Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, or simply as Dali, locates in the central west of Yunnan Province in between the Erhai Lake to the east and Diancang Mountains to the West. This 29,460 square kilometer municipal administrative region, including 1 city, 8 countries, and 3 autonomous counties, inhabits about 3.29 million inhabitants, over half of which are Bai and Yi minorities. Dali is a particularly famous place in the south east of China, attracting millions of tourists from home or abroad every year for its beautiful scenery, pleasant climate, and strong ethnic characteristics. In this letter, you will follow us to this amazing land, to experience its unique humanity features.
Dali Ancient City
Dali City, served as the political, economic and cultural center of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, was approved in 1984 as an open city by the State Council. Dali is known as “the states of literature”, where the Long history has left many important cultural relics, including 4 national key cultural relic protection units and 19 provincial key cultural relic protection units, which can be summed up as “three ancient categories”, that is, ancient city, ancient tower, and ancient stone tablet.
The ancient city is a must for every tourist visiting Dali. Located at 10 kilometers northwestern of the downtown city, a site of Dali Ancient City, back to the Ming Dynasty Hongwu 15 years (AD 1382), has been standing over six hundred years. According to literature, Dali Ancient City was a gateway to the Silk Road in Southwest China, and also served as a seat of government and a major military barracks for Yunnan Province in ancient times. It enjoyed magnificent scale, with a wall length of 6 kilometers (3.73 miles), a height of 7.5 meters (26.6 feet) and a thickness of 6 meters (19.7 feet). There were four city gates facing west, east, north and south, upon which sat a gate tower. Four further towers were also placed at the four corners of the city wall. As it underwent many phases of prosperity as well as decline, only the city base remains till today. We can explore the mystery belonging to that period of history, especially through witnessing some parts of the city wall, the North City Wall Tower and the South City Wall Tower which were restored in 1982. The city layout was uniform, with five main streets from south to north and eight main streets from east to west, while marketplaces were neatly arranged within the city, which has remained unchanged to this date.
If we say the downtown city of Dali gives some kind of prosperous, bustle feeling, then the Ancient City just diffuses a pure simplicity and tranquility. The stream traveling through the city, the flowers and fruits planted in household gardens, and the tea house hidden in the deep streets, all the sceneries seem gently reminding you to the fading stories somewhere in the past.
Bai Ethnic Building
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” and “4 joins and 5 courtyards”. “3 rooms and a wall screening” means that every house has a principle room and two wing-rooms and facing the principle room stands the wall screening. When the sun shines on the wall screening in the afternoon, the sunlight is reflected back to the courtyard, thus illuminating the whole area. “4 joints and 5 courtyards” means houses are built with four sides; and four courtyards in the joining parts of the houses’ comers and one big courtyard in the center makes five courtyards. The decoration is another construction feature of the folk residences, paying great attention to the gate tower, the eaves and corners. The windows, doors and the wall screening are adorned with Jianchuan woodcarvings, colored patterns, marbles and wash drawings. The delicacy, freshness and elegance of their construction may be called first-class among folk residences in Southwest China.
When people walk along the cobble-paved streets in the ancient city, a sense of primitive simplicity and elegance will be invoked. Besides the Bai ethnic minority traditional folk houses, the houses all with grey-green roof tiles, peculiar workshops, temples, schools and churches with an antique flavor are scattered. Traditional artworks made of marble, such as pencil vases, striped screens, and a variety of woven handicrafts made of fine straw are laid chockablock on both sides of the street to be appreciated and purchased.
Speaking of Dali diet, it should always refer to the famous “Three-course Tea” ceremony for receiving guests that includes “bitter tea”, “sweet tea” and “final tea”. The Fish casserole and Dengchuan Rushan (Dengchuan Milk Fan) are also well-appreciated dishes. Most of Dali’s best restaurants are concentrated in the Ancient City, to enjoy people can go to Renmin Road, where many foreign tourists gather. In Huguo Road, western style restaurants with Bai, Tibetan and other ethnic minorities featured snacks can be seen everywhere, tourists can enjoy either the flavor of Yunnan cuisine or the western dishes. The Foreigner Street is also a must-see, providing snacks with the traditional flavors of the Bai ethnic community.
Of course, the city’s attractiveness not only rests in the local diets, but also in the cafes and tea houses with a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. There people can listen to music, drink cold beer, and spend a leisurely afternoon. Almost all coffee shops are providing travel information and booking services, some are also available for visitors to rent bicycles.