The houses are among the

best examples of traditional Qing architecture in

China and are exquisitely detailed.

Building craftsmen from Xizhou were famous

throughout Southeast Asia and travelled to Vietnam,

Myanmar and throughout Southwest China to build

and decorate houses. When they made their fortune,

they returned to Xizhou to build their own dream


ZHOUCHENG VILLAGE is located 23 kilometers to

the north of the Ancient City of Dali. Zhoucheng

Town is the biggest town of Bai people in Dali with

more than 1,500 families. Here we can see typical

houses of Bai people with close courtyards, “three

rooms and a shining wall”, and “four rows of houses

and five dooryards”. For some of the houses, one

family makes one courtyard; while others have

several courtyards in one family.

These houses have a plane of a square. The roof

contains two layers of eaves made from green tiles,

and is designed in the shape of the Chinese character.

There are three to five major rooms which are

facing east or south. They are built with bricks and

stones with the wooden frame. One courtyard, and

sometimes several courtyards, connect with each

other and make a whole.

Bai people pay special attention to the decorations

of the shining walls, windows, doors, the frontispiece

and the gate-towers. The shining walls is the

necessary building of the construction style of one

major house, two wing-rooms, and courtyards. The

shining wall is covered with two layers of flying

eaves with up-holding corners.

The shining wall stands in front of the major room.

It connects the two wing-rooms and the frontispiece

so that the three form a close courtyard. The center

of the shining wall is brushed with lime, inscribed

with characters, or inlaid with marble screen.

Around these are such patterns as fans, squares and

circles. In the patterns are colored paintings painted

with water mill or powder.

TIE-DYE is one of the Bai people’s traditional handcrafts,

a technology of printing flower patterns on

cloth. As the name suggests, the producing process

is divided into “tie” and “dye”. Tie refers to making

the cloth into certain shapes by pinching, creasing

and flanging it according to the flower patterns.

They are then sew or tie tightly together to make a

bunch of knots. The aim of tying the knots is to dye

the untied part while retaining the original color

of the knotted parts. The tighter the knots are tied,

the better the effect of the color printing will be



The largest highland lake next to Dianchi and one

of the seven biggest fresh water lakes in China. It

means, ‘sea shaped like an ear’, in Chinese. Implying

that the lake is ear shaped and as large as a sea,

hence it was so named. The lake covers an area of

250 square kilometers and is located about two

kilometers east of Dali. In a sunny day, the crystal

waters of Erhai Lake and the snow mantled Cangshan

Mount radiate with each other. Thus the scene

was commonly described as “Silver Cangshan and

Jade Erhai”.

Erhai is an important food source for the local

people, who are famous for their fishing method:

their trained cormorants to catch fish and return

them to the fishmongers. The birds are prevented

from swallowing their fish by rings fixed around

their neck.


The Golden Shuttle Island (Jinsuodao), also called

the Island of the Sea, lies in the southeast part of

Erhai Lake. The island is 1,500 meters in length and

20 meters to 500 meters in width. The west is wide

and the middle is narrow, so it looks like a shuttle or

floating calabash, hence its name. There are a lot of

caverns and precipitous cliffs in the island.

The “Annals of Yunnan” by Fan Zhuo, a historian,

recorded that: “The Island lies in the center of the

Erhai, and is embraced by water on the four sides.

It was cool and comfortable in summer, and was

a summer resort of the royal family of Nanzhao


The island is inhabited by the Bai people whose

professions are fishing and water transportation.

Rocks are used for building their walls and greycolored

bricks are dominantly used for building their

houses. In front of the gate there is a screen wall. The

courtyard, decorated with trees and flowers, gives a

graceful atmosphere.

XIAOPUTUO DAO TEMPLE, was originally devoted

to Bodhisattva Kwan-yin and can be traced back

to the 15th century. Though tiny and called xiao

(which means small in Chinese), one can still experience

and see the typical ancient Chinese Buddhist

temple’s unique architectural styles of its buildings’

pointed eaves and decorations.

THREE STAR TEMPLE is dedicated to the Three Star

Gods, i.e. the Three Lucky Gods of China - the Fu

Xing (good fortune, Jupiter); the Lu Xing (prosperity,

Zeta Ursa Majoris); and the Shou Xing (longevity,

Canopus). These Daoist folk gods - often called

simply “Fu Lu Shou” - date back to the Ming Dynasty,

and are still popular today.














Lijiang is a prefecture-level city in the northwest of

Yunnan province, China and is famous for its UNESCO

Heritage Site, the Old Town of Lijiang, which dates

back to over 800 years ago. The architecture of the old

town is noteworthy for the blending of elements from

several cultures. The town possesses an ancient water

supply system of great complexity and ingenuity. It

is China’s best-preserved minority ancient town, and

the only one among China’s ancient towns without

city walls. It is famous for its ancient architecture and

orderly system of waterways.


Lijiang didn’t become an important town on the

Ancient Tea Horse Road until the end of the Southern

Song (1127-1279) and the beginning of the Yuan

Dynasty (1279-1368). During the early years of the

Yuan Dynasty, about 1,000 families inhabited Lijiang.

The town continued to grow, and it reached a peak

during the Ming (AD 1368-1644) and Qing (AD 1644-

1911) dynasties.

Lijiang was a former trading town and a stop for

traders carrying goods on the Ancient Tea Horse Road.

The Ancient Tea Horse Road was a trade route mainly

through Yunnan, Sichuan, and Tibet. From the 6 th to

the 20 th c, people in Sichuan and Yunnan traveled by

foot and horseback with pack horses to exchange tea

for horses with people in Tibet -and thus the pathway

was called the Tea Horse Road. The waterworks system

is an important engineering feature of the town

mentioned in the UNESCO World Heritage List description.

The people took advantage of the Jade River to

build a complex water system that people liken to the

canal system of Venice. The river flows from the north

of the town, divides into 3 tributaries, and then divides

into many streams that flow through courtyards and

past houses.

Naxi culture is special because the people are less

modernized and the people developed a writing

system, a music style, and a religion different than the

majority of Chinese. The Naxi writing system uses hieroglyphs

instead of Chinese characters and are the only

people who still use hieroglyphs to write in the world.

However, only a handful of Naxi, perhaps ten people,

who are almost all elderly people now know how to

read the glyphs.

The Naxi traditional music style has a long history.

Since the little town was influenced by people from

other lands who passed though, their music probably

incorporated the styles and instruments of ethnic

groups in a wide region.


Popular with locals, whom you can find dancing or

playing games such as mahjongg or Chinese chess.

Located at the foot of the Elephant Mountain in the

north of ancient town of Lijiang, was first built in 1737

in the Qing Dynasty.

BAISHA VILLAGE is the earliest settlement of the

Naxi people and is the birthplace of “Tusi”, chief of

the Mu clan. There are many ancient buildings built

during the Ming Dynasty, including Dabaoji Palace,

Liuli Temple, and Wenchang Palace. The well-known

Baisha Frescoes are located in Dabaoji Palace. Because

of the white sand on the ground, the town was named

“Baisha”, which means “white sand”. The architectural

complex is made up of two parts, folk residence and

cultural sites. Among these frescos the painting about

Sakyamuni explaining the sutra passages to his disciples

is the most famous one. These mural paintings,

with their fine and smooth lines, bright colors, vivid

pattern, balanced and harmonious composition are a

wonderful display of more than 100 figures depicting

religious tales and activities from Taoism, Buddhism,

and Tibetan Buddhism. The streets all go from south

to north. In the center of the old town there is a square

where three thoroughfares intersect. Houses and small

stores stand on both sides of the streets. A crystal clear

stream winds around all the houses flowing through

the small town from north to south.

The central district of the town is characterized by

temple groups called “Mudu” and a big square symbolizes

the political rights of the Mu family. Among the

surviving ancient architectural groups, the Fuguo

Temple, Dabaoji Palace, Liuli Palace, and Dading

Pavilion were built during the reign of Tusi. During

this time, the Mu people began to channel water from

Yulong Snow Mountain into the town. All of these

ancient buildings witnessed the golden age of Baisha

Old Town.

JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN is the most southerly

snow-capped mountain in the Northern Hemisphere

outside of the Andes, soaring to about 5,500

meters. Those who climb to the top will be rewarded

by an amazing panoramic view. Jade Dragon Snow

Mountain is the most southerly snowcapped mountain

in the Northern Hemisphere. It is famous for its

variant and beautiful natural scenes, and is considered

a sacred mountain among the local Naxi people.

Yak Meadow, at an elevation of 3,650 meters, is the

furthest cableway from Lijiang and is an area of grass

near the high peaks. Taking this cableway, not only will

you admire the beautiful scenery of the snowcapped

mountain from a great position, but you will also see

yaks grazing on the highland grassland.


TAIN– the Highest Outdoor Theater in the World

A cultural show demonstrating the traditions and

lifestyles of Naxi, Yi and Bai minorities in Lijiang area.

Composed of two parts-”Snow Mountain Impression”

and “Ancient City Impression”, the show which has

cost 31 million USD is staged at the Jade Dragon Snow

Mountain and Dayan Ancient Town, two famous scenic

spots in Lijiang. “Impression Lijiang Jokul” is put on

at an outdoor stage with the Jade Dragon Snow Mt.

as its backdrop (3,500 meters above the sea level).

About 700 amateur performers of 10 minority groups

from some 16 towns and villages around Lijiang are

employed to for this grand cultural show, aiming to

provide an insight into the lives of the ethnic minorities

and portray the daily life of the local people. Zhang

Yimou, the director of “Impression Lijiang”, is noted for

his films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and

also directed the opening of Beijing Olympic Games













Shangri-La was formerly called Zhongdian, but was

renamed on 2001 and upgraded into a county-level city

on 16 December 2014 as Shangri-La.

Shangri-La is the “Eden in dream”. Since it first appeared

in British novelist James Hilton’s Lost Horizon in the

1939, it has been associated with the mystique of a

place which could not possibly exist here on Earth.

In Tibetan, Shangri-La means the “Sun and Moon in

Heart”, an ideal home only found in heaven. There the

lofty and continuous snowy mountains, endless grasslands,

steep and grand gorges, azure lakes and the

bucolic villages. As a Chinese saying goes, “The earliest

sunrise is seen in Shangri-La; and the most unique place

is also there”.

In China, the poet Tao Yuanming of the Jin Dynasty

(265–420 BCE) described a kind of Shangri-La in his

work The Tale of the Peach Blossom Spring. The story

goes that there was a fisherman from Wuling, who

came across a beautiful peach grove, and he discovered

happy and content people who lived completely

cut off from the troubles in the outside world since the

Qin Dynasty (221–207BCE). In ancient times, it was the

fiefdom of the three sons of a Tibetan King, together

with Batang (in Tibet) and Litang (in Sichuan).

Home to one of Yunnan’s most rewarding monasteries

and surrounded by mountains, lakes and grassland,

it’s also the last stop in Yunnan before a rough five- to

six-day journey to Chengdu via the Tibetan townships

and rugged terrain of western Sichuan. At an average

altitude of more than 3,000 meters, the county is very

difficult to be reached. Without railways leading there,

the main means of transportation is motor vehicles. It’s

about 175 kilometers from Lijiang to Shangri-La.

Shangri-La is rich in natural resources from valuable

herbs to rich mineral deposits (including gold, silver,

copper, manganese and many other rare metals) to

abundant animal resources (such as golden monkeys,

leopards and musk deer). The region is inhabited

by many different ethnic groups, with the Tibetans

comprising the majority of the population.


Being the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in

Yunnan, is also known as Guihua Monastery and is

one of the famous monasteries in the Kang region.

It is located near Shangri -La County, at the foot of

Foping Mountain, in an altitude 3,300m. It snows even

in August, and has a rainy season that runs from June

through September.

