Dali is situated in the southwest of Yunnan and at the intersection of the Yunnan-Burma Highway and Yunnan-Tibetan Highway. It is 400 km. away from Kunming and one day's bus ride will bring you to Dali via Chuxiong Prefecture. Dali municipality covers an area of 1,457 square km. and is inhabited by 400 thousand people, composed of the Bai, Han, Hui, Yi, Lisu and other nationalities, among whom the Bai nationality makes up 64% of the total.
Dali City stands against Cangshan Mountain in the west and adjoins Erhai Lake in the east, and is embraced by undulating hills around. The elevation of the city proper is 1,974 metres. Dali is a highland city in low latitudes and its climate is of subtropical highland monsoon type. The weather is temperate, the annual mean temperature being 15 C and rainfall 1,078 mm. The monsoon season falls on June through October, and there is no marked seasonal changes in a year. Abundant sunshine makes the weather warm, but the wind is very strong, so Xiaguan of Dali is known as "A City of Wind."
The Ancient City of Dali
Dali Ancient City, also called Yeyu City, Forbidden City, Zhonghezhen, lies 3 kilometers north from Xiaguan, the capital of Dali Prefecture. Embracing Erhai Lake in the east and adjoining Cangshan Mountain in the west, Dali City was first established in the early period of the Ming Dynasty, and then an administrative organ called "wei" was set up. The one who was in charge was granted the title "Commanding Envoy of the Dali Wei". Now in dali, the place name "the Gate of Wei" is still used among the people. In the Qing Dynasty, the military commander of Yunnan was stationed in Dali. Yixidao, Dalifu (Dali Prefecture) and Taihexian (Taihe County) were established. In the second year of the Republic of China, Dali was renamed Taihe County. Now it is called Zhonghe Town of Dali City.
The circumference of Dali Ancient City was 6 kilometers long. The City Wall is 8 metres high and 7 meters thick. The interior of the wall was filled with rocks and the surface was bricked over smoothly. The four gate towers in the east, south, west and north are named Chen En, Tong Hai, Cangshan and An Yuan respectively. There are also 45 battlements and 1560 crenels on the walls. A defensive river was surrounding the city. The streets and avenues in the city now are crisscrossing each other, typical of chessboard pattern. The buildings are all covered with dark blue tiles and pebble-staked walls. All look very pristine and delicate. The residents all like to plant trees and flowers. There are garden in every house. The famous Dali camellia, azalea and orchids are competing to show their beauty, blooming against snow on Cangshan mountain. Red flowers and green grass are coming out from wall, making up flowers streets. Streams from Cangshan mountain come into the city, going across the streets and visiting every family with their happy sound and sweet taste, running eastwards to Erhai lake. The whole city looks fresh and wet, without any dust.
In the city, historical relics such as the headquarters of Du Wenxiu, leader of a peasant uprising, and relevant stone steles still remain today. The headquarters is virtually a city within the city of Dali, called the "Forbidden City". The south and north gate-towers, some sections of the wall and some parts of Du Wenxiu's headquarters can still be seen today. The magnificent towers, elegant streets, small and exquisite courtyards, colourful flowers blooming in profusion give people a feeling of antiquity, serenity and elegance. Today, this famous ancient city is attracting more and more tourists.
Dali Foreign Tourist Street lies in Dali Ancient City. It was used to be called Huguo (means protect the country in Chinese) Street, signifying the event that Yunnan People, uprising with arms, fought against Yuan Shikai who claimed himself emperor. Huguo Street is 1000 meters long from the east end to the west. It is seven meters wide, paved with dark gray slates. It starts from Tibetan-Yunnan road from the west side, crisscrossing with Bo Ai Street and Fuxin Street. With development of Dali tourism, tourist number has been greatly increased. Some come for having fun, some for enjoying food, some for finding a job, some for looking for beloved one. Every has his/her own purpose. On the two sides of the streets, one can find restaurants of Chinese or Western food, famous tea houses, jewelry shops, antique shops, tie-dyeing cloth shops, galleries and so on. There are so many products that one is not able to see them all. And so the street becomes Dali Foreign Tourist Street famous home and abroad.
