Comments of the World Heritage Committee
The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial and strategic site, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity. Its architecture is noteworthy for the blending of elements from several cultures that have come together over many centuries. Lijiang also possesses an ancient water-supply system of great complexity and ingenuity that still functions effectively today.
Located in the central part of Lijiang-ba in Lijiang City of Yunnan Province, southwest China, Lijiang is one of the four major old Chinese towns still in a state of extremely good preservation. Also known as Dayan Town, it is unique among the Performing Naxi famous historical and cultural habitations Ancient Music in China for its lack of walls but many fascinating ethnic characteristics. First built in the late 13th century, the old town of Lijiang lies on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, with an altitude of over 2,400 meters and an area of some 3.8 square kilometers. It currently has over 25,000 residents, the majority of whom are of the Naxi ethnic group.
Three rivers run through the old town of Lijiang, with most houses built along one of them – although there are some dwellings up in the mountains. Most residential houses of the old town are at least 100 years old. They are earth-and-wood structures and completely built by hand. The layout combines the architectural style of many ethnic groups such as the Han, Bai, Yi and Tibetan. The structural decoration, couplets hung on the columns of a hall, steles and inscribed stone slabs, all mirror the aesthetic interests of the Naxi people. The flat and clean Sifang Street, paved with multi-color stones, is the center of the old town, with shops and hostels on both sides. There are also 354 bridges, all built during the period from the 14th century to the 19th century. Of these, the Great Stone Bridge, 100 meters east of the Shifang Street, is most characteristic. It is also known as the Snow Mirroring Bridge because the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is reflected in the river beneath it.
A national historical and cultural site, the old town of Lijiang perfectly preserves and develops the Dongba Culture and Naxi ancient music. The Dongba Culture is that which is traditional to the Naxi ethnic group; the Dongba hieroglyph is the only one in the world still being used. Naxi traditional music, passed down through generations by the Naxi people, consists of their own old songs combined with the ancient Chinese and foreign tunes of the Tang (618-907) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties, thus being reputed as a “living museum of music”.
Many flights and over 20 buses connect Kunming and Lijiang. There is also a special bus to Lijiang from Shangri-La. It is advisable to explore the old town on foot. Taxi and chartered bicycles (only confined to mountain bicycles) are also available in Lijiang City.
Lijiang cuisine is famous for its fresh tasting dishes and pure and thick soups. Its braised dishes are also typical, and include the Stewed Pig Tripe with Mung Beans and the Stewed Pig’s Feet with Kidney Beans. Medicinal materials such as gastrodia tuber and “old soup” are used in stewed dishes to make them thicker and more fragrant. The Chick Pea Powder and the Lijiang Cake are the most popular and traditional local snacks.
The old town of Lijiang is the principal commodity distribution center and handicraft production area in northwest Yunnan Province, and Sifang Street its most traditional shopping bazaar. One will also discover many handicraft stores in the lanes of the old town, such as the Kun-Style Art House, the Brothers’ Art Space, the Juyiyuan Gallery, the Bu-nongling Bell and the Dongba Workshop. Not only can visitors buy these excellent local handicrafts but also witness the whole manufacturing process by which they are made.
One can observe the traditional Dongba sacrificial rites, as well as such rich and colorful folk activities as Dongba paper making and wine brewing. You can even learn to write Dongba Hieroglyphics at the local school. In addition, the pleasure of listening to traditional Naxi ancient music is highly recommended.