Construction of the monastery began in 1679 and was

completed two years later. The monastery seems like a

group of ancient castles and is composed of two lamaseries,

Zhacang and Jikang. It belongs to the Yellow Hat

sect of Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelukpa order of the

Dalai Lama. The Fifth Dalai Lama’s Buddhist visionary

zeal established the monastery in Zhongdian, in 1679.

Its architecture is a fusion of the Tibetan and Han

Chinese. At its peak, the monastery contained accommodation

for 2,000 monks; it currently accommodates

in its rebuilt structures 700 monks in 200 associated


The gilded copper roof endows the monastery with

strong Tibetan features and the 108 (an auspicious

number in Buddhism) columns downstairs. The main

halls in the monastery are magnificent, and on both

the left and right sides are wonderful frescos, depicting

Buddhist tales and legends. The inside-halls are exquisite

with cloisters running through. The cloisters are all

decorated with beautiful sculptures and frescos.

The hall houses a plethora of scriptures written on palm

leaves, a gilded statue of Shakyamuni Buddha 8m tall

at the main altar along with paintings depicting the

life of Buddha. The altar is permanently decorated by

yak butter lamps. It has two major lamasery buildings

–Zhacang and Jikang– apart from several smaller lamaseries.

Numerous living rooms have also been built for

the monks.

The monastery is full of treasures. There are a lot of

golden figures of Buddha josses, golden lamps, Tibetan

lections, silver censers and so on. All of these are

wonderful collections accumulated from each dynasty.

They are precious productions made by people of

Tibet and Han nationality. Songzanlin Monastery has

another alias – “the little “Potala Palace”, because the

whole monastery is in the traditional style with mysterious

atmosphere. Annually, the Gedong Festival is

celebrated here by the Tibetans. Pious believers, with

their knees and foreheads knocking the ground at

every step, come here to pray.

The road from the old town of the city, leads to the scripture

chamber, which was earlier a Red Army Memorial

hall to commemorate the Red Army’s long march in the

1930s. At that time, the monastery had provided full

support to the Communist general He Long who passed

through this area during his campaign. However, the

monastery was partially destroyed in 1959. It was

extensively damaged in the Cultural Revolution and

was subsequently rebuilt in 1983.


In the isolated and mysterious village of Shangri-la, the

Tibetan region of the Yunnan Province, a horse racing

festival takes place each year on the 5th day of the 5th

lunar month, at the foot of Wufeng Mountain. Horse

racing in Shangri-la dates back to 770 B.C. This folk

festival is one of the most important in the area, acting

as a grand springtime rally for local Tibetans.

Ethnic Tibetans from the most remote areas of Yunnan

gather for a special annual event to participate in horse

races and a show of traditional acrobatics on horseback.

This spectacle recalls a way of life that has existed

for centuries in this area and on the Tibetan plateau.

Expert horsemen from the Kingdom of Kham in Eastern

Tibet compete for prizes and glory, while locals in heavy

turquoise and colorful hand-woven brocade create a

scene of timeless splendor.

All the family members of Shangri-la will set up tents on

the mountain for a picnic during the festival, when the

colorful flags set off one another, adding much luster

to the festival.




Praised as “God’s palette”, these red lands, extending for nearly 50 kilometers, are the most striking and

distinctive in the world.

Dongchuan Red Land is about 250 kilometers northeast of Kunming, with an altitude of 1,800–2,600 meters.

It is located in Huashitou Country, Xinxiang Town, Dongchuan District, Kunming, Yunnan Province. Experts

regard it as the second marvelous red land in the world following the one in Rio Brazil. Although discovered

in the mid 1990’s, the exact location is kept secret among few Chinese photographers who scooped awardwinning

photos here. People who have been the first time to visit this land will be deeply impressive by

the gorgeous scenes. Lands in deep red, purple and bright red cover thousands of mountains. When wind

blows, the plants in fields wave tenderly. It is a colorful picture drew by the nature. Viewing it from away, it

looks like an oil painting.


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