In recent years, with development of tourism, over forty thousand foreign tourists come to Dali every year. They usually lodge in Dali Foreign Tourist Street, now even expanding their activities to Bo AI Street, Fuxin Street, Dali Ancient City, Xizhou, Zhoucheng, Xiaguan, Jizu Mountain, Weibao Mountain and the other tourist interesting spots in the whole prefecture. Besides Red Camellia Hotel (The Second Municipal Government Hotel), lodging service for foreign tourists is also provided by Asian Star Hotel, Golden Flower Hotel, Dali Hotel, Yu An Hotel and Mekong River Cultural & Art Center.
Now, Huguo Street already becomes Dali Foreign Tourist Street in foreign tourist map. By this fact, we know that Dali Foreign Tourist Street is famous around the world. It becomes a place longing to be visited by foreign tourists, a sweet home on their journey in China.Dali, a historically and culturally famous city of China, is renowned for her historical interest. During the Tang and Song Dynasties, it was the capital of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms, the political, economic and cultural centre of Yunnan, an important gateway of cultural exchange and trading with southeastern Asian countries, and an important pass of the ancient "Silk Route of the South". It has long enjoyed the reputation of "a land of letters".
As "a land of letters", Dali was the cradle of the Bai culture. In the long history of the past, the ancestors of the Bais and the Yis had created the brilliant Erhai Culture and left numerous illuminating historical and cultural relics. Within the boundaries of Dali, there are many ancient pagodas, steles, places of historical interest and frescoes. The ancient Dali City is still standing there elegantly and toweringly. The most outstanding places of interest in Dali are: the ancient city proper of Dali, the Three Pagodas on the ruins of Chongshengsi Monastery, Nanzhao Stele, the Tablet Commemorating Kublai khan's Conquest of Yunnan, the remains of Taihe City, the Tomb of Du Wenxiu, the scroll of pictorial history of Nanzhao (Tang Dynasty), Pictures on Buddhist themes Painted by Zhang Shengwan of Dali (Song Dynasty), and the Frescoes in Xingjiaosi Temple of Shaxi (Ming Dynasty). All these are the witnesses of the brilliant history of this ancient city.
The folk ways of the minority nationality are richly colourful. The architectural layout of "Sanfang Yizhaobi" (a courtyard with rooms on three sides and a screen wall on the remaining side) and "Sihe Wutiangjing" (one big courtyard with four smaller ones at the corners of the main one) of the Bai nationality is elegant yet unsophisticated. "Every household has a water well and every family owns a number of potted flowers" are the tradition and common practice of the Bais. The attire of the Bai girls are brilliant and graceful, simple yet harmonious. The national minorities in the Dali area have many traditional festivals and gatherings, namely: the Benzhu Festival (worshipping the guardian saint or the local god of a Bai community), the Flower Festival, the March Fair, Raosanling Festival, Torchlight Festival and Lake Tour Festival. Among them, the March Fair is the most magnificent of all.
Dali today is full of vitality and prosperity in both the urban and rural areas. With the development in machinery, electricity, textile, chemicals, papermaking, tea processing, marble products and so on, it has now become an industrial base in the west of Yunnan Province. The mainstay in the economy of the city is the production of cigarettes, tea, marble articles, clothing, cement and electric power. The Dali marble, Tuocha (white tea), furniture, tie-dyed cloth, straw woven hats, and plywood are well known both at home and abroad. In agriculture, Dali mainly produces rice, wheat, broad beans and maize. The species of rice "Dianyue No. 1" turns out 1,014 kilograms per mu (1/15 of a hectare) creating the highest record in China. And one crop of broad beans ranked the first in our country, yielding 514 kilograms per mu. In recent years, medicinal and perfuming crops are popularized. In sum, both in the city and around the countryside, Dali has become wealthy and prosperous, indeed a land of "fish and rice" in the west of Yunnan.
Dali Travel Guide
Dali scenic spots
Erhai Lake | Cangshan Mountain | Three Pagodas | Butterfly spring | Xizhou Ancient Town | Shaxisi Dengjie Ancient Town