Lijiang Old Town (Dayan)

Originally called Dayan, Lijiang is a very well preserved old town built by Naxi people with unique cultural background. The old town occupies an area of 3.8 square kilometers. It was first built in Song Dynasty, and has a history of more than 800 years. During Yuan Dynasty, Lijiang has become the political, economic and cultural hub of the region and the staging post along old tea horse road. 

Unlike any other towns in China, Lijiang old city doesn't have a city wall. Legend tells that the governor of the Lijiang has a family name of Mu, which means 'tree' in Chinese language. The family administrated the region for 500 years. If they building a city wall around the town, it may imply putting a frame around 'Mu' character, which constitutes a new character 'Kun', which means 'dilemma' or 'predicament'. The superstitious government would never set him and his family in a hard time, so the city wall has not ever been built around Lijiang old town. 

Lijiang old town panoramice view

Lijiang Old Town Facts

-Chinese name: 丽江古城

-Location: No.1 Dongdajie Street, Gucheng District, Lijiang City

-Time needed: 1 day

-Maintenance Fee: CNY50/person (08:30-19:00)

-Opening Hours: All day

-Best Time: All year round 

Best Time to Visit Lijiang Old Town

Generally speaking, Lijiang has unique scenery in each month, and you will have different feelings when you visit Lijiang at different time. However, Lijiang has high altitude and the weather will be cold in winter, so you need to prepare some warm clothes when you come to Lijiang during winter. Most people think the best to visit Lijiang Old Town is in autumn every year, since the weather is cool and low rainfall during this time, Lijiang Old Town looks really charming under the beautiful sunshine, and your Lijiang trip will be very relax and enjoyable.

What to See at Lijiang Old Town

Lijiang old town is prestigious for its unique system of waterways and bridges. Black Dragon Pool (Heilongtan) is the main water source of the town, from which many small rivers flow down along the streets, passing by every family. There are almost 350 varied and inimitable bridges in the little town, some of which were built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The Square Street (Sifangjie) is the center of the town. Four main streets radiate from Square Street, and lead to the four different directions. Numerous lanes network in all directions, connecting every corner of the town. Streets in the Old Town are laid by the local bluestones which remind you of the town's old times.

Lijiang Old Town Water Wheel

Major Attractions

Mu’s Mansion

Located at the southwest of Lijiang old town, Mu's Mansion was once the residential and working site of the Naxi rulers of Lijiang in the ancient time. It was first built in Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). The family name of the ruler is called 'Mu', hence the name of this mansion. The family governed the Lijiang region during Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, lasting for 22 generations. Their family name 'Mu' was granted by the first Emperor of Ming Dynasty - Zhu Yuanzhang in 1382. Mu's Mansion covers an area of 46 mu (about 8 acres) and extends a length of 369 meters (about 404 yards). With the Shizi Mountain (Lion Mountain) behind, the complex faces east. The residence consists of two parts: the office area and the living area.

Big Water Wheel

The Big Water Wheel is located at the entrance are of Lijiang Old Town. After 14 years of exposure to the wind and sun, the water wheel was seriously damaged and replaced with a new one in December 2011. The Water Wheel is the oldest agricultural irrigation tool in China, it has a history of more than 1700 years. The Water Wheel of Lijiang Old Tower is just a landmark building for tourists to watch and take photos.

Wangu Tower

Wangu Tower is located on the top of Lion Hill in Lijiang Old Town, and it is also the back hill of Mu’s Mansion. The Wangu Tower is about 33 meters high, which symbolizes 330,000 people of Naxi Autonomous County of the original Lijiang. Standing on the top of the tower, you can have panoramic view of Lijiang Ancient City, many classic publicity photos of Lijiang Old Town were taken here.

Black Dragon Pool

Black Dragon Pool Park, also called Jade Spring Park, was built during Qing Dynasty in 1737. It is located north of Lijiang Old Town, at the foot of the Elephant Hill. There is a spring under a chestnut tree at the foot of Elephant Mountain, which flows day and night, eventually formed a big pond with a total area of 40,000 square meters, it is then called Black Dragon Pool. A short visit to the park, travelers can have spectacular view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain over its white marble bridge.

Dongba Cultural Museum

Dongba Museum was built at the Black Dragon Pool of Lijiang in 1984 for better protection, research and development of the Dongba Culture. Buildings in the museum follow the layout of Naxi folk house in different historical periods, taking advantage of the natural landscape of Yuquan Spring and Elephant Mountain. Holding more than 10000 remarkable collections of Naxi relics and cultural display covering the branches of astronomy, geography, literature, art, history, religions, etc, Dongba Museum is a great place to admire the famous hieroglyphs and other ritual articles of Naxi. Visitors will have an opportunity to explore the rich Naxi minority culture, learn more about the ancient but almost extinct Naxi culture, writing system and belief system that is called Dongba from the old teachers or the other people there.

Lijiang Old Town Naxi Ladies

How to Get to Lijiang Old Town

1. Train: Take bullet train from Kunming to Lijiang which will takes around 3hours, and then take bus No.18 to Dayan Middle School Station, walk around 900 meters can arrive at the South Gate of Lijiang Old Town. You can also take taxi from rail station to the Old Town, the cost is around CNY40.

2. Flight: Take flight from Kunming Changshui Airport which will takes around 40mins. Upon arrival, you can take taxi to Lijiang Old Town directly, or take the airport shuttle bus to the downtown area, or you can take bus No.27 and get off at Zhongyi Guangchang.

More Attractions in Lijiang

  • Mu's Mansion (Mufu)
  • Jade Spring Park
  • Impression Lijiang Show
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge